Pierluigi Billone
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1+1=1

(2006)

for 2 Bass Clarinets
Commissioned by Bank Austria and Jeunesse Austria


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One drop plus another drop makes one larger drop, not two.

This is how the "nutcase" Domenico in Andrei Tarkowsky´s film Nostalghia explains the inscription 1+1=1 on the wall of his house, pouring two drops of oil into his hand.

Every musical instrument achieves perfection by augmenting its characteristics with an entire legacy of physical perceptions and abilities that came about through dealing with the material, the sonic conception and the culture of playing and listening that spawned it.

The first physical contact with the instrument is therefore already preconditioned, but remains open. Although the primary characteristics of the instrument remain unchanged, the act of playing is in fact like a sensitive organism. Gradually the instrument also begins to exist in another manner, it is examined from new perspectives, and a stream of experience ensues that transforms its possibilities, even creating new dimensions (sound, rhythm, body etc.). The variations that become part of instrumental technique through each individual discovery are traces (some clearer than others) of the human and cultural experiences that produced them, and they "vibrate" in the act of listening as particularity, identity and origin; they are active sonic layers, living matter with an intelligence of its own.

In my work, I have long tended towards such an approach of listening to the particularity and the differences; I am looking for possible points of contact and connections between dimensions that nonetheless retain their autonomy. With the help of this vigilance (and an almost archeological sensitivity) I enter instrumental spaces yet unknown to me. Here, any detail can constitute an illuminating difference, a remarkable connection, the foundation for a construction, the identification of an earlier experience, a missing piece of a puzzle, a notable particularity, or an unrepeatable state that crosses the boundaries of notation; in this sense none of its aspects are unimportant.

My work is based on the conception and representation of the instrument with its multidimensional sound-world, a defined space within which I can move rationally.

If, however, I do not allow myself to be trapped within that representation, I can hear the boundaries of my own model and remain open to the development of sound in all its facets.

This, however, involves the introduction of further abilities
(archaeologists must also learn to dig first...).

Through the performer´s concrete actions, the practice and intelligence of the sound are inscribed upon the body and the space in the ritual and impersonal dimension of the common listening. Sound, body, listening, space and community cannot be separated.

Therefore...

§

The availability of these two identical instruments, the prospect of an unlimited duration (70') and the possibility of working in a specific location are ideal conditions. I would like to gratitude to the sponsors (Bank Austria and Jeunesse Österreich) and my admiration for the two performers, Petra Stump and Heinz-Peter Linshalm.

In this work, the two instruments are positioned as far apart (15m.) as is possible while still allowing for reciprocal acoustic influence between the sound sources. Hence I can either treat each source as acoustically and spatially completely isolated or use the entire space as a whole, like the interior of an instrument.

Ranging from the smallest possible vibration (which remains isolated in only one source at an almost resonance-free point in the space) to the most complex and widely-spread vibration (which fills the entire space), the dishomogeneity and dispersive potential of the clarinet's attack together become the power centre for articulated relationships. For example: particular forms and degrees of resonances, of apparent peculiarities etc.

The unusual distribution of the sound sources and the audience stimulates a constantly unbalanced, asymmetrical mode of listening.

The space in which the sound spreads and remains present thus takes on a stable acoustic function of its own: an intentional imbalance, the ideal power centre for the development of a complex visionary multiphony that takes the space as its point of departure.

Here there is no ideal centre (the composer-listener who imagines other listeners similar to himself "in whose presence" the sound takes place, and then supposes that, with the CD, the sound is within reach, that it can no longer be influenced, and that he can finally hear it perfectly and repeatably).

Each listener is located within this acoustic particularity, and in order to form an independent listening point he must practice controlling and modeling the listening levels more actively and emphatically that with traditional listening.

But the sound source is also instable: sometimes the instrument is silent, and the sound vibrates within the performer's body (instrumental body) and sometimes the instrument "disappears" entirely and vibrates in the manner of a mouth or a ventilation pipe.

The work expresses itself and develops in stages, each in different dimension.

It follows a particular hierarchy and a particular graduation of connections that are often very far apart. With each stage, a dishomogeneous galaxy of phenomena grows, and at the same time a further space opens: the space of the ritual word-sound.

The possibility and the purpose of integrating all these levels: this is the unanswered question for the act of listening.

1+1=1 alludes to a difference: the recognition of the practice and intelligence of sound as a conscious affiliation with an impersonal dimension, whose boundaries are not fixed (as in a drop of oil...).