Three years of fragments: music, sound design, and sketching

Andrea Cera

The interference between different, or even incompatible, cultural paradigms is a central question for my activity. This text describes a series of projects where scientific research, free artistic investigation, tool development, and cooperation between various entities, institutional and non-institutional, had to live side by side. The process was occasioned by a collaboration within the European project SkAT-VG, started in 2014 and coordinated by Davide Rocchesso.

The SkAT-VG project explored the use of voice and gesture, as tools for sketching in sound design.In the same year, I started to work on an online experiment called Pink Squirrels, hosted by the Swiss platform Plakart directed by Steve Paterson: a study in writing, sound design, image and video.Three years later, in 2017, for the closing day of the SkAT-VG project, I presented a series of fragments made with sound, texts and videos, called The Brown Lipstick Sketches.

These are a growing collection of text-audio-video fragments made with SkAT-VG tools, articulated as a sketching activity, and linked by a family resemblance to a series of ideas presented in the Pink Squirrels project. I will introduce the discussion with a short presentation of my main aesthetic concerns, and of the way these concerns have evolved over the years.

Starting point: The Problem of Pop and ArtAt the very core of my way of working there is a crucial problem, which I call the problem of Pop and Art.In the past, I wrote that my musical aim was to create hybrids between popular music materials and contemporary classical music techniques (Cera 2000), in order to use popular music as a tool to free contemporary classical composition from the ghosts of the aesthetics of the 19th century (Cera 2004), or to transcend popular music using bad imitation strategies (Cera 2009).

At the origin of these texts, there was the belief that the classical contemporary music world was dying because it had lost its popular roots. At the time, I was looking for ways to consolidate new roots. This problem was very pressing to me, because of my erratic background. In the past, I had experienced different ways of making music: working in a studio with DJs, writing Italodance tunes; assisting a TV music producer; playing blues in smoky bars of some hidden places of Northern Italy; studying Berio and Ligeti; learning MaxMSP and Open Music; preparing music to be played in the Espace de Projection of IRCAM and other important venues. Working in these different domains made me realize how incomplete each musical world seemed to be, as compared with any of the others. I dreamed of bridges between those differences.


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The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy

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