Archive for April, 2012

Milano Polizia… On the Beat!

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Bach, Allegro

When recording in public spaces, it’s important to keep a wary eye open for friendly cops…out on the beat!

Before finding a morning coffee, I gave this lively Bach Allegro a read-through in the wonderful Galleria shortly before these two helpful Polizia offered me directions to El Duomo. Hey, I was watching out for security and caffeine-deprived, so if my tempo is a little unsteady in places, maybe go easy on me.

First time I’ve been busted for not keeping a steady beat!

La Poesia di Polizia (Poetry Police)

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Poem, Griffes (Introduction)

It was hard to leave the acoustic playground of Milan’s famous Galleria, so after finding a cafe that was open so early – believe me, something at least as strong as a double espresso was badly needed – I set up to record right under the massive central dome.

Bach had sounded great in the space, but I really wanted to see how the opening of the Paul Griffes’ evocative Poem would behave in the crazy acoustics before I carried on to the big cathedral.

Listen at the end, where these friendly polizia suggest Sunday is not the best time to be playing flute…oops, busted by la poesia di polizia, aka the Poetry Police!

NOTE: Check out the octagonal mosaic pattern in the floor, as mentioned in the previous post.

 

Octagonal Flute en Milano!

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Bach, Sarabande

A spontaneous drive to Milan at the end of my recent Swiss adventure came as a wonderful epiphany, and was the icing on the cake for a great trip! Early on the Sunday morning of the day that I was scheduled to depart, I was up and out of my hotel room, restless to check out some of the gorgeous Italianate acoustics before heading to the airport.

Re-tracing my steps from the night before, I intuitively headed toward the Duomo di Milano, and just happened upon this amazing, open-air concourse. Until that morning, I simply had no idea of its existence. On my way there, the streets were empty expect for a few lost souls, fellow vagrants who were well-monitored by cars marked ‘Polizia’ that circled the old city center, cruising by at ominously slow speeds.

Once safely within the Galleria, I was a little concerned about security patrolling the vast, deserted space. So I took a breath and discreetly set up next to a closed vendor’s kiosk, quickly settling on my collection of Bach’s Partitas and Suites arranged for flute – after all, you can’t beat Bach first thing in the morning!

The soaring, lofted acoustics co-mingled beautifully with the suffused light filtering down from above, and this flute player was in heaven! The central hub of Milan’s massive Galleria forms a stunning, octagonal meeting place, which, as it turns out, matches the structure and ‘architecture’ of this music by Bach…Octagonal Flute!

My instincts were right: the area was crawling with cops, but I managed to get through a couple of selections without interruption! Listen towards the end as early-morning tourist keeners wander by, apparently equally taken with the stunning architecture of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. All of a sudden I totally get Toronto’s Eaton Centre!

 

Postcard from Switzerland

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Romainmotier, Improv #1

My friends had gone ahead and were sitting in the distant shadows, somewhere down this gently sloping main aisle, a path barely discernible to me as my eyes valiantly tried to adjust to the gloom. It was this central, downward slope that left a lingering impression perhaps even more than the incredible acoustics, as I found its incline pulled me inexorably from the world, drawing me down and away into the depths of time.

Having arrived late in the day as the afternoon light was fading, it turned out we had the place to ourselves, such a remarkable gift to find ourselves alone and undisturbed; after all, we weren’t sure if the 1,500 year old abbey would even be open when we set out by car a couple of hours earlier.

Tucked in a quiet vale of the Swiss countryside north of Lac Leman, Romainmotier is extraordinary in so many ways…and our Time Travel, as we later observed, was about to begin!

Entering the atmospheric abbey space, I was immediately enveloped by darkness, save the oddly comforting glow of the large stained glass window hovering before me and the steadfast presence of a single, unwavering candle in the middle-distance. The high, vaulted ceiling soared far above, to the point of invisibility.

I remained toward the back, deftly assembled my silver flute, and sounded some notes, tentatively at first, exploring the living echoes and history of the cavernous space. Reaching out with the sound of my flute, I awakened the centuries-old mystery of the place. At times I tried closing my eyes as I played; however even with eyes wide open I could see only dim shapes.. such a strange sensation!

Improvising as I peered into the inky depths, I allowed myself to be guided by sound alone like dancing with ones eyes closed as described in the movie Pina. A dialogue gently emerged with the overlapping notes, a conversation with the invisible generations who remained in the dark, pressing in and reverberating all about me, ineffably beyond the grasp of my physical senses.

Mystery and gloom prevailed.

As we drove away into the twilight, we were left in a profoundly contemplative state, long after getting busted by the nun who came to check on the place as we were hanging out, lost in our time travel reveries!

Here’s a quaint, pre-wikipedia link that describes Romainmotier and provides a little more background info.