Moving across genres: Claudio Parodi

Published by Alessandro Violante on July 9, 2016

claudio-parodiWhile looking at the work of Claudio Parodi, the first consideration that comes to mind is the absence of any element that would allow the classification of an artist, and perhaps that’s the cause of the fact he is remaining a substantially hardly present name in the musical press. The main critic’s activity, and concern, is genre’s classification, and to put the work in a temporal flow, therefore resorting mainly to discuss concepts such as influence and innovation. The recurrent scholarly analysis of the aspects of form allows the incorporation of the artists, also different from each other, in a set which is called a scene, putting on the background any analysis of the work and its meaning.

The work of the Italian composer is characterized by a wavering movement between genres and media, which puts them at the service of a process of communication. A record like Horizontal Mover (homage to Alvin Lucier), based upon reworked materials by Tiziano Milani, is a clear tribute to the American composer known for his experiments on sound and its sources. A work designed by adapting the construction criterion of I am sitting in a room, based on the use of loudspeakers and microphones to show how environment is anything but neutral to sound, and the use of the recorder to capture and exalt sound phenomena. In Parodi’s version, the first of a series of seven works, the original recording is omitted and the reproduction is gradually slowed down obtaining the effect of operating as a microscope on the original sound, and it works by subtraction instead of accumulation, just as in the work by which is inspired.

If this kind of work could be classified as done by an experimental composer, a record like Taken From A True Story, which he did with Thomas Buckner, dated 2008 and released in 2014, shows the commitment to another context that could be the reductionist wave of free improvisation; a record for voice and turkish clarinet where sound research is linked to a radical destrucuring of the song form where there isn’t any notion of accompaniment, denoting a subordination of the instrument to the voice. But there is one aspect that connects it to the previous album: dividing the channels, the right for the voice and left for the clarinet, and carefully noting the instrumentation with which the work is recorded is a statement about the reproduction as a medium that transforms the sound. Since the recording / playback cycle, even in an high fidelity mode, it is a reconstruction / transformation of the sound space to another, the use of certain devices that detect the sound nuances of difficult audibility means the presence of some infidelity compared to what could be heard in the recording studio e.g., the reverberation of a room is a cause of not hearing the voice in one ear and the instrument to another as with headphones and, in part, with speakers, and it creates conditions for music posing as a dialogue between two items as if they were the one opposite the other.

Claudio Parodi - Heavy Nichel (CS, 2013)Improvisation is the backbone of Heavy Nickel, the first part of a series of recordings of solo improvisations dedicated to an instrument, a release where, apparently, the research for sonic details stops in favor of a more canonical approach where the movement is based on the characteristics of duration and height. In this way the first three parts of the work are an exploration of piano keys and serious and acute registers. The fourth part concludes the work, set to a basic pianissimo that leaves room for more aspects related to the use of the instrument as a sound source.

The last two works are inextricably linked to the places they are born in, and show how the medium is tied to expressive urgency: Prima del terzo is a collection of field recordings made at Chiavari’s port, which leverages some technical solutions already used in other works e.g., stereo separation in Vrúah that invokes the procedure used in the work with Thomas Buckner, in order to recreate a sound experience where certain cultural references linked to the Jewish kabbalah become the parameters for the sound movement. Instead of using the recording as a sound postcard, he moves the pan and changes the reverb with a loose reference to the procedures used in Horizontal Mover for the creation of a sonic movement during playback.

Claudio ParodiAfter a job linked to the place of birth, A tree, at night is based on a relocation and it is a return to the song form, but instead of being a generic element as in the work with Thomas Buckner, in this case the story is the center of the work. The desire to recount the living place as a mirror of the social situation becomes the key to understanding the reasons for such a journey in the expressive possibilities of a language. The author puts openly on sound background, using the traditional tools of African traditions to create a sound equivalence between the observation of facts and the accompaniment, or the act of listening to the story.

The work of Claudio Parodi poses an analytical problem related to the apparent absence of a unifying element of the first level i.e., lacking a perceptible sound link between the works. Perhaps with the exception of the couple Taken from a true story | Heavy Nickel, linked by the use of the same instrument, the turkish clarinet, other works have significant differences or, even, oppositions. If the role of the clarinet is equal in Taken from a true story, the role of the shakers is pure accompaniment in A tree, at night; if the sound construction of Horizontal Mover tends to gradually cancel the starting material, even omitted in his unmodified form, in prima del terse the starting material remains in the foreground and the changes do not alter the recognizability of the source. Halting the analysis to the immediately perceived elements, the writing as a unifying element of the works goes out of sight.

The meticulous notes on the instrument are clues on the approach of the composer regarding to recording as a sound construction. Horizontal Mover is admittedly a work based on a recording-reproduction cycle where each step is the recording of the previous iteration’s playback. Taken from a True Story and Heavy Nickel use microphones to capture sounds that would probably be dispersed in a room.

Prima del Terzo uses playback as a tool to get the work finished. A tree, at night also records formally foreign elements, like a cat in a studio, to make sense, even a theatrical one, of the story.
In this construction the audible becomes, via registration, a sound project adaptable to various configurations and it leaves Claudio Parodi free to move in different contexts without having a sound form defined a priori to secure it to a specific form.