Interview: Dario Lo Cicero
15 September 2016

Dario Lo Cicero plays day 23.9 at the seminar Reflections on Cellular Empathy, from 16:30 to 18:30, location: palju nearby sauna building.

He will play his amphibious instrument, as the seminar will be conducted with the participants sitting inside mildly heated water. The link between his music and empathy: Corporeality, a term used by Harry Partch to indicate an integrated sensory experience that Dario Lo Cicero embodies with special intensity.

Interviewer from Pixelache: Egle Oddo

You came from Palermo to Helsinki by car, as you like the slow time of traveling and wondering. What is the role of traveling in your musical experience?

The music of a traveller gathers the diversity and complexity of places, of their inhabitants, music and soundscape. A musician of our time can travel in different ways, in music geography and music history as well, meeting and glimpsing hundreds of music languages and dialects. And refusing, perhaps, the commercial trend of normalizing those precious differences in rhythms, in (micro)tunings, in subtle details. Those lost differences that made European music, a few centuries ago, closer to other music cultures. If a traveller is really open minded, the ears are open not only for music and anthropized soundscape, but for any sound (and silence) of nature.

Spontaneous and yet very articulated. What is the border between constructing and improvising?

When the nature is a source of inspiration, for example, visiting a cave with dripping water we can (re)discover a natural simultaneity of different rhythms. Therefore polyrhytmic music can be natural and artificial at the same time, as many things in music. Most of my recent music, especially my speleophonies, combines complex compositional structures with the spontaneity of improvised parts. Breaking once more the barrier between music experimentation and audience, crossing any preordained border.

Why do you build instruments?

I make instruments for music; sometimes I transform or invent them. And since I like to get the best from the worse, I recycle nearly everything. Sometimes I simply punch tubes of any material, or cut the bars of a metal object on stage, sometimes I sabotage the circuits of electronic toys; sometimes I build more complex new instruments, like my harmonographone. Is my instrument making approach related to anti-consumerism and ecology? Does it express something playful, joyful? Is it funny and/or serious? Is it necessary to give an (one) answer?

Corporeality is a term used by Harry Partch to indicate a specific aesthetic approach to musical gesture in its live form. It best describes the integrated sensory experience that you offer with such special intensity when you play live. What does corporeality mean for you?    

As many modern composers and performers of microtonal music I have been influenced by Harry Partch. He has been a guide also as an instrument inventor and maker, of course, but this visionary musician is for me also the developer of this important concept: corporeality. Although I find this term self-explanatory I'll give an example of its influence on me. I don't like, in so many electronic music concerts, when you cannot perceive any connection between gesture and sound. I often use, when I perform electronic music, unusual (I could say unusually human) instruments and interfaces, i.e. those where my breath and hands' movement can be visibly connected to the produced sounds. And if I use a computer I turn it and myself enough to allow the audience to see what I am doing, so its monitor won't be a barrier between me and who wants to see and listen.

For the seminar Reflections on Cellular Empathy you will play your amphibious instrument. What can you tell us about it?    

I started experimenting amphibious music twelve years ago. The interaction with water allows something amazing for me. Blowing in any wind instrument or sounding tube when underwater produces effects both underwater and outside. I designed my instrument both for air and amphibious use: it's a great glass pan-flute, and when I use it on a water surface I remove its tuning corks and use the water to close the tubes at different angles. Any change of the angle between the tubes and the water surface gives consequently a different scale. The waves produced by the movement of myself and other people nearby affect the pitches with a continuous glissando effect. Once again, amphibious instruments give me the opportunity to explore interactions and produce music unheard before.

About Dario Lo Cicero

Dario Lo Cicero is an Italian music composer, historian, performer and inventor. His instruments, sound sculptures and installations are widely used in the performances of his groundbreaking musical theatre. He has worked with renowned directors such as Eugène Green, Michele Perriera, Raul Ruiz and Thierry Salmon.

His musicological studies have been published on the most relevant channels, such as Encyclomedia, as he collaborated with Umberto Eco providing hypertexts and music performances. At present he is Professor at the Conservatorio V. Bellini in Palermo.

He established and directed the Laboratorio di Ricerca Musicale and the Orchestra Xenarmonica. He has participated to numerous radio and TV broadcasts, and recorded for various labels such as Tactus, Dynamic and Altrock.

He has given important concerts throughout Europe in a wide variety of different repertoires, ranging from medieval music to first performances of contemporary compositions, as a soloist (in solo recitals, in duo or with orchestra) or in chamber ensembles. He also joined various jazz bands and the progressive rock band Homunculus Res, as a flautist and as a wind electronic instruments player

At present he is Professor at the Conservatorio V. Bellini in Palermo, where he opened new courses on Microtonality, Music and instruments for environmental education. As Chief Librarian of the conservatory, he discovered important musical sources previously unknown or missing. Among them, the autograph manuscript of the lost quintetto of Gioachino Rossini's opera La gazzetta, and two cantatas handwritten by Gaetano Donizetti.

His creative approach to the music of the past includes performances on rare 18th-19th century instruments, such as one of the oldest (1807) Claude Laurent crystal flutes, and on his own reconstructions of earlier glass flutes.

He is active as a composer of chamber, electroacoustic and stage music, mainly microtonal, and as a musical instruments inventor and maker.