Mentre noi corravam la morta gora WW
Diego Minciacchi - 1998/2002

(Dante, Divina Commedia, Inferno, VIII, 31)

Parte Prima: su testi di Edoardo Cacciatore
Parte Seconda: su testi di Emilio Villa

Theoretical Basis
In a broad sense, the project stems from one central idea: the conception and implementation of a sound object of principally Italian significance. During the course of my recent activities I came to realize that, today, it is urgently necessary to deal with aspects of our long-standing but controversial and ambiguous Italian cultural tradition through musical terms. The present-day situation is unique: we are planning the future re- arrangement of Europe. However, we are still embedded in tradition and socially burdened by the waiting period for the coming millennium. This apparent contradiction prompted me to create a project in the form of a sound object named after Dante's verse Mentre noi corravam la morta gora, whereby the use of Italian literature results in a strong socio- cultural form of expression. The human voice can express feelings in the most direct manner. The voice can relate words which can be understood for their own value without means of cultural references (such as instrumental stylism), relating semantic meaning as well as phonetic expression. Primarily for this reason, I decided to use the human voice in Mentre noi corravam la morta gora extensively and sounds produced by instruments very sparingly. I also decided that my work should be in tape format. A tape can be listened to easily, at any time and place, or on radio, without the ceremony of a concert. For performance in concert, a special version of the work, including narrators, a conductor and live electronics, should be used.

Collection of Material
For the conveyance of socio-cultural content, I chose to employ texts with a readily intelligible meaning. I selected passages by two major Italian poets of our century, Edoardo Cacciatore and Emilio Villa. They were both not only poets, but were actively involved in other cultural fields; Cacciatore was a philosopher, while Villa created sculptures and paintings. Villa also wrote important translations from ancient Greek, Hebrew and Sumerian. His own poetry was enriched by his knowledge of ancient and modern languages, and he wrote not only in Italian but in Latin, Portuguese, French, English and ancient Greek. The texts by Edoardo Cacciatore and Emilio Villa are employed in my music in fragments of various length (from a few words to over a page) and are arranged in an order that traces the path of the poets' activities in reference to their cultural and social ambiance. I carefully designed the procedure of recording these texts. They have been read - not sung - mostly by poets and literary experts, as it was my specific intention to have them read by persons working creatively with words in their professional lives (1). Each individual recording session began with an extended discussion about the theoretical goals of the project. The speakers were then asked to read the texts, in several versions of different character, all of which I recorded. The sessions all took place at my personal recording studio. Additional sounds used in Mentre noi corravam la morta gora were produced and recorded by myself on conventional instruments (piano, tam tam) or taken from my personal library of travel recordings.

Treatment of Textual Material
The principal objective in the electronic treatment of Mentre noi corravam la morta gora has been to preserve the best possible intelligibility of words, fragments of words, sentences, and entire texts by means of editing, layering, juxtaposition and m1xture. For each single part of the sound event an individual structural treatment has been designed to delineate its respective text(s) in all required levels of significance, in accordance with the poet's original context. As an example of this principle: Cacciatore underscores words and their meanings by refined formalistic and highly repetitive procedures based on semantic, phonetic, syntactic and morphological techniques. The musical treatment of words in the building-up of sound events, in the case of Cacciatore, necessitated a complex construction of multi-layered structures capable of conveying the poet's subtle play of words and meanings. In the case of Emilio Villa the writing is more linear and oracular. The poet's linguistic intention is carried out at a more basic level by processes in elementary grammatical functions and by employment of etymological allusions and trans- linguistic constructions. For this reason I chose poems in Portuguese, Latin, and for the last text, Italian, languages closely related to each other (2) I deconstructed and reconstructed Villa's texts, preserving only small units and distributing these units within acoustical space. Dealing with Villa, my concept of word and sound developed organically from the ieratic, sacral, and apostrophizing character of the texts.

Technical Treatment
The spoken material was digitally edited to obtain a repertoire of sound files, which were then sorted by narrator and version. Fragments of these files where selected according to the criteria described above to form structural elements for the various layers. Collections of layers were repeatedly assembled in different ways, depending on the particular context. Up to about twenty simultaneous layers were used in Mentre noi corravam la morta gora. Spoken material and sounds have been combined in various degrees for different parts of the work, and also, the treatment of sounds has been effected in different ways for the individual texts. In some cases (3) the different materials (words and sounds) were used together for the creation of the basic particles throughout the entire process of layering. In other cases (4) the sound and word processes were kept separate until the final mixing stage. All operations have been performed digitally using the Studer Dyaxis Macintosh-based post-production workstation in my personal studio.

(1) Speakers are, in alphabetical order: Cecilia Bello, Mario Bello, Mariella Bettarini, Giovanni Caligo, Sebastiano Caligo, Sabrina Mata, Valentina Rene Minciacchi, Lavinia Ann Minciacchi, Massimo Mori, Alvaro Rendon.
(2) The two Latin texts used for Mentre noi corravam la morta gora have not yet been published; they are used by kind permission.
(3) Edoardo Cacciatore, Graduali, Hexasticha V, Lecce, Piero Manni, 1986, p. 101.
(4) Emilio Villa, Opere Poetiche, Milano, Coliseum Editore, 1989, pp. 60-63.