BUSSOTTI: Sypario. Autoritratto – esemplare di Roberto Fabbriciani. Tutti, Delle notti Sylvane. Cardellino, Cinciallegra, Ciuffolotto e Cormorano. Autotono. Tutti, Alcuni. Tutti, Scrigno. Rara dolce. Serpe / Roberto Fabbriciani, fl/a-fl/pic; Jonathan Faralli, perc / Tactus TC 931902
Here the modern music of Sylvano Bussotti, who just passed away on September 19, is interpreted by one of his favorite musicians, flautist Roberto Fabbriciani along with percussionist Jonathan Faralli. The one anomaly about this album is that the pencil sketch on the cover appears to be a female flautist, certainly one who looks absolutely nothing like Fabbriciani’s photos in the booklet.
Those listeners expecting nice, pretty flute music (like my cat Fluffy, who lives and dies for pretty flute and violin music) ought to look elsewhere. Bussotti’s pieces are anything but: they are moody, mysterious, sometimes edgy and, yes, sometimes a bit pretty, but clearly not easy listening for the mindless masses. The addition of percussion by itself moves the music outside the realm of the comfortable, and in the opening track, Sypario, the flautist is also asked to whisper some words in Italian as if breathing in someone’s ear, very slowly. The effect is not calming so much as slightly unnerving.
Bussotti was a composer who likes to play with space and sonority. The overall structure of his pieces were amorphic; most of the music moves slowly, and he also liked to use occasional distortion of the instrumental sounds produced which add to the strangeness of his conceptions. But it is nothing if not imaginative; it is music that grabs you and will not let go. In Autoritratto, Bussotti used a plethora of odd sounds, switching the flautist from a regular flute to alto and piccolo flutes as well as harmonica(!) while the percussionist seems to be playing some strange instrument that sounds like a tuba in addition to one that sounds like a glass harmonica. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!
There are two percussion solos on the album, Tutti, Delle notti Sylvane and Tutti, Scrigno, and one flute solo, Rara dolce. All are in the same general mood and form. The best way I can describe this music is that it almost make you think that it was taken from sounds and forms that were rolling around in Bussotti’s head, perhaps during a nightmare that he couldn’t awaken from. It’s that strange and eerie and indescribable. In the midst of Autotono, we suddenly hear the sound of a ravenous animal tearing someone apart with its teeth. in Tutti, Alcuni Bussotti adds a sped-up tape of multiple voices babbling at cross-purposes. Rara dolce has the flautist playing piccolo and sounding like an insane tea kettle going off. It put me in mind of background music for something that David Lynch might have done.
Suffice it to say that those who, like Mozart, consider the flute an “inexpressive” instrument would need to think twice after hearing this CD. Fabbriciani can really make his instrument “talk,” and I’d hazard a guess that he could perform this feat even playing more conventional music, as Claude Monteux, James Galway and Tara Helen O’Connor could do. (Also Michala Petri, though she more often plays the recorder than the flute.) Artists like these have completely changed the way we hear the flute, which is another reason among many why I place very little stock in historically-informed performances.
Certainly a strange disc, then, but if you have a taste for nuts like Harry Partch you’ll certainly like Bussotti.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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