BEYOUND THE WORLD OF SOUND
Moved by his eclectic curiosity Centazzo, finally came face to face with the challenge of working with the visual image in the early'80s. He explained this new artistic direction in the presentation notes for his first exhibition at the Bonomo Gallery in Bari, March 1984."ln my solitary and aboriginal research into expressive techniques, languages, syntheses of artistic creation, I have corrupted various musical phenomenologies; from the contamination of the most opposed styles, to the least predictable choice of musical instruments - everything has always served to create a new relationship in sound with my past experience. It is not a coincidence then, after his long and arduous journey, that the musical symbol, depository of the sound action and of the strict observation of this feverish and frantic way of composing in order to get back to the rigorous sound on paper was lost, but finally the note appeared again, transformed now into a silent trace, able to stimulate sound - emotions in those adventurous enough to turn and look at it. As far as the musician is concerned, the are still a musical neume, even if now imaginary ones which he will have to recompose in his real life, through the art of improvisation, which has been so dear to me in all my years of artistic adventure. Symbols and images intersect here in an imaginary microcosm open on two sides; the music helps to understand the symbol and the symbol to understand the sound. The experience is immobile, but ever moving in musical time, or if you prefer, in a musical experience held fast forever by the mute gesture of a band on a page."
Centazzos gesture here is with essential aesthetic taste, never excessive in color nor in material. The musical handwriting becomes poetry, visual art, an eighth note becomes a Japanese ideogram. The symbols seem to come from a different universe and make sounds in the picture, pictures in the sound. His works have been exhibited in the major galleries of Italy and abroad, and at high level cultural events including thee exhibition of scores, 'Das Grafische Bild von Music', at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna, 'Musicphilia 85' at Jesi, Interart' 85 at Villach, Udincand Lubiana. Designs, colored pages, musical maps, scores, pages of staves have the chromatic validity to reveal the visual flavor of sonority, and its fluctuation in time is transmitted across the succession of pages of the exhibited works, from the three dimensional variations of the page by mans of crumpling we derive an opening to interior world attentive to the aesthetic vibrations and to suggestiveness. Chromatic valence, illuminated and homogenous, alternates with rarefied tints and shadows, to give or take substance from the work; building up tension they free themselves in poetry. Centazzo's works are capable of moving even the layman. They seem to lead to the perception of the wave of sound locked away in the emblematic and silent scripture, and then swamp the spectator in the dissonance of a music that seems to want to capture the sounds of the world. It is interesting to note how often the music designed on these pages is accompanied al the exhibitions by the sounds of the same works, diffused in the galleries, in an attempt at a double perception.
Centazzo progressed from this period dedicated to "painting", strengthening the link between image and sound using the language of video; making first video installations, then video art. He then felt the need to reimpose the musical on the pictorial, and did so through a unique experience of video performance. Using appropriate technology, he translated his sound and the dynamism of concert performance into variable and fascinating images, concurrently controlling the musical and visual material. A rich, picturesque percussion section, electronically amplified and synthesized, was accompanied by images in turn synthesized by the percussive movements of the performer, while being filmed simultaneously by video cameras.
Percussion rhythms translated into forms and colors, were projected onto a monitor or video screen which pulsated in the dark of the concert hall. Such performances recalled the 'Concerti Fluxus' of the early '60s avant-garde. "As an artist I have always been attracted by multimedia." says Centazzo. "At my core I am a Renaissance spirit. Like those artists, I love to express myself in different languages, even if the music is the element from which everything else takes its cue. After having experimented with the distortion of musical notation in a pictorial context, and after having used video technique to give color and form to sound, in 1984 I wanted to go one step further, sticking my neck out again, as I have always done to keep the creations alive and growing. On the other hand, my determination and my desire to take risks are two essential parts of my character. The idea that was fermenting in my brain was one of creating no audio - visual poem, something that could communicate not only the audio sensations, bar also the visual ones, in symbiotic relationship. Furthermore, I was undergoing important changes in my private life, and I wanted to reflect on these changes through my work. I bought a small professional video set-up and started out, as if guided by some supernatural hand, going around Friuli-the places of my childhood, filming everything that evoked emotions, memories or simply curiosity.
In addition to the expressive outlet provided by video, it served to display my music to those film and video producers who had long overlooked my music. The combination of events determined that I would produce and film my own sound track! Tru thfully in Tiare, as the work came to be called, as in all my other videos, the images have always commented on the music, contrary to the usual practice in cinema and television. 1 was fortunate to have had the support and constant inspiration of Margherita Viola on this production. Its funny to think how the success of Tiare, instead of bringing me closer to writing music for cinema and video, took me further away. In fact, the vast majority of the hundreds of reviews which were published, the critics were attracted to the video side, and 1 found myself suddenly in the role of a promising young director. For a few years 1 actually had more offers to make films than I had to give concerts or write m a sic. This was one of the reasons why 1 had to slow down my activities as a film maker, to the point of nearly abandoning it, in order to dedicate myself full time to my life as a composer and performer.
It is a sad commentary on our contemporary society that there is no room for artists with ultipleabilitiesinmeansofartisticexpression.Theroleshavebeenassigned to be played: if you achieve credibility in one, then the other areas fall back to take a poor second place. Pasolini's literary work, for example, has been neglected by the ass media, in direct proportion to his great success as a film director. I have learned not to present my own videos to producers, and even worse to directors, when they ask me for examples of my musical work with film. It's almost as though the quality of my video work discredits my music."
Writing in Cinema Nuovo, critic Ivo Franchi said: "An innovative and intelligent work by Andrea Centazzo, composer and percussionist who has moved from totally improvised music to 'classical' composition balanced between electronics and minimalism. His first video work, Tiare, has won several awards and been included in various film festivals, as well as having been broadcast by the national television, is nothing other than the latest fruit of a continued research into various expressive methods, relating to music. From his altered and colored manuscripts, the first stage on a journey toward the visual, to performances in which, via tele-camera, live sounds and movements are translated in real time onto a screen, with the help of a microprocessor.
Tiare, instead is a sort of symphonic poem dedicated to Friuli (the artist's Heimat) and in certain ways can be compared to Koyaanisquatsi by Reggio and Glass. It begins with the music to arrive al the image. Centazzo, instead of writing a soundtrack for his film has inverted the situation, and onto a score for percussion, magnetic tape and electronic sounds has recorded a series of images. "I haven't set music to images, but in a certain sense Ive put images to music; music which was born out of an independent creative process" explains [ho artist.
This experiment, conducted in complete solitude, with a minimum budget and equipment is extremely interesting. Driven by music recalling deep ancestral sonorities Centazzo's film tells the story of places and people tied to a land (Tiare meaning "land" in Friulian dialect) and to a culture which remains rich with suggestive stimuli. This work, in its most lyric moments seems to be an implicit homage to Pasolini, and exhibits a cyclic structure divided into three parts, almost a mythical voyage: history, departure from [ho city, and return to the roots. In this emotional repertoire of places, faces, and traces of human life, Tiare comes to a close with the opening images, while a voice recalls in dialect how only in oblivion is it possible to keep a link between past and future, between tradition and innovation. The most authentic roots will be found in what will be, albeit with the awareness of a past which has not been ignored. It is not a coincidence that this first video work by Andrea Centazzo, an artist balanced between different but not opposed tendencies, should indicate a journey in this direction."
In the short span of eighteen months, Tiare won the 'Golden Seagull at the Festival of New ltalian Cinema, the 'Excellence Award and 'Special Merit Award' at the Tokyo international Video Festival, 'Special Mention' at the Music Video Festival in Warsaw, The French Cultural Ministry Prize at the Montbeliard Festival, and a prize from the RAI (Italian national radio and TV) and the CNR (National Research Committee) at the Milano Scienza Festival. The following year, 1985, Centazzo made nine video-portraits of contemporary artists, presented on video by the art critic Gillo Dorfles, for the RAI .
"The idea to create these portraits in music carne to Centazzo in the wake of a video made for him for an exhibition by the painter Carlo Patrone. Following this experience Centazzo resolved to clearly define the terms of the operation, proceeding simultaneously along both tracks of music and video, limiting the words of the artists wherever possible. Centazzo created his own interaction of suggestions, and the artist's voice, when it appears is often electronically altered in order to constitute a further sound element. Altan, Cecerc, Celli, Ciussi, Marassi, Onofri, Palli, Patrone and Zavagno, have all accepted roles as characters, who with only their appearance and their actions, tell of themselves and their personal human and artistic dimensions. Appearing with his own characters (Cipputi, Pimpa and Emesto) is graphic artist Francesco Altan, with his blond ironic smile.
The experiment represents a step forward from the video artists of recent years, who limited themselves to filming performance, often with fixed camera, without any characters or machine movements. Centazzo's videos intelligently makes use of the most up lo date video techniques, continuing in video his tradition of doing the undoable. This is most apparent in Centazzo's use of light, movement of the camera, and in certain effects obtained with the mixer, adapting this however with coherent simplicity to his primary inspiration, which is the music."
At the completion of Futuro Antico, commissioned by the Arúsans Board of Friuli, and once again a work of music with images, Centazzo found himself confronting a new challenge, his first thematic video film. The project was dedicated to the castles of Friuli and entitled, Arx. It takes its inspiration from the documentation of an inquisition which took place in Friuli in 1745, imagining that in that year a wizard-alchemist created and experimented with a time machine. Thanks to his machine, the wizard sets out on a journey through the history of the oldest castles in the region. The story of this invention, Arx, becomes the plot of the film in which Centazzo presents the narrated episodes in a splendid display of his abilities as video maker and musician. The strong narrative, the taste for iconology, and perfect equilibrium between music and film give Arx a place of honor among Centazzo's prolific creations: the story proceeds with a minimum of dialogue, an action video where music substitutes for the word. The scenery has a determining role, along with an intelligent direction of light on the internal scenes and the use of costumes and make up, make Arx a small miracle of video art and of productive talent.
The Institutions of Bologna were next in line to request Centazzo make a video, this time a presentation of the city and its surrounding landscape. So was born I colori di un sogno (Colors of a dream), a new work which once more propelled the artist forward on his journey.
Critic Libero Farné wrote on the presentation of the video "I colori di un sogno is a radically multimedial aesthetic product, which in its author's conception, and successively, in the perception of the viewer, presupposes no interdependence between visual exposition and musical development which is closer here than in Tiare, where the images came from the music establishing their realization (following a process which is the exact antithesis of the process normally utilized on the soundtrack of a film). On the contrary, this Bolognese video , although starting out from a musical idea, is the fruit of a more articulate and complex procedure of continual comparison in which rethinking and stimuli, modifications and clarifications move from the manipulation of the camera to the realization of the sound, and vice versa.
The most interesting characteristic of this music, which is fundamentally conceived by computer, is that it mitigates the fastidious artificial results usually achieved by the slavish use of a sequencer, by combining with it the use of acoustic instruments playing melodic lines. The result is a sort of symphonic suite in parts of a minimalist flavor, lasting thirty-five minutes, in which melodic themes and rhythmic ideas are chasing each other, imposing themselves on one another, alternating unusual sonorities, complicating themselves paradoxically and then, unfolding in accents of infantile and enchanting serenity; they disappear into nothing only to re-emerge later like the waters of an underground river.
Getting back to the video in its entirety, these melodies and these rhythms find an instantaneous visual translation in the very slow sequences, in the color alterations, in the dissolving of recurring images which make up the natural environment, the urban structures and the atavistic human behavior of a thousand-year culture, without overlooking the pressing social problems of modern life which transcend the Bolognese dimension. The Friulian artist, in conclusion using all the latest sophisticated technology, with cunning self-confidence, has given a personal and more than convincing solution to a problem which has obsessed many musicians on a theoretical level in the past, Scriabin above all."
Visions (filmed in Mauritius and winner of Video Magazine's Videopremio), Le Pievi in Carnia and La Val Pesarina (winner of first prize at the Videofestival Nazionale Ecoclip) are short bar intense works which bring us to a work on a broader scale, dedicated to the city of Molfetta in the Puglia region, and entitled Madre Di Pietra (Mother of Stone). Here Centazzo embraces the New Age aesthetic, expanding the poor expressive vocabulary of this genre with his own syntax of cultural stratification, multi-directional experience and technical accomplishment. This audio visual poem almost brings to an end the artistic experience described by Vittorio Boarini in this way: "Centazzo is no example of how it is possible to produce a work of ail wherein its character is defined by the means employed. This seems to me the most revealing aspect from a theoretical point of view; no example of an artistic product derived specifically from the techniques used, and therefore not in danger of repeating or imitating existing examples, in respect to known techniques or the application of those techniques to date.
The precise use of electronic techniques is achieved in the discourse, the sequence of images, the type of narrative cadence, each owing to the use of certain innovative techniques. Specifically, how does Centazzo make use of these electronics in a narrative context, producing an aesthetically revealing exposition? I believe that it is fundamentally his experience as a musician, and not just because the music is the guiding element in his movement across images and vice versa, which is not true. In reality, the originality of techniques used by Centazzo in a linguistic sense, is that of establishing a difficult equilibrium between sound and image, which on this difficult watershed where image tends to revolve in sound and sound to revolve in images, he succeeds in maintaining an equilibrium which is in my opinion extremely interesting. Sound and color flow together in equal measure in the colors have a decisive function, underlined by the way in which they are used, that is a typically electronic technique which produces a fantastic in infinity of colors, determining in large measure the emotional content of the images. This equilibrium results from his special aesthetic instruments, joining images suspended between color and sound, which unfold with rhythm and logic in an intrinsically narrative form, without worrying about the external reality, but with respect to their own inner logic.
One thing is certain, the creative and inventive freedom of the artist; this equilibrium which Centazzo has established so very often collides with a recognizable reality, which functions as a limit.
Every time we come up against this pause, this collision with reality, always unexpected because it doesn't re-enter into the logic of the formal development, Centazzo is able to bring the development back to life, to take it to the peaks of fantasy, right on to the next hurdle, to the next encounter with reality.
We can count Centazzo among those few artists who use electronic instruments in a way that is not repetitive nor imitative of production techniques of iconic themes!" The complete the picture of this first productive phase of "functional" music, there remains only to mention the video work Deserto (desert) of 1982, a bizarre piece by the painter, designer and cartoonist Renato Calligaro.
The succession of images, (moving and still) is answered by an excitable soundtrack based on the use of electrified percussion and synthesizers, in which we detect the seeds of what could become the electronic style of the future.