Alva Noto, alter ego of artist Castern Nicolai, returned to the Romaeuropa Festival 2023 this time alongside the experimental orchestra Ensemble Modern, to present the fourth of five parts of his project Xerrox. The instrumental work was arranged especially for the Ensemble, commissioned for Frankfurt Positionen 2021.
The Sala Sinopoli of the Auditorium welcomed them with a sold-out audience full of expectation. The title Xerrox, echo of the photocopier, an image that is also an acoustic symbol of alienation, immediately gets to the heart of the matter: the machine and the data are subjected to manipulation in a process of production through copies of copies where the sounds are increasingly altered, further and further away from their source. The compositions in the background visually pick up the rhythm.
In the process of copying, information is lost, it becomes something else. The copy is continually transformed into an original flourish of variations on the theme that divide between digital and acoustic, sound and visual.
In the first editions, the data are extracted from external sources or fragments of recordings, now instead ‘it is composed under the banner of a unified cinematic soundscape, warm chords, drumming digital environments, liquefied electronics, drones and noises sustained by floods on strings’, as described in the disc’s presentation.
On the other hand, Alva Noto began his musical journey with Spin in 1996, as music critic and expert Daniela Cascella tells us in her avant-garde book ‘Sculptures of Sound’ (Tuttle Edizioni) by sampling the sound emissions of the instruments that create the field of information in which we are immersed on a daily basis: telephones, faxes, modems. And in particular, the glitch becomes a basic element of the generative process of its own sounds that within a structure identifies vanishing points and variations (Cascella).
The glitch, a phenomenon that exploded with particular force in the musical circles of the 1990s and was soon adopted as a visual-sonic aesthetic, that momentary sparkle that stems from an error and breaks the spell of alienation, in this latest work moves away in favour of a more relaxed sound. It is also echoed in the cover design where the glitch interference of the drawing disappears. The error, however, remains embedded in the title (Xerox + error).
Let’s leave it to music and sound experts to go into a sound analysis of the piece. We treasure how it all points us to the experience of the world, its alienation, but also to all that is new in the copy of the copy, as well as to the multicultural encounter between Alva Noto and the Ensemble Modern.
images (all) Alva Noto – Ensemble Modern, Xerrox Vol.4, Romaeuropa Festival 2023