Are your studies in palaeography and musical philology, and research on Gregorian chants, Tibetan mantras and Siberian shamanism at the basis of your musical research?
All my musical studies contribute to my artistic research, without any clear distinction. Many of these studies end up being translated into concrete musical experiences, in other words CDs, joint projects or live concerts, to which my travelling companions add important colours and artistic knowledge, each bringing their own skills and emotions. For example, by the end of the year I will be bringing out a new CD, inspired by Tibet, and in particular by its people, tireless walkers along the paths of Peace. Obviously, before producing it I did some research; I played various instruments and tried to give the idea of a nomadic, but not disorganised pilgrimage; on the contrary, a pilgrimage organised and aimed at discovering Impermanence.
When you began listening to the music of David Hykes, Stephan Micus, Christian Bollmann and Juri Camisasca, had you already started composing your own music?
As far as regards Juri Camisasca, he is not only a friend, but a sincere artistic example, even if his work is different to mine, and certainly in a different league. I started listening to his music when I was a boy, and just think – he's from Melegnano and for years I lived in San Donato Milanese, both towns in the south Milan area, just a few minutes' drive from each other. He has produced few records over the years, but they have been intense masterpieces, such as the fabulous TE DEUM, produced by Franco Battiato's L'Ottava, with a Filippo Destrieri on keyboards in superb form. I remember at the time buying three LPs together, also published by L'Ottava – superb records, one by Saro Casentino, SOHBET by Erguner and Zadeh, and ALLA CORTE di NEFERTITI by Maestro Giusto Pio. I remember, as if it were yesterday, finding them at L'Ottava, in via Lusardi in Milan, because the distributors and shops where I went to look for the LPs didn't go out of their way to help possible buyers; quite the opposite, but that's another story.The meeting with David Hykes was certainly crucial, since at the time, in addition to my study with Maestro Mukunda, my interest in harmonic and biphonic singing was taking up a great deal of my time, and Hykes was without doubt an important point of reference. We also had interests in common, such as the method of G.I. Gurdjieff.The German artist Micus is something else, and for me has no equal. I have been to a number of his concerts, each more beautiful than the last, and by beautiful I am not talking in aesthetic terms, but refer above all to their spiritual power. He is the artist who stirs my emotions more than any other and certainly the one I love most, because of the way he uses instruments and sounds: a real acoustic wizard! I have all his CDs, and remember that I raved about his music to all my musician friends, and always carried around with me his Monografie – World Music from 1994 published by New Sounds, which included a fascinating interview with this player of a wide range of instruments. His relationship with instruments, silence and nature are at the basis of my artistic growth, even if recently I have produced some work which is not strictly acoustic.
Putting aside consumer labels and globalisation, what does New Age mean for you?
I don't like to compartmentalise things, and particularly not music, and so I'm not interested in labelling my kind of music. For me there is interesting music and uninteresting music, and this depends not only on the performer, but also on the listener, and I often realise that people fail to distinguish what they like from what is interesting and worthy of attention. In other words, I may admire an artist because he transmits certain emotions, but realise that another artist is more skilful than he is; the fact that I don't like certain music doesn't mean it doesn't deserve the utmost respect and attention. I'm convinced that a great deal depends on the performer and his artistic and spiritual personality. The sense of life is important for an artist, since we should always bear in mind that an artist is a channel between the listener and who is much higher up, at the top of the hierarchy.To go back to your question, New Age and World Music are terms that are often confused, and if I had to summarise the concept, I would say that New Age was supposed to be and should be like waking up from a long sleep, in other words something that goes beyond music, but I think that at the moment there is too much confusion around the initial idea.
Is Nel Mondo non del Mondo (‘In the World not of the World') an independent production?
Yes, it's an independent production; everything started in the GM3 studio near Milan, while I was collaborating with a jazz group as a percussionist, when I decided to use above all natural instruments. This was in 1997, but I had already been using natural instruments for some time, strongly encouraged by Walter and his Aktuala. It was on this occasion that I decided to record a CD with great enthusiasm but perhaps not enough time. In the beginning a major record company seemed to be interested in the project, but in the end, when I realised that they wanted to change almost all the tracks and give them a strange style that I am at a loss to define, I decided to go it alone. This clearly led to some problems with distribution. I am consoled by the fact that some of the tracks on the CD Nel Mondo non del Mondo are still requested during concerts.
During the 1990s, you gave a series of concerts inspired by the tribal music of Australia characterised by the sound of the didgeridoo. What do you remember about those live experiments?
I have good memories, especially of the people I played with in those concerts. We used ethnic instruments, which most people had never seen before, and after the concert we had to answer loads of questions from the public on the names and origins of the instruments we had used. It was really enjoyable and the chance to talk to the public was exciting and gave me a great deal of positive energy. In the 80s I remember a jazz concert at Capolinea in Milan, where after the concert I stayed for at least another 2 hours talking to people about travel and musical instruments. They were good times.
Was the idea of harmonic singing developed in the project Bagliori dell'Anima initially intended as a cyclical drone aimed at stimulating in the listener's approach to a dimension other than music that pulsates in close contact with the planet's primordial energy?
Exactly – you have put your finger on the initial idea – the voice as a vehicle for musical and spiritual sense.
What type of emotions do you look for and receive in your travels?
Normally, I'm an organised traveller, not someone who sets off on a whim with no idea where I'm going. It's in my nature to try and organise everything as best I can; I consider it vital, also because there are always unexpected events, so why to add to those dependent on outside causes also those caused by poor organisation.When I go on a journey, I never know a priori what emotions I will experience but normally I know at least in part what I am looking for: Emotion.The Emotion of a colour, a silence, the design of western or oriental architecture, or the simple emotion of a mountain landscape. I love listening to sounds, especially those of silence.
What is your favourite country?
I don't have a favourite country, but I do have favourite places, for example mountain paths, deserts, the leaves of the trees, hermitages, mountain tops, cliffs etc. If I think of particular personal experiences, I have vivid memories of journeys to Mount Athos in Greece and a special journey to Cappadocia.
You dedicated five years of your life to ethnic research leading to the project UNSUI – IL SENTIERO DEI BAMBU' – together with Akira Yokohama and the French-Chinese Laurent Wu: what is the spirit behind this project?
The project is characterised by carefully listening to sound and one's breathing. The sound of the Japanese shakuachi flute was our starting point, and controlled breathing was the means of reproducing our emotions and spirituality, different but always focused on an attentive search for truth. A wide range of instruments were used on this CD, which also had the aim of raising money for Onlus –Ctm.It's certainly the CD I feel most affection for and which best represents me.
Many of your works are enriched with the sound of bamboo. Is there a specific reason?
Bamboo is very resistant and I like it a lot; it's also present in many parts of the world. As luck would have it, one of the people I work with is an expert botanist, specialised in growing bamboo, Dr Mario Brandazzi, and so that's another reason.
How important is it for someone playing world music to become familiar with traditional and ceremonial instruments such as the gamelan, taiko drums, the shakuachi flute and the shamisen lute, some of which are ritual Buddhist instruments, up until the 18th century used only by the sacred Komuso monks for meditation?
It's vitally important to be in harmony with the instrument you use. You need to love it, smell it, understand it, caress it and above all respect it. Through your instrument you meet people and places; the instrument is a bridge towards knowledge and also for this reason must be respected. When you use ceremonial instruments from other cultures, before using them, you need to think whether your use, in a possibly different way, could disturb their primary energy.
In an ‘evolutionary' sense, is it possible to go beyond the perception of sound expressed by masters in ambient music such as Brian Eno, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Jon Hassell, Erik Satie, Robert Rich and Steve Roach ?
I think that everyone, not only musicians, has a more or less developed degree of sound perception, and that every person has within their ego the possibility to progress. I aspire towards positivity, and if this can be achieved through the perception of sound expressed in the music of the fathers of minimalist and ambient music, that's great, but it is certainly not the only way; in my opinion it may be a piece in a much larger and discretely hidden picture.
When you met the artist Alio Die, boss of the label Hic Sunt Leones, did you discover that electronic and acoustic minimalist music has strong roots in Italy too?
The meeting with Alio Die was by chance – one of those things that happen without knowing how or why, yet it led to an important collaboration. I had contacts with the Roman artist Giuseppe Verticchio, but didn't think I would ever meet Alio Die in person, and above all I have to admit that I didn't know his music or CDs, even if I had heard that some of his work was interesting, but our paths had never crossed. What happened and will happen was and will definitely be important. Personally, I love minimalist music, while I don't fully understand electronic music, and I consider electronics a useful tool in some cases to produce unusual music and sounds.
What is the relationship between your last album, IL TEMPO DEL SOGNO, and Bruce Chatwin's book The Songlines?
The very first time I read Chatwin's book I was struck by the magic of the words and the narrative non-image which is transformed into an image. Bruce Chatwin's way of travelling, often completely alien to me, was extremely interesting, but at the same time I did not agree with some of his attitudes. When I reread it, while I was writing some music for an exhibition, I realised that between the lines there were still ideas to develop, after I had been working on the text with a group of mine for around twenty years. These ideas gave me great inspiration and this is why I used the book as a starting point for my creative inspiration.
Can you tell us about the meaning and vocal interaction in track Part II from the BAGLIORI DELL'ANIMA project included in the sampler ?
In 2001, I was coming out of a period of intense spiritual and musical research. I had travelled to monasteries (especially Orthodox) and deserts, and had studied music, especially the voice as a means of therapy, and Indian and Persian percussion, as well as doing research on the relationship between the drum and the shaman in various cultures, all held together by the common thread of Inner Listening. It is interesting to look back and see how the CD UNSUI is similar to BAGLIORI DELL'ANIMA in its sense of a search for spirituality through Sound .Part. II from BAGLIORI DELL'ANIMA is clearly influenced by all my personal research, but I think that in all my published works there emerge situations and ideas linked to my constant search for a sound close to spiritual emotion. The spiritual sense of Life, also through music, is present in BAGLIORI DELL'ANIMA, and I hope that listeners pick up on this.