Ivan Fedele: composer's notes

One of the most important names among the established guests participating in the 8-day long festival program of the MBZ is Ivan Fedele, the most famous contemporary Italian composer and current Art director of the Music department of the Venetian Biennale. Based on the commission of the MBZ, Cantus Ensemble and the Icarus Ensemble – who collaborate for almost 20 years and mutually complement each other – Fedele composed a new piece "X-Tension II". It will have its world premiere in Lauba on April 8th, in the performance of the ensembles Cantus and Icarus.

Arcipelago Möbius (2004)

for clarinet sib, violin, cello and double bass

Arcipelago Möbius is a composition for a special setting: the string trio accompanying clarinet contains a violin, a cello and a double bass. The general structure can be divided into nine formal islands in which different timbral combinations alternate according to criteria of continuity or discontinuity. These different combinations are achieved not only by using different combinations of instruments (all instruments, three of them, pairs and solo parts) but also by using different registers. The reference to Möbius, the German mathematician, alludes to some of his geometrical figures, such as the famous “ring”. They gave me an idea, a metaphor, an image. This is why the entire work leans towards a cyclical form, in a wider sense of that word. It is a somewhat contradictory cyclicity, creating a texture of intermingling figures or timbres, which, from a perceptual point of view, tend to escape the notion of a beginning and an end, forming instead an ideal continuum, grasped in precise moments but never interrupted. Often the clarinet and the string trio are presented as two contrasting entities, creating a short circuit when they meet, a short circuit that takes on a strong function as a formal signal, as a temporal pivot, which, when repeated, marks the main sections of the overall form.


Immagini da Escher (2005)

for ensemble

After Ali di Cantor for a large ensemble and Arcipelago Möbius for clarinet, violin, cello and double bass, Immagini da Escher is the third work I have composed in recent years that is inspired by mathematical, geometrical and figurative principles. Escher made frequent use of Moebius’ geometrical representations (in particular his famous “ring”) to present visual multidimensional paradoxes in which the concepts of a beginning and an end seem to have no spatial meaning but seem relegated to the dimension of time. Escher, a certain precursor of fractal images, presents metageometrical images in which we often find the “big” reflected in the “small”, just as the detail is often the reflection of the whole. From these speculations, my composition, created as a comment on Arcipelago Möbius, draws an abundance of imaginative suggestions that transfer the geometrical and figurative meaning to the esthetic and poetic dimension of sound, from the “genetic” composition and the larger structural organization. The form is divided into sections that are imbedded into each other without a perceivable respite in between. Three duets may be discerned: the two wind instruments (flute and clarinet), the two strings (violin and cello) and the two resonating instruments (piano and vibraphone). The dialectic of the work is created by their fusion and disintegration, a form in continuous transformation actually conceived without a beginning or an end, but rather simply as a series of instances of a continuous flow that the composer observes here and there.


Mudrā (2013)

for thirteen instruments

Mudrā is a term in Sanskrit that has many similar meanings: “seal”, “sign”, “symbol” and “symbolic gesture”. In the course of its history, the word has evolved from a function of everyday gestural language to an experiment in symbolic communication in the field of art, to be subsequently transformed from a figurative icon into a ritual element. Mudrā is a title well suited to a series of poetic and aesthetic instances that have characterized much of my more recent work, in which I have practically abandoned the previous “narrative” dimension in which “figures” live as characters in an abstract tale. I now prefer to concentrate on “unveiling” the intimate nature of the sonic agglomerates that are presented to the listener as “sculptures”. These “sonic sculptures” exist in their globality independently of the temporal dimension through which they, nevertheless, unveil their nature. A nature whose secrets are, so to speak, “revealed” through different perspectives or through illuminations that are more or less partial, intense or colored, displaying their intrinsic qualities: the profile of the mass, the smoothness or roughness of the surfaces, the transparency or denseness of the matter as well as the play of changing shadows depending on the inclination of the ribbon of light that covers them or on the perspective. The compositional processes, therefore, favor formal practices closer to anamorphosis than to metamorphosis, and relative techniques that I began to experiment with starting in 2005 in Immagini da EscherMudrā has three parts, that is to say three “sculptures”. Although different in “nature”, they all display a “ritual” character that distinguishes not only their intrinsic nature but also their aural perception. Mudrā was written for the Lemanic Modern Ensemble and my friend William Blank to whom it is dedicated.


X-tension II* (2018)

for ensemble

The compositional strategy is based on various principles of timbre morphing by means of a heterophony that extends throughout the whole piece. The different duos act in such a way as to allow the listener to identify five regions of a complex map, regions that counterpoint one another not only in time, but also in space, so that the duos are identified as variously situated sources of sound. The compositional process, thus, exploits a large number of “geometric” representations and mathematical proportions, both in a diachronic (duration in time) and synchronic sense (the interval relations that make up the timbre). The first part is based on an acoustic principle of attack-resonance that is expanded in a fractal manner (the “small” is reflected in the “big” and vice versa) in a lively game of cross-references, echoes and resonances. The second movement instead inhabits the low regions of the instruments and develops along iterative principles that place in loops “telluric” figures that develop inside the leading-line of the piano-percussion duo. In the third part, a rhythmic ostinato in the high registers of the instruments draws a cutting and at the same time playful profile, a tinkling sound in stark contrast to the gloomy character of the previous movement. Once again, the five duos contribute in different ways to the development of the musical discourse, exchanging roles of rhythmic pedal and punctuation. Finally, the last movement is based on the principle of resonance and its distortion. Here the leader is the piano (separate from the percussion) which explores a wide range of frequencies through pointillistic figures that leave wakes of sound taken up by the other instruments in three different variants: simple resonance, fragmentation of the sound through the violent pizzicatos of the strings, and distortion of the sound itself.


Ivan Fedele

Photo: Ugo dalla Porta