Pierluigi Billone
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for Percussion
(Marimba, 2 Log Drums, Woodblock, China gong)


Grazia Giacco

Mani, Hands: common ground of these pieces for percussion, the hand is not limited to its function as a mere prehensile and tactile organ, it actually encompasses what Billone calls the Intelligence of hand, that is the ability to create a living connection with sound. The sense of touch in Billone’s music is the expression of a contact: the hand meets with the matter; it makes it vibrate; it takes part to this vibration, and creates resonance in and around the body. Skin and bones rediscover the ancestral space of sound, and seek for new horizons for the sense of hearing. Billone’s music should not be listened to through hears only, but also through breathing, through skin, through the heavy body sitting or laying down in the act of listening, through the eyes that follow (if possible) the movements of the player, which are a dance of resonant bodies – is it the player playing the instrument, or the opposite?

A distinctive feature of Billone’s music is the exceptional creative energy able to multiply the sound source. From singular (one instrument) it becomes plural, when it meets with the player’s resonant body and his principal and vital instruments, without which he couldn’t live or communicate – that is, hands and mouth. Is the sound within us, or outside us? Billone’s questions are about this borderline space, about the manifestation of a vibrating essence (Sound) that flows around, inside, outside, and throughout the bodies.

In Mani.Matta (2008) multiple sound spaces coexist: a marimba, two logdrums (i.e. rectangular wooden drums) surmounted by a wood-block, a gong hanging over the player’s chest. The sound attack on the instruments is designed to extend their timber possibilities: sticks made of different material and thickness that hit on various points of the marimba bars, the logdrums, and the gong. The hands can either touch lightly or strike the instruments with fingers, knuckles, and palms. Matta is the name of an American artist, the late Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978), who was famous in the ‘70s for his architectonic works known as building cuts, which were based on the principle that sections of abandoned buildings were removed so that perspective could be broken/opened.

Paul Griffith

This new, extraordinarily virtuoso piece for solo percussionist belongs to a sequence of “Mani” (Hands) works the composer started with Mani.Giacometti for string trio in 2000. Billone’s music moves in borderlands between mechanical and corporeal rhythms, and between instrument and body.

The principal instrument is a marimba, and the standard way of interacting with that instrument, by means of mallets, is considerably enlarged and developed. Not only is the player asked to use different kinds of stick, from very hard (at the beginning) to very soft (bass drum sticks), but also the hands are brought into play, as the title intimated, both to strike the resonating bars and to hold them, thereby muting the sound. Moreover, the instrument is adapted. Only its lower three octaves are used, the treble being replaced by wooden percussion instruments of indefinite pitch: two log drums and a woodblock. And the performer is adapted as well, bearing a quite different instrument: a gong. The miniature wave motions of much of the music add up to great tides passing between musician and instrument, between noise and note, between calm and frenzy, in search of a center.