January 12, 2018

Some kind of popular music how much 'popular' today? The case of ROMOLO GRANO, Italian composer, arranger, conductor and his amazing music corpus.

If "Rolling Stones" magazine can omit the Third Ear Band's records in its celebrated "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (Wenner Media Ltd. 2005); if "Uncut" special issue "Ultimate Record Collection" (December 2017)  in the 70's section 'forgets' Glen Sweeney & C.... maybe a reason there is.
I think popular music history might be re-written  and I'm very glad that nowadays, in this age of revisionism, some so-called 'cult records' can be mooted; maybe a new age of free minds is coming for fighting nostalgia and commonplaces of culture that are a real damnation for everyone...

The reasons because TEB's music cannot be ignored are first of all related to its musical nature, the peculiar identity of the sound (the instruments played) that advanced world music and all the forms of 'contaminations' of sounds. Their syncretism was so unique and authentic that was just pure sound with no image (fashion), no indulgences on pop star trivial tricks  and other kind of banality.
Other reasons can be found in their implicit contents>: I've tried to explain in a past short essay (read HERE) why "Alchemy" is one of the most dangerous records ever played. And it's possible that this is one of the reasons because rock magazines generally don't consider TEB's work in their useless, boring lists of 'essential' albums.

I don't feel any embarrassment into writing that "Alchemy", "Third Ear Band", or "Music for Macbeth" are more important and fundamental records than all the Led Zeppelin's or The Who's discographies. Or i.e. the Shadows of Knight's "Gloria" or that boring Eagles' "Hotel California"...
In terms of evolution of forms, that specific 'arcane' and 'primordial' traits of the sound, TEB's research was never achieved, also if a lot of bands and musicians are going through the same path...
My only problem is that every time I read this kind of list of records with no a TEB's albums in I have a jump. Well,  I might wait for all of this and pass beyond!

But Third Ear Band's fate is not so isolated: some intriguing, wonderful stories are hidden somewhere to be discovered and one of the aims of this Archive was to document it.
One of these 'wrong fates', regarding a less-known Italian composer as Romolo Grano, is related in some ways to Third Ear Band's music, the same rare sensibility for the form, the same cultural/musical roots, the same result...

Please, listen to this track titled "Taranta" (go HERE!), composed and recorded by Grano in 1972: Taranta is a folkloric south Italian dance form, precisely diffused in Salento, a territory inside the Puglia. Studied by anthropologist as Ernesto De Martino in the first half of last century and more recently by George Lapassade as a modern experience of trance, is an old dance people uses to dance today as a mere form of entertainment, in the past as a reaction to the spider's bite, even if characterised by a strong metaphorical element of social liberation for the low-class people.
Italian composer Romolo Grano.
As musician and composer Alessandro Monti wrote me (letting me know about Romolo Grano), "maybe taranta or pizzica could be related to some sections of the film, and to some kind of prog music of the time... but its mood is the same of the Third Ear Band, if one considers it is from 1972. For myself, it's quite similar to "Earth"... maybe it's not so strange that the film's synopsis talks about magic and spirituality... Surely this is not a coincidence!"

Reviewing the soundtrack, recently published in a pirate CD edition, Federico Biella told the genesis of the tune: "The movie's most impressive scene, when Bosè in trance is vomiting frogs, is moving with "Taranta", Mediterranean dance for violin and percussion with unusual origins.  Around 1965, Giulio Questi was in Macedonia for filming live some folk rituals intended for a docu-film, never finished, by [famous Italian film maker] Gillo Pontecorvo. Visiting the local countryside, he met a violin player who was playing a monotonous folkish tune. He was impressed by it. Years later, planning with Grano "Arcana"'s soundtrack, he remembered that theme who had recorded on a tape.  He gave it to the musician for listening to and he was so excited by it that he decided  to arrange it."
(from http://www.colonnesonore.net/recensioni/cinema/5109-arcana-l-uomo-del-tesoro-di-priamo.html)

So Grano's track was included in the film soundtrack album titled "Arcana", one of the many works composed and produced (often for TV programmes) by this very eclectic artist - spacing through pop, easy-listening, muzak, electronic, avant-guarde music...

But who is Romolo Grano?
Friends of Italian avant-garde composer Bruno Maderna, Grano was born in Santa Maria (Cosenza, Italy) in 1929. He was a composer, arranger, and conductor of music used for movies and RAI television programmes from 1964 ("Ca Ira" movie directed by Tinto Brass) to (around) 1978. 

After have been at the legendary Studio di Fonologia in Milan, following the experimental works of Luigi Nono, he was composing music for the most popular Italian TV movies of the Seventies - as "Nero Wolf" or "La Baronessa di Carini" - mixing electronic with classical compositions inspired by Romantic Eastern composers, contemporary jazz, folk music and melodic pop songs in an extraordinary melting pot of sounds created for making a comment to the film scenes.

For some critics, just "Arcana" is Grano's masterpiece and "Taranta" the main theme with its catching ritual folk dance structure that reminds to the Third Ear Band.
Originally realized in few vinyl promotional copies, this soundtrack was a very rare album until Italian label Digitmovie edited it officially in 2015 together with another TV film ("L'Uomo del Tesoro di Priamo"). Other exclusive works are i.e. "Musica elettronica", realised in 1973 and available on the Web  (listen to it on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/broken-music-au/cp109cd), a sampler of a huge amount of abstract electronic recordings based on delays, bloops, analog drones, hums...
As like its author - a real genius! - many Grano's compositions are so interesting  piece of music that can stay with full rights in that same pantheon with giants as Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Piero Umiliani, or Gary Hermann.

no©2018 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

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