Sands Zine

by: Etero Genio

Apr 2017

Translation by Roseanne Rogosin

1.“[…] I’d like to mention that another aspect of jazz, which isn’t the one we are daily presented with at festivals and seminars, does exist, also because I believe jazz can’t be just about one style or language, but about perpetuating the revolution which has brought us, for instance, from its first steps in New Orleans to swing, from there to be bop, and so on […]”.
This is what Mirko Sabatini was talking to me about in an interview at the beginning of 2000; do you agree, and do you think things have changed in the meantime?

GM: The situation doesn’t seem to have changed, and I don’t think it will. Perhaps it would be strange to expect any kind of legitimacy from places it can’t come from.

In jazz, but I believe this feeling could be no doubt extended to all the music we know, there is a conservative, almost inevitable tendency towards anthologizing and style definition. A tendency which arranges events along a timeline with the aim to establish unyielding points.

It is an inadequate category, and in many ways a negative one, in particular for music that contains endlessly fertile elements, and generative ones.

In jazz, in the music I know and have studied, what is important from an artistic point of view is the turbulence among the single ideas, their echoing in time in forever diverse and intriguing ways.

From the viewpoint of conventional production, these elements represent a nuisance: jazz festivals have been increasingly subdued onto an anthological and repetitive position.

I have found certain classical music programming much more courageous, granting more and more space to composers closer to our times, often placing their bright figures right next to the masters of the past.

Not only does another aspect of jazz exist, so does a sort of accessible profoundness connecting historical moments, stylistic relationships, and the most distant instrumental aesthetics as though they were constellations.

Here must our creative attention be practiced. Our target is here: in doing things well. I don’t believe this will be often acknowledged by the average first-past-the-post festival/bureaucratic organization, its purpose is elsewhere.

The fruition process is also constantly being displaced: you are more concerned about how often you appear than about the quality of what is being done.

A festival is often only a propeller for your name, not your art.

These categories seem a bit scanty to me.


2.For your first recording, which represented the outset of your activity with Amirani Records, as well, the choice you made of soloist instrumental music was quite peculiar… I mean peculiar for two reasons: firstly, because you usually attain a solo recording after one or two experiences as a group, and secondly, because it is more difficult to listen to, and therefore commercially less advisable as an opening for a recording activity. Could you explain this choice of yours?


GM: There was quite a lot of action before that record, and I worked a lot on texts, in the theater and on performing in general.

In particular, I have worked with the poet Chandra Livia Candiani for quite a long time, and the relationship between instrument solo and voice solo has really intrigued me a lot. I am strongly attracted by the connection between speech and melody, cadences and syllabic rhythm. Lacy used to work a lot on syllabic phrasing articulation, and on the rhythmic geometry of words.

When I heard Lacy for the first time, it was in a duo with the poet Adriano Spatola.

The clarity and the vividness of that concert were revealing for me.

I started my solo performances with a soprano sax in the mid 90ies, and I have documented them regularly: there is also a previous “One Way Ticket” solo album entitled “Rughe” (“Wrinkles”), self-produced, and released at the end of the 90ies.

I wanted to launch the Amirani Records adventure in this way, because it is an assertive album, to some extent a peremptory one. If it had been a quintet or a trio to have those characteristics, I would have published them instead.

It is a very complete, almost identity-making work.

An American reviewer I met at a concert in the USA told me that three years after it had been released the record still maintained its assurance.

“That’s a statement, man.” It’s the record of mine which has sold the most, I think.

From a musical point of view, it was so specifically connected to the times I was experiencing that it didn’t seem hazardous for me to start this new path in such a way.

Different trajectories gather in that work of mine, but they are all taken on freely, approached from an absolutely personal viewpoint.

It’s a record about fathers: the one on the cover is my real father, who passed away a few months before the record was released. Compositions by other fathers, like Monk, Lacy, Mingus, Roscoe Mitchell, but also by Anton Webern and some of my own are displayed. There is a poem by Scialoja and one by T.S. Eliot.

They are crossed. I have been across all of them, these fathers of mine.


3.In any case, it was an inspired choice, given that nowadays you are quite well-known both as a musician and as a record producer… But I’m thinking of the many that, even though they play quality music, aren’t able to bring themselves into the limelight; which factor affects the attainment of one’s goals the most, in your opinion: the quality of what you are doing, your enterprising spirit or just luck? Or are there any other factors I haven’t mentioned?


GM: I don’t know when a musician - an artist - can be defined as prominent. It’s such a precarious idea today. Music enjoyment has moved from shared venues to private ones, at times even to intimate ones like those created by using tiny earphones plugged into a phone where very personal – perhaps confused - playlists abound.

There is a new, almost functional, I’d say, applicatory aspect, which seems to coat music as far as its current enjoyment is concerned making it more difficult for me to understand to what extent a musician’s work is really appreciated. Musicians find themselves filling a number of roles which distance them instead of drawing them nearer to mastering their subject, cultivating their skills, comprehending and being faithful to their own path. Most of our energy ends up in dealing with logistics and so-called communication, in setting up hypothetical relationships, in trying to find backing or in promoting our projects.

It often happens to participate in very well presented projects which soon reveal their scarcity of intentions and superficial concepts.

Being able to balance purity of intentions, clear vision of the project and its promotion/success certainly requires the kind of dedication that will never be rewarded enough from every point of view.

One of the crucial factors to succeed, according to me, is the proper awareness of your own expressive intensity. Perhaps this is the most important component.

Thinking, asking yourself why, being relentlessly curious about your own sensitivity. If you keep that channel open, and it isn’t always easy, your work gains substance and generates further boosts.

The darkness where our work, our music, our quality itself often seem to dwell is insidious and fertile at the same time.

Fertile, because sudden creative outbursts very often spring from this  contradiction; insidious, because the inconsolably self-pity risk and the possibility of falling into a spin can become frustrating and fruitless.

I often tell myself that the strictest validation must come from ourselves. It is a mistake, a kind of energetic dissipation to wait for it to come, or believe it will, from somewhere else.

It is certainly important that our work be acknowledged, but it is even more important, maybe unavoidable, that it fit my sensitivity, that it keep to its path. That it be true, in other words.

I’d say the fact it is true already means being out of darkness.


4.I know full well that a musician’s activity isn’t confined to producing records, even though following the specialized press in this field it could seem so, but you are also a record producer, so I’m going to ask you my next question principally as such. Interviewing small and independent record producers active in other musical settings, it appears that today records are mainly sold at concerts, do things work this way in the field of contemporary jazz, as well?


GM: Yes, records are sold above all at concerts. There are also faithful listeners who buy a record of yours, because they have their personal listening path, their own pantheon, but in general live performances are the places where you sell your records.

Due to the type of music I make, I often find myself facing audiences with different backgrounds. People’s listening is so different in certain art galleries or in certain Anglican churches, in community centers, in theaters or festivals where I play the role of an experimental trimming…

Therefore, I happen to sell my records to someone who perhaps wouldn’t buy them online (or in a store, if any of them still exist…), who has never heard anything of the sort before - very young and older people.

CDs and vinyl… lots of music isn’t conveyed by these media anymore. Nevertheless, I’m a bit old-fashioned, and I think that a document can have physical value, too.

I see that vinyl is having a strong comeback. In times when everything tends to dematerialization, I think that the gesture of placing a record on the turntable still has its micro-cathartic significance.

The documentary value remains intact: and this is perhaps the real purpose of a label, small as it may be.

Economic reasoning and its parameters are inapplicable to independent production. Sales yield a laughable return in any case, considering the stamina involved.

The incentive to produce is to be found in areas that are the closest ones to your cultural intentions.


5.I see from these answers of yours that some sort of revolution is underway capable of modifying how music is made, how it is distributed, and how it is perceived (I personally have some doubts about the fact that music, as we know it, as a listening content, will continue to exist; I rather have the impression that everyone will make their own music as means to communicate with everyone else, and as background content); perhaps, it is a more subverting revolution than the one that took place when amplifying and recording systems were invented. Today records, which represented the core of pop music (i.e. a record was made, and then concerts were organized to promote it), and being the pop music sector the strongest economic one it ended up by influencing the whole system, have lost their central role and have been limited to business cards allowing you to perform… Can I ask you if the way people write about music and promote it, which at this point is proving outmoded, should be reconsidered due to these changes and to the possibilities offered by the Internet?



GM: Yes, I think this transformation has already taken place.

And from many perspectives.

It is true that music is being pushed into quite functional corners, and the term “background” you used marks a relatively important distinction for me.

This outlook could uncover a slightly complex aspect to deal with: how has the quality and duration of listening transformed in the last 100 years?

A radical experiential change was already witnessed at the advent of the radio, and it certainly changed our way of thinking about music and of producing it.

But it was “one” new path.

Today the fragmentation/three-dimensionality of our communicative lines and their endless interconnection have produced a less patient kind of listening which is cadenced by superficial and disposable usage, crushed upon a basic modality from a qualitative point of view. As if telecast, I’d say.

There is a historical/sociological aspect that involves artistic fruition as a whole, not only the musical one.

I believe we are going towards the coexistence of production, conception and fruition forms.

Certain music for certain destinations.

Some of it will have more entry doors for approximate, perhaps functional listening; some other will have hazier entrances opening onto greater depth.

Even when I am listening to Schumann, seated in front of a record player or with my headphones while I’m getting off the subway, I think I’ve already carried out a displacement from a conceptual point of view.

And I believe that diverse listening intensities and  personal settings have always existed.

What I think will be really decisive is the quality of the cultural substratum of the latest generations, what the bricks to build their “own” aesthetics on will be like.

Perhaps the matter isn’t  about the vanishing of the “listening object”, but about the much more dramatic one of the listening subject.

This will be really interesting: understanding what kind of displacement our categories have endured lately due to the time compression brought forth by the supremacy of techné, and how they will be transformed by our grandchildren.

I’d look away from the media: CDs, vinyl, records as objects, booklets, etc., and I’d say that in spite of the possible coexistence of all these media, direct communicative forms will continue to be searched.

The problem isn’t only related to producing, but also to performing.

But this is likely to open another chapter…



6.In any case, concerts are gaining a new and central role in the presentation of one’s musical work. If after industrialization they were discredited by on-air diffusion and storage-medium sales, today beyond being means of direct presentation they have also become a commercial occasion… putting a cliché to use, from producers to consumers!

Therefore, don’t you think it would be useful to make more of an effort to advertise concerts? Jazz magazines, differently from the ones addressed to pop music audiences, have always granted a relevant amount of space to concert performances, dedicating it however to reviews following the events, haven’t they? Due to the fact, as has been proven, that record reviews have no effect, don’t you think it could be worthwhile to move away from them and shift to a more efficient presentation of performing activities?


GM: We certainly need to be more prompt when presenting concerts or a series of them. However, we lack people in managing positions with this kind of role, which is often covered by the musicians themselves nowadays.

Concerts are a fundamental occasion, but the problem is more complex than that.

Whatever parameter you touch, it reverberates upon the whole system in a galaxy like this.

If there is no cultural setting in any sort of planning or if it is only superficial, as often happens, the risk of vagueness, of hodgepodge is really high.

Time seems to have disappeared: there is no time to rehearse your projects, lots of what’s left goes into logistic and promotion efforts, so you end up by concentrating all of your energy on the organization and on the concert which most of the time, only partially represents your project. In this way, you obtain a sequence of sparks, and hardly ever a long-lasting fire.

The most ambitious, perhaps the most representative projects for a musician’s path are the most difficult ones to take on tour: I hope to be able to set up a live performance of my Prossime Trascendenze (Coming Transcendence – a quintet and a sextet) at least once, but it will be really challenging to achieve.

In the last few years, I have felt that a transformation in the quality of the relationship between musicians and their audience has become more than necessary, especially for contemporary music. If well introduced, it elicits attention even from quite distant audiences as far as their experience or their social status is concerned.

I believe there is a responsibility to take on when putting your own feelings on stage: there is a more alert role a musician has to fulfill.

Being conscious of your position, this could be of great use.

Acting in a more focused manner from an intentional point of view, taking this sort of music to places where it is rarely heard, describing its inner dynamics, and measuring your own ability to communicate it.

Looking up beyond “I have a gig=I exist” logic, and being completer than this.

Quality: this is the distinction. It often improves when it is compared with areas apart.

Anyway it is undeniable that audiences have become quite lazy, making do and often without any questions to ask.

I’ve been around for a while now, and I can say I’ve meet much more active audiences, full of doubts, critique, and opinions.

This problem is less obvious in other countries, perhaps more used to more adventurous programming, however it is really undisguised in Italy.

Here it is: finding the right way to re-draw forth some kind of doubt, of suspension in such a self-indulgent audience is our most important task, a little beyond a good presentation.

Our times require a new set-up of our relationship to listening.

Not only as far as music is concerned. These are times where there are lots of transmitters, but very few recipients: there is an imbalance, things are out of proportion, in an almost bulimic deadlock. Here, too: “not doing so much, but doing it better” seems to be a very effective formula.


7. You’ve also played in other countries a lot, or at least quite often, therefore you are likely be the right person to answer this question: is an audience’s sensitivity really that different? If it is, couldn’t it depend on a cultural framework which has credited music with a really negligible role since childhood and our school days?


GM: There is no doubt about that, and it doesn’t concern only music. But don’t forget that in the last 20 years our country’s cultural impoverishment has been striking, a frightening shift towards a sort of funfair fruition, some kind of permanent circus wagon.

Even considering that this historical situation is affecting every country on earth with similar intensity, I find that, in general, there is a more lively interest for this cultural phenomenon in other countries, and that the fruitfulness of possible encounters is much stronger.

Good schooling and a more curious approach are distinctive features we have widely lost and should be retrieved.

It is as though the openings were more flexible, audiences were more heterogeneous, attentiveness more vivid and positive.

I believe it depends mostly on the kind of programming and on its inflection.

Any artistic activity in Austria or in Finland, for instance, is followed carefully by the public and by their authorities. It isn’t only a matter of support, which in any case is important, but of consideration above all.

Presenting a project is simply plausible. As is being a cultural entity, having contractual power, and finding some sort of cultural relationship within society. It is a reciprocal relationship, open on both sides.

It isn’t something extraordinary, which can happen only in advanced countries, it is normal. We are the relegated ones, who can’t see its necessity anymore.

A community gets easily used to going to an art gallery, to a ballet or to seeing an art installation in a park.

Very often age differences disappear, and we can find very young people and older ones, different social classes and origins ready to mingle at a concert.

Culture is home, not alien. Watched less, and more lived up to, I’d say. There is a much more continuous identification between a community and its culture.

It obviously happens also in Italy, but more sporadically. Let’s say that this relationship occurs in a more occasional way.

It would be worth rearranging the musical education frame completely - it’s an old story. It seems to be an extremely slow process, yet there are excellent teachers who are doing a great job in the midst of a thousand bureaucratic obstacles.

So it is a really difficult task.

The school system is one of our biggest problems, and investments in education are negligible.

Without hiding a bit of discouragement, I still think that education is an endless process we have never had such a chance to increase, creating a path of ours, as we have today.

Young people have to find new ways, perhaps independent ones. The mainstream educational channels aren’t adequate anymore.

Work with what you have, Cage used to say.


8-9. Even though what we have is very little!!!!

Lately it has occurred to me more and more frequently to run into musicians coming from a punk (in particular hardcore) musical background, and who are involved in experimenting, and into musicians devoted to both aspects at once, too. To the same extent, it has happened to me to come across young people with an academic background who, besides playing in an orchestra or in a classical ensemble have their own rock group. You yourself have experimented a few “outings” from the setting that is more congenial to you. Granted that I appreciate this kind of mingling, I would like to ask you two very different questions on the subject.

Could it foster the public’s cultural growth, in any case, getting people used to a world of sounds, which is much broader than we can imagine, and making them abandon an aficionado approach?

How much need is there for musicians to experiment different moods, and how much of it is an expedient to survive in times where you can hardly manage to survive making music in only one setting (partly because, as we know a musician’s activity is becoming less and less remunerative, partly because competition has broadened in an equal and opposite way)?


GM: Yes, this kind of mingling very often elicits more involved listening if for no other reason, for the change of perspective it provides.

During these “outings”, you can happen to witness the emergence of true metalanguages, of in-between territories from which our outlook upon our own world can be really stimulating. Revealing, in some way.

However, it’s not enough to put together two or more far-off elements to create communication, the result could possibly be anonymous, superficial. It works when you have a focus in mind, and a positive awareness of the contents involved.

Certain partnerships with other art forms are really interesting.

Playing with dancers or poets and painters or sculptors, for instance. It isn’t such a rare event for different audiences to interpret in a new way what they are, and to discover what they aren’t familiar with.

But also from a creative point of view: it is important to assess your stylistic code to different levels of tension, of verbal, gestural or visual intentions.

It is also a matter of aptitude: there are polyvalent musicians, perfectly at ease in whatever situation, and some are really brilliant.

It may be a more interpretive vocation, I can’t say.

I am less flexible than this, but there are very distant worlds that are forever fascinating for me.

It is easy to answer the second question: both are possible circumstances.

Sometimes – I’ve seen it take place more than once, it happens that a musician doesn’t know where he or she stands and jumps onto the first bandwagon which is going by, just eager to see how it will end up.

I understand these are hard times. And in addition, everyone has their own fixations, who am I to criticize them?

I am strongly attracted by certain forms. I am quite attracted by a painter’s sensitivity or a sculptor’s. I like whatever a painter or a sculptor can see “before” starting their work. Some time ago, I read several of Giacometti’s diaries which are really pivotal in this respect. Certain partnerships have this same possibility within. So, in a case like this, I’m sure that the venture will be fruitful. Down deep, it’s a matter of relationships. Artistic ones, if you want, but still relationships.

I want to continue to experiment, and this doesn’t always herald freedom!

Experimenting very often means working in a more limited setting where what you can bring forth is perhaps just a tone color, an idea.

And all you can do is focused right there. You have your style, your way of unraveling your sound, but suddenly rhythm, a line-up, a distant mood bring it all up for discussion again, casting new light upon it.

On other occasions, the range of possibilities opens completely, and you need to set a limit without losing the right intensity. It is interesting, and it is obviously a kind of mirror, as well. Often a merciless one.


10. As for me, I always try to distinguish between honesty and dishonesty, art and trade which isn’t always easy to the point that the two categories are often grouped into only one class…


GM: Yes! “Some people are… and some just pretend to be. Authenticity has a unique value and is the only criterion that can guarantee quality, in any personal relationship, as well.

To a certain extent, I would say that “genuine” is always better than “beautiful”, just to be unconditional.

There is a tendency today to admire a kind of track-and-field activity in almost every musical setting. I can see lots of “inventory” in a number of projects. As demo music, which doesn’t last and can be consumed quickly.

Honestly, I have often come across sincerity in tradespeople, in “four-season” people, too. I know dedicated and passionate professionals ready to commit themselves to the idea they are involved in devotedly and aiming at doing their best for music.

I’ve also seen some of my Gods doing business - what a strange feeling. But some of them were honest even in such a minor aspect of theirs.

If you “are all here and aren’t pretending to be someone else”, your participation is sounder – perhaps not everyone wants to be involved that much. For many people it is important to be part of such a world: they learn its codes, they transform them into a system, repeat them and perhaps close the door upon their own growth. I don’t know, those are different trajectories.

After all, you can grow in a disorderly way, too.


11. Technique and technicalities: I often find myself forced to stand up for one side or the other, against who claims that persuasive music is only a matter of instrumental technique, or against those who claim instead that the outcome of technique is only its pointless display. What are your views on the subject?


GM: Technique is a tool. It is very simple. There are factual and personal techniques. The acquisition of technique/means capable of exalting music stands in the relationship between these two forces.

Technicality is a nearsighted gaze. It is like fencing in your own future by relying on exercise, as though exercise itself were your goal. The triumph of partition.

I believe it is also a matter of aptitude.

Developing an excellent technique and matching it with awareness, the proper sensitivity, well… that’s really remarkable.

Technique for me is mainly exploring: I can hold on to a detail at length, not just to acquire it, but to realize how many things it encompasses.

At times, it so happens that I start thinking how many timbre colors I can develop from a single segment, or that I linger on an interval which still seems to hide something else. My reasoning is complex, for me exercise is an open door.

Technique, or perhaps it would be better to say “techniques”, is/are an essential component of art in any case. Some styles, some artistic turning points have arisen from assiduity, exploration and especially from calling technical practice into question. In certain cases, it is as though they contained the spark you need to develop something you had been thinking about for some time. “Don’t get bored from [by] your own practice. Keep your music fresh”, a master told me once.

Don’t lose your overall view, I could say.

There are also simply functional aspects related to the instrument you play.

Without a beautifully balanced relationship between technique and sensitivity you wouldn’t have Pollini, Coltrane or Cecil Taylor. You wouldn’t have Hendrix, Buckley or Bach. And you wouldn’t have the possibility to listen to Ligeti. It is meaningfulness, permeation as such.


12. Once music could be (broadly) separated into aesthetically well-recognizable categories: classical, jazz, pop, folk, electronic music … Today there is so much mingling among them, and then between them and all the various extrinsic cultures that classification has become more and more difficult… For a long time now, I’ve endorsed a preliminary subdivision based on the kind of audience, on the events and media circuits, on sales and promotion procedures… basically, broadly speaking again, it seems to me that today the definite partition is between major circuits and independent ones… I have found that a community of audiences, facilities, methodology is much easier to locate between your Amirani Records and Mirko Spino’s Wallace than between Amirani and Sony (and it isn’t a matter of merit and/or quality for me)… do you share this vision of mine about contemporaneity (a vision based on the matter of fact that in our present-day society noble rank isn’t worth as much as a bank account)?


GM: As far as circuits, methodology, and to some extent also facilities are concerned, the partition is certainly definite. An audience is something more volatile to define nowadays, less identifiable than in the past.

Surely, in an economically complex structure, as is managing a major, creative choices are developed in an executive mode and are organized following completely different paths if compared to what happens in indie labels like Amirani or Wallace.

Nevertheless, virtuous examples of production, which combine a smart, stimulating and rich catalogue with a painstaking and high-quality production, do exist.

Consider the Austrian label Kairos, for instance. If there is any kind of even minimal support and a clear artistic path, you can do well from the point of view of both research and circulation.

A little like with a classic publishing company, dealing with books. There are some that have grown starting from rock-bottom and have done excellent things, though with great effort.


Categories are less intelligible, it’s true. It may also have to do with the fact that artistic trends or schools don’t exist anymore, at least according to the traditional meaning of these terms. Artists are perhaps more isolated or follow their own more or less original paths in a secluded or just superficially shared way.

Here, too: I think there is a high dose of responsibility on the artists’ side, and that the lack of a serious debate about what should be done, the purpose of producing art nowadays, and about feeling part of an intellectual community (this is a position which may have been lost forever) has often produced short-range expressive paths.

Our present situation (but I believe we are talking about a systemic condition) is certainly confused, but our creative responses are also very indirect, often devoured by an extremely limited lifespan, immediately overcome by other things bound to last even less.

An independent label can do well, and because there really isn’t very much money, it can take its time to establish a less superficial relationship with the album it is producing. It can prevent its catalogue from being a collection of demos – an album is something a bit more accomplished.

A simpler access to a productive mode has often induced approximation – we have to do better than this.

However, our energy isn’t always adequate, and musicians in general are unwilling to examine things in depth. Possibly because of so many things to think about.

I often have the impression that people are more concerned about releasing an album than about its true content. There is an imbalance I find myself often in need of correcting when I am presented with a project in which I can spot some sort of quality: if I ask “Why is it necessary for this work to come out ?” , the musician is often incapable of answering. Perhaps he or she can’t recall their founding motivation, or they may not have had enough time to give it the right shape and  debate this idea of theirs.

Market subdivisions, at times established by the market itself, are real, but the loss of self-awareness on the artists’ side is also an important factor.

I have been and still am very critical towards the establishment, but if Decca offered me a contract, would I still keep my clarity of mind, my same troublesome aptitude? Would I still be as critical? Or is it enough to get on an efficient bandwagon as far as organization and production are concerned to abandon your own beliefs?

If it’s only a matter of commodities, my categorization is insufficient.

If I am a truly accomplished, troublesomely alert artist, I think I could remain the same kind of person even after signing up for Decca.

My friend the clarinetist Ove Volquartz, who may be a few years older than me, has often told me that ageing makes you perceive more clearly that you have nothing to prove. Everything is already there. And therefore, you can think more independently. In a more devoted way, if you like.

I’ve tried to do the same with my own label, as well; e.g. when I started my series dedicated to contemporary music, a territory often in the hands of important names in the record production. Maintaining a serious and convincing profile and giving no distinctive features up: this is my goal.

Keeping to some sort of editorial uprightness even in financially difficult situations, setting up a profile which will always be well defined.

Amirani is a small entity, and I don’t know how long it will last. It’s quite an important commitment, and having to manage it myself makes it really absorbing at times. Nevertheless, what has been achieved up to now is the most I could accomplish, and all in all I consider it a well-done job. For sure, some numbers would have deserved even more attention and promotion, this however implies a team job, a shared idea more than individual action, perhaps.

Though, an ever so relevant sociological and historical inquiry could be carried out about the uniting function of cultural entities in our country, their permanent fragmentation, and network shortcomings; and I don’t know if the entities involved would be so interested in examining all of this in depth. “Examining things in depth” doesn’t seem to be such a popular option…


13/14/15 As far as Amirani is concerned, I’ve noticed that you have granted openings (moderately and without exaggerating) within your catalogue on one hand to musicians with a non-exclusively jazz background, and on the other to non-Italian musicians… I wanted to ask you if there has been an increase in distribution, as a consequence.

I also wanted to ask you which countries are the ones where your publications are more in demand.

And finally, if you have ever exchanged any kind of material with other labels.


GM: The catalogue has always been open to numerous inflections and sources right from the beginning. Furthermore, take into account the fact that all sorts of colors actually turn up in improvised music, in post jazz, if you like.

The scene in the UK or in Germany is a composite one and can’t be easily attributed to one route or another.

My duo with Alison Blunt or the trio with Elisabeth Harnik and Clementine Gasser, for instance… None of these musicians stem from jazz, but their contribution is incredibly stimulating: new music, perhaps more European with a “diverse” formal meaning.

Our audience has certainly broadened, and Amirani Records has often found its home in territories quite far from jazz. Then, after the launch of the Contemporary collection things have become even more mingled: having the Arditti quartet play a contemporary Italian composer, and a percussionist like Milo Tamez on the same record is an example of what I’m talking about; or having Lenoci interpreting Bussotti and Feldman…

Yes, there has been more circulation and higher consideration, as well.

The countries abroad where I sell the most are Germany, Belgium, the UK, Finland, France, the USA and Japan. Much less is sold in Italy. I also have a few particular collectors here and there all around the world.

I have always exchanged material with other labels, and I’ve also coproduced a lot. These partnerships can very often bring the music I make and/or produce to audiences I wouldn’t have imagined could be interested.


16. It occurs more and more often to listen to guitarists performing experimental music, whereas guitars have been traditionally played in folk or popular music, and so I wonder if popular music is becoming more and more experimental, or is experimentation becoming a popular matter?


GM: I see that guitars are often used as a threshold to access the world of sounds in “experimentation” (too many things are called this way, and they very often mask the most boring mainstream front).

What I mean is that you rarely listen to the real sound of the guitar: it is mostly used to generate vibrations which are then processed by a load of filters, pedals, generative effects, etc.

Very often the required skill isn’t a guitarist’s, but knowing how to use a variety of devices. Perhaps one could be talking about another instrument…

Musicians who have dedicated themselves exclusively to the acoustic or to the electric guitar: well, there aren’t that many in this field: really just a few in the Bailey extension, for instance.

A lot of things have happened and are happening in a more academically contemporary setting, even though some doors are opening slightly at last. I’m thinking of Scodanibbio, just to mention someone who has written really beautiful pieces for guitar and very modern ones.

Guitar language also in music coming from jazz has welcomed a number of mutations (think of Scofield or Frisell’s timbre mark). The stylistic precipitation of the guitar can be more easily traced in such territories, in my opinion.

I believe that the more coloristic approach, so common among young people, is partly due to readiness of access and instant familiarity with its timbre manipulation thanks to electronic effects.

For many musicians, the instrument the sound sequence comes out of is less important than you think it is.


17. Am I mistaken or not in stating that composing is becoming more and more relevant for you (compared to improvisation)?


GM: I don’t keep these two things separate, I always think in a compositive way, even when I am improvising. The time to build or indicate a possible and practicable form is what changes.

Many of us know what Lacy said to Frederic Rzewski, when the latter asked him to answer a question about the difference between composition and improvisation (in 15 seconds!): “In 15 seconds, the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to think about what to say in 15 seconds, while in improvisation you have only 15 seconds”, but very few remember that Steve’s sentence lasted exactly 15 seconds.

I’ve always thought this answer was a composition itself.

Down deep, and not that deep, it’s a matter of form.

The most successful improvisation is often the one where energy, reciprocal listening, tension dislocation, overlapping lines and their transparency are balanced, offering at least deducible architecture, ultimately an appreciable one.

Basically, direct evidence about something which can show us what’s happening. A creation.

Improvisation isn’t a simple matter. It is complex: a high level of attention, listening, overall vision, and at the same time authentic availability to get lost and be part of this music.

Spontaneity is extremely important, but awareness of this same spontaneity, as well, is even more so.

I have come across lots of absolutely useless improvisations in their entropic dispersion of energy: it isn’t enough to add material, create layers, wait for the fire to start burning, activate a series of events based on action-reaction, question-answer, tension-release, and, in the end, congratulate one another if there were a few moments when the climax attained had any kind of quality.


I have often repeated that I am for improvisations where “things happen”, elements are relocated in space, offering outlook perspectives and possible paths.

I try hard to have a “sense of position”, to “see” the music I am improvising on and be aware of “its” beat.

In the last few years, in the last ten - I’d say, I have clearly perceived that it is so important to get away from encyclopedic and demonstrative logic.

Improvisation has such an alchemic disposition that it is really a shame to waste this treasure in a kind of routine just to display your whole catalogue of capabilities.

I may be favoring a more inclusive idea, exercising my dynamic attention on detail.

Naturally, it depends a lot on the disposition, on the peculiarity of the musicians involved: my first glimpse is almost always influenced by timbre and tone color.

Mirrored dialogues, textures, areas where certain elements turn up again casting new light, dramatic spaces and weights: a little like in the theater, I’d say. All of these things (and many more) focused on comprehending where the music you have your hands on is going, on giving yourself confidently up to it and delivering  its sublimation.

Delivering is a word I often use to describe my music: at the end of any improvisation, something must turn up, a form which remains visible and can be observed for a while.

Now: isn’t this possibly a kind of composition, too?

An instant one , if you like, but still a composition.

In the past, but I’m going back to it again, I worked with texts, words, drama, dance, images, and on performance.

Indeed, all of these things have probably led me to thinking/conceiving in constructive and de-constructive formal terms.

Lately, I’ve gone back to a project I started many many years ago: the use of graphic scores meant as structures to handle as improvising strategies for small and larger ensembles.

I can “see” the form beforehand in this case, a mapping which may be crossed quite freely, but at times with very strict indications, as well.

I use symbols coming from my personal lexicon, but also from any other codified one.

More than a background painting, a multifaceted landscape where linearity and abstraction are really close. At the moment, my work Prossime Trascendenze (Coming Transcendence) is the most accomplished one in this direction.

Obviously, a greater amount of time is dedicated to conception, implementation and reasoning. But I don’t believe there is really that much difference from a conceptual point of view.


18. When you think of a composition, a non-instant one, for an ensemble, i.e. of a structure of yours you will call other musicians to fulfill, which aspects do you linger over the most, which nodes are more difficult to unravel, which require more time and effort, before reaching a satisfactory dimension (form, color, the emotional side…)?


GM: I’d say that there are three parts which require the most attention in your preparation:

  • The first one regards inspiration, if there is any: being faithful to the idea and to its source, and how elastic, transformable I’m willing to make them.
  • Then the hierarchical aspect of the sounds: this has lots to do with the musicians involved, with their timbre inflexion and their aptitude. At this point you decide about color perhaps. You decide about interaction, you outline the constellation aspect I was talking about before.
  • Finally, your way to depict, to make the structure become clear and accessible for the musicians. This is a really important and often crucial aspect. And reciprocal: you can comprehend the caliber of the implemented stamina very well, but you have to use different examples and metaphors at times. When it is managed carefully, this kind of communication can really produce great results, and give access to further considerations. A structure that should be solid, but also flexible, linear but vivified at more than one level, sounding natural but with an open door onto the unknown. I often see these components appear and become tangible on the canvas in painting. Intensity of a mark or lighting: certain paintings, certain sculptures are like this.


19. Therefore, the instrumentalists involved have a certain interpretative freedom… Has it ever occurred to you to have to modify part of your original idea, or to have to put a whole project aside, because you can’t find anyone capable of fulfilling an idea of yours?


GM: It depends on the compositions/strategies… In most cases, you have the freedom to use a certain number of parameters, and you always have the possibility to convey your perspective onto the whole set. All of the musicians have the complete score in front of them, all of them can understand its dynamics, its overall and its  specific development at the same time.

It sometimes happens that you have to modify an idea for various reasons, but in general I manage to direct potentiality.

When you get to listen to the result of a form that largely satisfies your first idea…, well, that’s obviously really rewarding.

But it has also occurred to me more than once to be dissatisfied.

Yes, it has also happened to me not to be able to realize an idea, because the musicians didn’t have the characteristics I imagined or thought they did. However, logistic and economic difficulties are the true reason why most projects can’t be carried out.

Your thoughts can’t go “above and beyond”, because your goal is too ambitious on a conceptual basis, but on an economic one.


19bis. What is the spark that induces a new composition, is it something real and tangible, or something imaginary and totally abstract?


GM: It is a matter of external and internal inspiration which comes forth, in certain cases decants and then finds the way to develop a musical declension of its own.

As can happen with reading: certain things you have read, left somewhere in your own mental and emotional archive some time before, suddenly come to light and become clear: years later sometimes.

Inspiration for me has always to do with something tangible.

It isn’t always immediately comprehensible. I sometimes comprehend the source, the origin of such a composition after a long time, as though the disclosure were independent from the music it has produced. In other cases, the intensity of the initial idea is absolutely clear, because the appeal it has is extremely strong.

Certain poems, certain texts or paintings are fundamental for me.

I think of music as an area where sounds are almost theatrical themes: when I compose, it is as though I positioned these forms in such an area.

Not long ago, at a workshop, I was asked to describe, as accurately as possible, the relationship between the piece I had composed and the painting I claimed had inspired it.

I answered and explained in great detail the functions I could read in that painting: the formal prominence given by a feminine figure’s stasis, as if it were suspended, within the fascination of a window wide open onto orderly and oblique fields along the side of a hill. Therefore, a representational scene, which shatters all around in a series of reflections on the windowpanes. A kind of threshold, of suspension, in fact. Some sort of half-season color sobriety in this painting. Therefore, a strong central subject, standing still and almost defeated by the peace resulting from little attractive explosions, side views modified by different lighting, mirrored dialogues among various things: quietness, just slightly ruffled by a gentle tension.

Perhaps an intimate painting, in which the lines are clear, while hiding their troubled aspect: these are the elements the piece was built on.

Sometimes, it so happens that a place’s words or noises can play an active role in conceiving a score.

There is a poem by Francis Bacon I always quote as an example for this: I read it in the epigraph of one of Borges’ short stories. I found it a little puzzling in the Italian translation, and therefore I noticed I was rereading it one verse after another to understand it, starting over every time, and every time making out a bit more of it. In this way, certain parts had a tendency to overlap, and some of the repeated ones seemed predictable, established.

In the end, it all resulted in an illuminating and revealing dictum.

The words themselves, in this case, and their syllabic surges were the structure of that piece of mine. Some time ago, I was having the English vocalist Viv Corringham review them (it is a composition I wrote over ten years ago), and while I was telling her that they would have been much easier to put to music in English, she pointed out that the marvelous complexity of Italian was the reason itself of the structure of the piece.

Other forms just turn up, while you are studying: certain intervals recall certain constructions, certain sounds make me “see” their displacement, and composing becomes creating relations among them.

As the harmonies within certain simple or complex noises, children’s voices, certain natural or artificial settings do. You are composing when you are listening carefully, in other words.

Nevertheless, not every inspiration materializes. Many things just linger and perhaps decant. Or maybe they are just waiting to transform into something else.


20. … And what can you tell me about your group collaborations? How do they begin? How long does it take for them to reach an adequate level?


GM: They begin in the most diverse ways, many times because of sudden connections and with various inflexions.

Interesting hybrids often originate from some of them, but with variable lifespan ranges. Others are steady from the beginning, and a number of them remain active, because every time they represent a discovery.

Stable lineups/collaborations I have taken part in have different characteristics, but all of them have made it possible to investigate diverse functions and relationships.

At an international level, time to rehearse and break in an ensemble, a duo, a quartet is often extremely short, in some cases only occasional. Therefore, you often arrive in a studio or at a live performance simply equipped with your own sensitivity and openness.

When there is a satisfactory level of awareness, you don’t need that much time to evaluate the quality of the job you are accomplishing in an ensemble, and if it will be, or not, a promising and enduring path.

And after all, certain musicians are a real guarantee, every one of them for their own distinctive traits, naturally. The bond with a few of them has become really strong: two words or two notes and we can get to the treasure room immediately. Lineups are often evolutions or spin-offs of primitive ideas, crossings or evolutions of an aspect, of a musical color for which you feel you should ask that specific musician to share your idea.

As is always the case, it is on a tour that you can evaluate your partners, see the energy grow and realize that you are dealing with new incentives.

During certain concerts, you can clearly perceive that materialness is acquiring its features, its identity. Its maturity, perhaps.


21. As far as I know, you are involved in a third activity, in addition to being a musician and a record producer, a more manual one, but still related to music, aren’t you?


GM: Yes, for about thirty years now, I’ve had a studio where I work on/repair/restore wind instruments, mainly saxophones, clarinets and flutes. I mostly work on old instruments, and by dedicating time and study to them, I’ve achieved relevant experience. I specialized in France in the mid 90ies, but since then I’ve continued on my own. It’s a good job, partly a meditative one, which gives you the opportunity to discover lots of things about sound formation, allowing you to fine-tune your ear and deepen our knowledge of timbre in an almost physical way.

There is a manual part which just about permits to touch sounds, and each instrument has its own character and a different personality.

It is a job that has allowed me also to analyze different approaches and styles, besides giving me the opportunity to meet so many musicians.


22. It is thanks to this activity, as he himself wrote me in an interview, that you met Xabier Iriondo with whom a friendship has blossomed, and a relevant cross-cutting collaboration for both of you, isn’t it?


GM: Yes, we met in my studio for the first time. He is a very dear friend I’ve shared a lot with, and I hope to be able to do so again and for long.

It has led us to the creation of a sort of metalanguage, which has brought forth a number of concerts, and the completion of several original projects.

The recording job and the one on electronics Xabier handled for the production of my video ”Kursk_Truth in the End” was perfect and has generated the communication and reciprocal comprehension which have accompanied us ever since.

Our work “Your Very Eyes” has been really very successful, it has been performed a number of times in very different settings and highly appreciated by very heterogeneous audiences.

Just as the work on the images of Serghej Paradjanov’s film “Sayat Nova” carried out with Cristiano Calcagnile at the percussions has been very important for our personal paths.

Paths which remain different, and perhaps in such a difference find their originality, their freshness.

More than an answer, more than an indication can be found in a profound and sincere relationship. You are offered a different perspective which helps to see your own aptitudes from another angle. It is more than a revelation. It means fine-tuning your own aesthetics thanks to someone else’s gaze.

There is such great value in this.


23. Who would you like or would have liked to play with (I’m also thinking of musicians who aren’t with us anymore)?


GM: The first name which occurs to me is Stefano Scodanibbio. When he died, I realized I would have really loved to play in a duo with him.

I’d like to play with the Japanese pianist and composer Yuji Takahashi, because every time I listen to him I discover an aspect I hadn’t imagined - such impressive innovation and source coexistence.

I would have liked to play with Julius Hemphill and Gil Evans.

There are lots: as time goes by, it seems to me that it is more interesting to turn to artists stylistically far from me. I really like the viola player Ig Henneman, I’m happy that I’ll be meeting her, and I’ll be able to listen to her play very soon.


24. And is there anyone you would never play with, not even if threatened with physical pain (so to speak)?


GM: Yes.


25. Is it because you can’t stand them or because you are afraid of making a bad impression?


GM: There are many musicians I wouldn’t play with.

However, to answer your question: neither of the two.

I feel I don’t have to, it’s not necessary.

I’d like not to do unnecessary things.


26. If you had to suggest any of your records to a novice, which one would you choose?


GM: When people ask me this question, I usually answer that solo recordings are very identifying as far as the “voice” which brings them to life is concerned, therefore the titles could be One Way Ticket (Amirani Records) and Further Considerations (Tarzan Records).

In both of these, there are poetic directions and a special relationship with silence.

A formula I’ve often enjoyed is the duo one: I have been part of really a lot of them. Due to such a naked formula, it is easier and more intriguing to see thoughts and energy, which live in them, unwind there.

The most significant ones have certainly been Lasting Ephemerals with the violinist Alison Blunt, Reciprocal Uncles with Gianni Lenoci at the piano, Turbulent Flow with the cellist Daniel Levin and Live at Bauchhund with Harry Sjostrom at the soprano sax. All of these collaborations have deeply involved me, these works are conceptually and stylistically “complete”, and they cross almost the whole affinity sphere I have.

Also they have often represented the generative core of more extended ensembles, like trios or quartets, up to the more recent Prossime Trascendenze (quintet and sextet) and Aural Vertigo with Sestetto Internazionale. While these latter ones are certainly more representative of my relationship with more levels of complexity, and perhaps the most mature musically, my trio works with The Shoreditch Trio (with Hannah Marshall at the cello and Nicola Guazzaloca at the piano), and with the Wild Chamber Trio (with Elisabeth Harnik at the piano and Clementine Gasser at the cello) have a characteristic and cross-cutting freshness.

My most recent work with the Japanese pianist Yoko Miura, Departure, released by my very dear friend Stefano Giust’s label Setola di Maiale, has already aroused great attention at the few live concerts performed up to now. The compositions, minimal, almost childish for their linearity, are Yoko’s. And yet it is such a delicate world of hers that I could never approach it but respectfully.

Well, I realize that I am recommending my whole discography to this novice!!


27. If you had to suggest someone else’s recordings to an admirer of yours, what would your choice fall on?


GM: There are some things I almost always recommend listening to, the ones I often go back to. They mainly have to do with the various maps I have drawn up in my mind, they have to do with the extremely crowded aesthetic pantheon I associate with.

I listen to things that are very far from one another, when it comes to periods of time and styles: classical, contemporary, or jazz music and their offshoots…

I’ll list a few things here that I’d recommend to everybody:

For instance, the pieces “Se la mia morte brami” and “ Sparge La Morte” by Gesualdo da Venosa from his five-voice Madrigals. It’s stuff from the late 16th century, dazzling for its beauty, formal audacity, and profoundness.

Strangely enough, I have found a great experimental relation to “Four Compositions” by Roscoe Mitchell released by Lovely Music years ago.

Salvatore Sciarrino in “Luci Mie Traditrici” released by Kairos has attained a really high peak. As has Steve Reich in The Cave, where his concepts totally correspond to his music. Not many people know about Steve Lacy’s work on texts by Judith Malina and Julian Beck entitled “Packet” and released by New Albion. Lacy’s sound there for me is the most beautiful ever.

Interstellar Space” by Coltrane and Rashed Ali, and the “Kammerkonzert” by Ligeti.