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Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies, CD 2 - Italian-American Electronic Music Dramas
Artist/Band: Ron Pellegrino
CD 2 - Italian-American Electronic Music Dramas features music synthesizer duets by Ron Pellegrino and Sal Martirano, no surprise, two Italian-Americans; the duets feature dramatic music that can be expected from the musical play of boys basking in being bad. The first four tracks on the CD were recorded in 1973 during a live performance at the University of Illinois Phoenix '73 Festival of New Music, in 1974 during evenings of play in Sal's university studio, and in 1975 at Sal's personal facility located on his property.
On all four tracks, Sal performed his own hybrid synthesizer, the SalMar Construction, and I played a just-configured portable set of synthesizers that included an ARP 2600, two Synthi AKSs, and a boxed collection of Buchla 200 Series modules-all were cross-patched to behave like a single complex instrument similar conceptually to the SalMar Construction).
The track titles are mine. They reflect the range we explored in our play. Sal was 13 years my senior but he was one of those people who had the sort of twinkle in his eye you would expect of a grade school kid at recess. In addition to being a serious classical composer and jazz pianist, he loved the world of wild sound and the freedom it engendered. The actual sounds of our instruments were our only form of communication for our duets-no verbal plans. The flow of the music determined how long we explored compositional notions. Intuition and experience reigned.
Sometimes Sal led, sometimes I did. His hybrid instrument required programming, so when it was my turn to follow I often adapted to fit into Sal's sound world. That was a new synthesizer experience for me and I enjoyed it immensely; it was a realtime test of adaptability, a test best suited to analog synthesizers. Both Sal and I were serious composers steeped in the classical tradition so if you listen closely you will hear every formal and structural element that has come down to us through the ages; of course it was our unstated intention to create a few new elements of our own.
Track 5 - Markings for Dena Madole was composed in 1968/69. When I arrived at Ohio State in the fall of 1968 I discovered that I had inherited a "classical" electronic music studio, similar to those found at European radio stations in the late 40s through the early 60s. It was populated by electronic gear such as function generators, switches, filters, amplifiers, tape recorders,oscilloscopes, and patch bays. I had just spent a year working with the latest Moog synthesizer at the U. of Wisconsin-Madison so I had to overcome the culture shock before I could appreciate the potential of such a studio for making one think differently.
Dena Madole was a principal dancer for the Erick Hawkins Dance Company in New York City during the 1960s. In 1968 she commissioned Markings when she decided to embark on a solo career. The first performances were part of an NYU dance festival in the spring of 1969. During the following two years she featured the piece on her cross country tours. Originally the score included a timpani part but when I learned that Dena intended to tour with the piece I redid that part electronically. The vocalist is Ann Chase, a lucky find I realize 40 years later.
Track 6 - Great Wails for Herbert Blau was composed in the spring of 1972 when Blau, an experimental theatre director and theorist, requested music for an Vietnam antiwar protest media event that he was organizing at Oberlin College. My initial reaction was mostly negative because a few years earlier I left Ohio State where I found it difficult function given the 5,000 national guard troops on campus, the helicopters hovering over the square, and the daily experience of moving through check points-all Vietnam protest inspired. (That was the year of the Kent State shootings.) Oberlin felt like an island of sanity and balance, an escape. Composing the piece all I could feel was sorrow and that led to Great Wails.