September 07, 2011

Italian composer STEFANO GIANNOTTI talks about Third Ear Band's music...

Stefano Giannotti (born 1963) is an Italian composer, author, director, guitarist and performer. He studied composition with Pietro Rigacci and he has been the assistant of the famous Alvin Curran on “Crystal Psalms" and "Tufo Muto". Between 1983 and 1990 he performed in several European countries with the chamber music group Trio Chitarristico Lucchese (an acoustic  guitar trio) and formed his first group called Ensemble Il Teatro del Faro. In 1997 he started a collaboration with the Italian choreographer Roberto Castello and between 1998 and 1999 he lived in Berlin. On 2000 he has been guest of the Kuenstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf in Brandeburg and on 2002 he has been invited in Worpswede by the Ministerium of the Niedersachsen. The same year he has won the Karl-Sczuka-Preis (SWR, Baden-Baden) with his work "Il tempo cambia" and on 2007 he has got for the second time the Karl-Sczuka-Preis for his radio-piece "Gealogica".

On the present day he's playing with a new group, OTEME (Osservatorio delle Terre Emerse).
His repertoire ranges from performance, radio-art, dance theatre to chamber music, orchestral scores and songs.
Landscape, memory, life cycles, voices of people, languages are some of the main themes developed in Giannotti's work. His compositions have been performed in festivals, theatres, museums around the world and his collaborations included works for radios and TVs. 
With one of his groups, Vaga Orchestra, he played a new arranged version of TEB’s “Water” from their 1970 second studio album.
From the Eighties he declares his deep appreciation for the Third Ear Band's music.

We knew 25 years ago at the time of the Ensemble Il Teatro del Faro, when I was involved with the management of the reformed TEB. You declared your great interest for their music: can you tell us how it's happened your encounter with the TEB's music?
"I've known TEB's music when I was 17 at the secondary school. In my classroom there was some friends of mine not studying music so deeply as I did but they had musical knowledge much more than me - they knew bands and artists I didn't know - I never heard about them. At that time  I was listening to Genesis, David Bowie, Gong, Tangerine Dream, Van Der Graaf Generator and Mike Oldfield. They told me about Zappa (I didn't love him at the time), Soft Machine (the same), Henry Cow, Hatfield & The North, they made me know Robert Wyatt - a group of depth artists they was probably reading on some music magazines. Among these meetings there was also Brian Eno, Philip Glass and the Third Ear Band.
At the beginning, as for all these kind of music, they bored me, but after all through my personal peregrinations I've already bumped into La Monte Young and Igor Stravinski...
The Third Ear Band was a great discovering, I liked very much their approach to a kind of music that remembered me the Tangerine Dream and in the same time the popular theatre: I loved much the oboe, the ancestry of their proposal, maybe I was bored by the lenght and the repetitiveness of their compositions, but I got use to it quite soon.
Of course I had some disputes with my classroom mates about their music: I loved more "Macbeth", but the critics stated the other two albums was better, so my mates liked more that records.
There was also the pleasure for reasearching the records: infact in those days it was very difficult to find their albums in a record shop, and for that reason we did lend ourself one of two of them and we take them for many months..."

                                    OTEME  -"I was a mill"/CadutaMassi

Beyond to have included TEB music on some of your repertories, how much of their experience has gone in your music, about the sound research and the art of composition?
"The Third Ear Band has caratherized the sound of many works composed by me between 1991 and 1999. The Ensemble Il Teatro del Faro was made up with oboe/English horn, cello and electric guitar, with some other instruments as Indian organ, pan flute, ocarina, objects and toys. The music we played was quite different from the Third Ear Band's, but sometimes it contained the same spirit of improvisation and the love for that kind of sounds; maybe it was less similar about the hestetics, because, even if it was charaterized by improvisations, the most of my works is composed, not improvised".

Which are your compositions directly influenced by the TEB sound?
"The tune more directly influenced by it could be "La recita" [The play] from the suite titled "Ritratti, pagine e improvvisazioni su Amleto" [Portraits, pages, improvisations on Hamlet]. In this tune, electric guitar and English horn make a rhytmic sequence quite similar to the Sweeney's hand drums, and the cello sounds a melody, on a viola's extention, and at the end it improvises. Maybe it can recall "The Egyptian Book of The Dead", maybe more "Macbeth". Another tune surely is "Tema dei campi" [Fields' theme] that at last, after 20 years and a lot of different versions, this year it'll be recorded on a CD by my new group OTEME. On this composition the teponatzli, a percussion instrument similar to an ethnic marimba, play the continuous rhytmn, the oboe makes the melody, the clarinet does a rhytmic/melodic contracpuntual to the oboe and sometimes piccolo's phrases insert on it; the harmony is build by synth and electric bass. One of the first versions of the track (maybe composed in 1990) sounded as "Achemy", but globally my tune is more complex, because more contrapuntal.
There are some influences here and there on other  compositions I've written: the last one is from 2010, an experimental video I made in Poland ("The Walbrzych Notebook": see at on a sequence of the soundtrack electric guitar is played with a bow, and I remember just before to compose this tune I used for the film the "Abelard & Heloise" soundtrack.
I liked so much the combination that I stopped immediately to listen to it to avoid the risk to become prisoner of it and don't be able to compose some of mine. But at the end I composed a tune that remember in some way the Third Ear Band atmosphere."

           Stefano Giannotti - "Corali III-IV"

How would you describe TEB music from a composer point of view?
"A music out of time and out of any label. As the music composed by Giacinto Scelsi, John Cage and Morton Feldman. These composers are very up-to-date in any age because they don't belong to a specific time, they are out of format. I've been so impressed to listening the TEB again after a very long time and compare them with other bands using the ethnic element in their work - as the Oregon, for example... TEB is unique, they don't smell of ECM or World Music, their semplicity is so disarming that one cannot apply the same critical categories as to a specific school of thought. It would be as lump everything together.
I can't labelled TEB music as psichedelia or etno-music, or minimal, because at the end none of this genres sounds as they play..."

Observing the condition of contemporary music (I mean his level of development), do you think TEB music is still up-to-date? Why?
Surely it's a music still very up-to-date, and it's shame (I'm polemic here!) you can hardly convince some young homo-sapiens to stop just for five minutes and listen to it (generally as for all sophisticated music). Periodically I do workshop about guide to listen to contemporary music and the Third Ear Band has a place of honour there. A  lot of contemporary ethno-jazz is so predictable until the first notes... it's not the same with the Third Ear Band, maybe because the musicians wasn't  so great virtuous, never rivers of notes as Paco De Lucia, but power of concentration, breath and sound. In some ways, as I stated, I find a parallelism with Feldman, Cage and above all Scelsi.

                                                      Giacinto Scelsi - "Trio for strings I-IV"

Sure, if you avoid any labels you bore the society and fatally you sink into oblivion.
Years ago I tried to arrange "Water" for Vaga Orchestra, an ensemble of students of music. The band was composed by two flutes, tenor sax, violin, keyboards, four guitars, Indian organ, bass and drums. Arranging the tune, I decided to round up for semitone every descending or growing note of Ursula Smith's cello. The harmonic result has been very interesting: a continuous stream of consonant and discordant chords perfectly tied to each other, creating a speech with sense in a harmonic point of view, never ordinary, that obliges you to listen the music until the end of the track. I never thought the cello was improvised on "Water", and I'm not still completely persuaded of it".

Visit Stefano Giannotti's Web site at:

                                                                    Stefano Giannotti - "Dal recinto"

                                                                           OTEME - "Palude del Diavolo"

 no©2011 Luca Ferrari

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