Metaleptic manifesto of consubstantial music

1 - Humans are the source of my inspiration, energy and exchanges

1.1 – Humans as a language-speaking entity [A]

1.2 – Humans as a body-centered entity [B]

1.3 – Humans as a complex psychic entity [C]

1.4 – Humans as an entity that belong to complex social regimes [D]

2 - Using amplification

2.1 - Expansion of the dynamic field and idiosphere [B]

2.1.1 - Possibility for a counterpoint between the spaces of the body: private space, social space, public space [D] - Intimacy of the sound source that permits an expanded expressive possibility [B]

2.1.2 – Playing with « intimacy », whisperings, liminal gestures [B]

2.2 - Reattachment to the body-centered model n.5 [destructivity] and n.6 [sensuality] [B]

3 – Using the voice without vibrato

3.1 – “Natural” singing [B]

3.1.1 – Attempt at building a filiation with the vocal legacies of jazz, baroque music and certain types of pop music [C][D]

3.1.2 – Idiosyncrasy with a specific directory of the history of written music [D]

4 – Using prosody as a formal model

4.1 – Natural behavior of language [A][C]

4.1.1 – Body-centered model n.3 [corruptibility][B]

5 – Using explicit formal functions

5.1 – Search for new formal functions and their interpretation [A]

5.1.1 - Possibility of changing the perceived time [D]

5.2. - Reattachment to the body-centered n.4 [constructivity] and n.5 [destructivity) [C]

5.2 – Using the notion of energy from internal information [D]

6 – Using calligraphy and writing on bodies: identigraphy

6.1 – Fighting against the reduction of idiospheres [A] [B] [D]

6.1.1 – Increasing the level of concentration [B] - Reattachment to the body-centered model n.7 [trance] [B]

6.2 - Unity of trace through unity of support [B] [D]

6.3 – Increasing the possibility for fertile accidents [D]

6.4 – Transforming the writing phase into a performance [D]

7 – Using a computer to calculate complex structures

7.1 – Focusing on the result rather than the procedure [A]

7.1.1 – Reinserting lived systems [C]

8 – Using captors to increase expressiveness

8.1 – Expanding the idiospheres [B] [D]

8.2 - Accessing interactivity [D]

9 – Using metalepsis to write my Opus

9.1 – Writing cycles of cycles [A]

9.1.1 - Reattachment to the body-centered model n.1 [attractiveness] and n.2 [cyclicality] [B]

9.2 – Defining the Opus and causality of works [D]

10 – Poly-display of music

10.1 – Music for the stage [D]

10.1.1 – Music for concerts [D]

10.1.2 – Music for dance [D]

10.1.3 – Music for theater [D]

10.2 – Music for installations [D]

10.3 – Music for videos [D]

10.4 – Music for movies [D]


Consubstantial music

Dear Colin, my friend, I need to take a few steps back, to describe my practice to you, and describe myself through it.
My understanding of music is more complex than before. To detail this complexity, I need to display my intentions and my investigations. My friend, this essay is my second manifesto. And since there is no designated formula for manifestos, I chose to write it as an open letter, addressed and dedicated to you. Because, just like me, you are interested in the notion of trace. This text is a trace.

A manifesto through which I declare myself an artist and not just a composer, in other words a musician, which is no longer a sufficient label for me, and has not been for a long time. I express myself through concerts, performances and installations, but also through text, videos, choreographies, stage plays and photography. Thanks to you, to our paths that crossed, our conversations, my aesthetic [the philosophy that underlines all my work] has changed.

My poetics is articulated around four fundamental needs: expressing myself through complex structures, the search for hedonism through my work, the use of machines and the redefining of the notion of the body in art.

The “inner need” to express myself through complex musical structures dates back to 1987. I was 16. I decided to attend institutions [music conservatories] inspired by the legacy left by serial and post-serial aesthetics, which in turn came from the “Second Viennese School” of the early 20th century. I need to tell you, Colin, that were was not much choice. In Milan, Italy, in the 80s, you had to make “pop” [so-called lightweight music], jazz, or “contemporary” music. In those times, the latter was practice in a very rigid manner, under the weight of the second Viennese school’s legacy, through experimentation done by Nono, Donatoni, Maderna, Berio, etc [in Italy] but also [internationally] Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis, Ligeti, etc. For these aesthetics, the complexity of abstract structures is one of the bases of their art. The management of such complex structures has lessened, or even removed, the role of intuition, the notion of choice influenced by taste, which were excluded from their role as fundamental pillars of the aesthetics. Despite my attachment to the notion of complexity [which contains and gathers several different elements by becoming a system], these aesthetics could not articulate formalization of thought with the hedonism of the listening experience: the pleasure of listening had been the main reason pushing me to compose music. This is also what led me to start my aesthetical research, which is now completed this year, thirty-five years later, with this manifesto.

I’ve come a long way, my friend. I was 16 when this research started. And before that? Since I was 6 years old, I was writing on sheets of paper. When I was 14, I started attending Fedele’s composition class, and I had to learn how to write my music properly [calligraphy-wise]: otherwise it would not get played. To teach me how to write my music properly, my Master made me rewrite my first composition four times, before showing it to the musicians. All this not because of the musical content, but because of the handwriting. Until now, I had always composed by ear in a para-tonal manner: I would transcribe what I could play on piano. Because of my dissatisfaction, and to develop my writing, I started non-tonal research that went beyond my piano practice. I felt the strong need to define new writing criteria that can go beyond the simple act of “writing by ear” and that, while perfectly intuitive at first, are the fundamental bases of my music.

From 1987 to the present day, I’ve studied several aspects of musical aesthetic, mainly through a personal methodology that, through the years, has turned into a musical epistemology. To give a practical existence to each step of the theory’s development, I’ve invented and defined proliferation and musical material techniques that are always correlated to a series of artistic hypotheses. The need to develop this research has been dictated by the fact that I could imagine more than I could describe: at the same time, I no longer wanted to write music without having a theoretical basis of references that, to me at least, would indicate a choice, a possibility of writing. Whenever my theoretical research would stop for a few months, the written transcription of my compositions would stop. I had not written my music to prove that my theoretical ideas had a meaning: I only wrote music when I could explain- if only from a technical point of view- the deep meaning of my music to myself. Then I understood that writing music is my way of discovering the world and to discover myself as a part of the same world.

In 1987, I defined a first formulation of my aesthetical research, which I named Musical Gravitation. This one includes two concepts. The first one is a selection of height classifications, grouped into families, each of them having their own specific characteristics. The second one is a study of the articulations of these classifications in time: not in a static manner [the way serial and post-serial aesthetics studied them], but rather in a dynamic manner.

In 1988, I started studying musical phenomenology and the criteria of classification through causality. In 1990, I started studying computer science, which led me to formalize Musical Virtuality in 1993. This is how I aim to “modernize” the legacy of the anti-intuitive and very restrictive managing of complex structures created by the serial and post-serial aesthetics. This “modernization” is made possible thanks to the theory I’m developing and the invention of many writing techniques, heightened by computer applications [algorithms] created by myself. This way, the integration of machines [computers] into musical production became one of the pillars of my aesthetic.

My research had not yet found a balance between the use of complex structures and the hedonism of the listening experience that I’m striving for. Between 1994 and 2002, I integrated deeper investigations on information theory, artificial intelligence, semiotics, semantics, morphology and art epistemology into my research. My collaborations with cognitivists Steve McAdams and Daniel Pressnitzer, computer scientists Gérard Assayag and Mikael Laurson, as well as many IRCAM teams, gave me a wider perspective of these domains. During these times, studying composition with Ferneyhough, Huber and Dufour, and confrontations I could have with Berio, Boulez, Stockhausen and Harvey helped me to better articulate my musical thinking. For a better managing of complex structures, I developed computer programs at the IRCAM, here in Paris, as well as in the Centro Tempo Reale in Florence. In 1997, I named this part of my aesthetic Composition through interactive models, a notion I also formalized in a master’s thesis at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) [EHESS].

Colin, only in 2004 did I find the balance I was looking for between the use of machines, the elaboration of complex structures and musical hedonism. I formalized my theory in my first manifesto La Nuova Practica- hyper-systemic music- published in Paris in 2007 by Editions Mix. Based on computer systems dedicated to music, this new practice helps me compose complex musical structures that can interact with volitional and arbitrary choices [choices commonly known as: artist’s personal taste] by heuristically following predefined rules. The new practice I brought involves controlling all calculation algorithms through hand-drawn curves, in a free and spontaneous manner. The computing system I created thus performs complex calculus operations, whose results are guided by my intuition and my volition. This new technique offers the possibility to manage a psychologically endless complexity through the use of computers. This leaves room both for experimentation and intuition without ever reducing the complexity present at the beginning. The notion of taste is a fundamental part of notion of hedonism defined in La Nuova Practica, which is a fundamental part of my aesthetical research.

Despite that, I still felt the need for a better development, of writing to be precise. To me, human/machine interactions are still too rudimentary and sanitized- disembodied, almost soulless. As the computers become more developed, the body becomes more excluded from the musical conception phase. When I noticed this, we were in 2007.
In the so-called « art » music milieu [the one I claim], we are still abiding the well-established rule of an overdressed body. The body is dehumanized by formal costumes that turn the sensitive man into a robot that often still wears a tailcoat jacket. Contemporary music concerts are still performed in conformity to the « Wagnerian” protocol. This way, they are trivialized through rituals such as clapping at each entrance and departure of the musicians or the caricatural use of traditional music instruments that turns musicians into typophones with stereotypical gestures. The performer is no longer spontaneous in any way, being sometimes motionless, and sometimes making exaggerated gestures, as if there was no middle ground between a corpse-like motionlessness and a stereotypical hysterical musician.

The increasingly banalized digital tools are also responsible for this triviality [triviality as in what makes you vulgar] that both body and mind are reduced to, as they are used to simply moving their thumbs around a touchscreen, doing only five or six hand gestures at most, to access an infinity of possible functions.

My friend, the use of those hand gestures conditions individual people’s access to the world. The individual knows only a handful of gestures, sees a reduction of his/her idiospheres- this means that his/her access to the world is restricted. As you can read, Colin, I’m introducing the term “idiosphere” to describe this phenomenon. It refers to all the specific gestures in a human being’s life that cannot be substituted for each other. These gestures are molded, or rather molten, into a shape that tends to match the person’s profession. The various idiospheres tend to be reduced, to end up registered by a hyper-industrial society. The limitation of gestures that muscles experience because of digital tools dematerializes a sensitive contact with the world, which in turn needs the grasp of specific gestures in order to be accessed. The “idiotization” is therefore the symptom we are witnessing during the reduction of the idiospheres.

For these reasons, in 2007, I started a research on the display modes that ask questions about the body, its sensitive and social embodiments in the 21st century. The body is at the center of my plastic and idea-based questions. Those questions aim to establish, or maybe re-establish the on-stage “embodiments” of contemporary music. This new step in my aesthetical research is a response to this dematerialization, this idiotization by re-embodying the body… through the body. Twenty years after my first aesthetical formalization [Musical Gravitation], in 2007, in my book Six Modèles d’Analyse Herméneutique (Six models of hermeneutical analysis) [published by Edition Mix in Paris], I definitely integrated the body to the balance between complex structures, hedonism and machines. But this is not enough, not anymore.

In 2007, I decided to integrate a plastic sensibility to my composition method, and the living matter I need for a creation that’s partly altered by the machine. My choice is both drastic and embodied, and I can say now that it’s powerful, because it’s going back, ad litteram, to the embodied, or even the carnal: from now on, my music sheets will be both written by my own hands and on bodies. I redefine my working space as both a calligraphy workshop and a photography studio. I invite my “models”, men and women, to become the active supports of my compositions. For long sequences, [sometimes 18 hours long], I write my music. Sometimes I find the power of the current moment and of a given length of time, which are usually neutralized by the dematerialization of the body that accompanies the distance from the body caused by computer-assisted composition.

Thus I invented a new genre of musical expression, a new mode of music display: “bodyscore”, which involves artisanal techniques, drawing, calligraphy, all of which are expanded by postures and levels of focusing. The entire body is involved in the process, because it is alive, it feels emotions and it breathes, unlike a sheet of paper or a computer screen. Skin covers muscles, organs, a skeleton, and contains a mind that harbors emotions. The models’ breathing becomes the music’s beat. A source of life that needs to be constantly renewed, it’s also an external indicator of an inner state. Everyone recognizes the intimate interaction of two breaths that meet each other, mingle, answer each other… or exclude each other. If we were in Asia, in China, Japan or Korea, I would say that I write on Qi or Ci (氣). Here in Europe, I would say that I write directly on people’s souls, directly on their mind, in the energy of that living thing we call the body.

Hedonism is then enriched by an undeniable sensuality that affirms the presence of sexually neutral and nevertheless still sexed bodies. This is why I call it the “pleasure” of writing.

In my research, at this point, remains the apparent paradox of inspiration taken back by the body from the machine, even though I systematically use computers in my compositions and on stage. Through this manifesto, I claim that binary oppositions are not satisfying: they have never been fertile and they can no longer be used. To explore a new method should not mean giving up on the old ones. To the contrary, the coexistence of bodies and machines in a fecund and generous collaboration should be the main element of an artistic research in the 21st century that interrogates, then contradicts the exclusion of humans by advanced technologies.

Through this new practice, I find a balance in my creation between the human body, technology, hedonism and complexity. And you see, my friend, I loudly and proudly claim my use of digital technology in my works, as they are contemporary to the time period they are made in, and they allow the managing of complex structures. And yet I don’t agree at all with the idea of a transhumanist fusion of the human body and technology, which would be its expanded follow-up. Thus, as an analogy, I work on the permanence of the substantial independence of technology and the body [consubstantiation]. They coexist, interact, without being fused together: the body is expressed through life, but also through technology and its logic, which it created.

The most profound hypothesis that I defend is the possibility to use digital technology in my artistic practice, without reducing the idiospheres. My musical installation Argo is its embodiment. Since 2017, as you know, I have been wearing a device specifically conceived to measure my breathing, 24/7. A computer and a program are constantly watching the flow of data: the duration of my breathing intakes, the expansion and compression of my ribcage, my heartbeat, etc. All these data create a cohabitation between technology and the intimate process that’s the most fundamental to human life: breathing. By converting those semantic data, the computer and the devices of this installation are continuously generating music, until I die.

Dear Colin, in this year, 2021, I have already lived 50 years, among them 35 years of artistic practice in more than 30 countries, from the Americas to Asia, and of course, Europe. The long and meaningful time spent with artists from all around the world, from different cultures, with different practices, customs and beliefs, has made me question all I took for granted. I started studying anthropology; I also study how myths and fairy tales are created. Through these studies, I become aware of a new dimension that I need to share through this manifesto.

Colin, I am no longer afraid of discussing what is “beauty”. This word is cursed, forbidden, for it is sterilized by the fear people have of talking about it the wrong way. Since I started my music studies, the aesthetics I have inherited have been relegating beauty to so-called “common” forms of music, outside of musical writing. We were no longer discussing beauty, so we lost the bases of it. And worse, we heard [as we still do today] people trivializing this concept through neo-whatever musical practices. Equally empty and superficial practices. Empty as in lacking real concepts. And superficial because no theory can emerge from these practices. Now I’m referring to the neo-romantics, neo-tonals, neo-simplistics, neo-I-wanna-write-music-that-sounds-good…
Wow, my friend, such banalities.

I declare it, I stand by it and I write it: beauty is the trace of the human will to have a dialogue with others. In that sense, natural beauty, the beauty of a river, a plant, a cloud, a volcano, a rainbow, a mountain, a wave, a sunset, a desert, a glacier, etc, does not exist. My friend, there is nothing beautiful about natural beauty. It just is. I would even tell you that natural beauty bores the shit out of me. A complete boredom, that dims after I noticed a mere coincidence between a natural fact and me. Natural beauty is just any volition-less display. Intent-less. Could we conceive beauty without intent? I couldn’t.

Artistic beauty, however, is above all the expression of human volition. The will to leave a trace that defines the hypothesis of a dialogue. Yes, beauty is the intent of dialogue.

Humans are language speakers. Because they can speak and not just communicate, they can have a dialog. Yes, plants communicate. So do animals. Underground, rivers communicate with lakes, as do oceans: the so-called “communicating vessels”. And yet it’s not really dialogue. Dialogue is based on language, and language [verb] is human.

Instincts, taxis and gestures are pre-verbal, in some way they are instances of expression stuck at the animal stage. The pre-cultural stage. Dialogue, however, is human. This is the ability to create tension, an interaction that creates reciprocal understanding between two individuals. Two, or more, humans. Through a trace-like artefact, created by humans for one or more other human beings, with whom we create tension, a dialogue, expectation for us and the other, a search for understanding and reciprocity.

My friend, I’m writing this letter to you and you understand [or at least you think you understand me]. You talk to me and I understand [or rather, I think I understand you].

In this understanding [or belief in an understanding], in the apprehension of the traces created by others, there is a whole space where beauty flourishes. These others I’m referring to remain “barbarians”, as in, unknown. This other that tries to understand us through dialogue. In other words, dialogue tends to cross the boundaries of our “barbarities”- that’s where beauty lies.

Beauty emerges from this tension. For me, this tension is written [through different supports] and signed- signature as a statement, the sign of my involvement in a trace that I leave, and of my existence as a human being. In Italian, the signature is named “firma”, similar to firmament, as in firmly established by humans.

What leads me to write is the hypothesis of the other. This other that I try to know by making myself known. This other that, through mutual acknowledgement, makes me feel human.

Beauty in its intentionality is the display of a form of power. The more its beauty is acknowledged, the more a thing is powerful in its dialogue intentionality. In this exchange of energy, thus of power, the notions of empathy, the sharing of emotions and feelings between individuals, emerge. I understand empathy as the ability to be on the same “page” as the other.

Since I was a child, I have felt compelled to produce art as a self-searching practice, or as I could say, as a search for my own authenticity. Usually, those who manage to identify their own authenticity are revealed to the world as the spontaneous and free emanation of their own self. This way of being offers all those who find their own authenticity a great security and a great strength.

Through this strength, empathy is possible. The acceptation of one’s own specificity. Freed from the intellectual, cultural, simplifying and over-constructed superstructures, an authenticity/specificity has all the strength of unity which, through its fragility, needs another strength to protect it. All gathered around an authenticity/specificity, its strengths bring forth all the power of the awareness of existence. An awareness that gets displayed in the gestures we make and the traces we leave. First of all, our signature. La nostra firma.

I must say it again: we are “language speakers”. From language, we have developed the ability to leave traces [signs or symbols]. Then, from sign [or symbol], writing was born. And thanks to writing, we can also become “involved” beings. Involved, militant, fighter, participant. Defenders of values, some of which were taught to us by the past [thanks to traces left by others], and that we recognize as still valid today.

When we « get involved », it means we agree on a set of shared elements, which offer the premises of a sympathetic vibration. We are resonating at the same frequencies. I call this [metaphorical] resonance empathy. When this empathetic interaction exists, then we have a possibility to know others’ intent. With all these conditions, we can consider a common vision of a given beauty.

Beauty [as the intentionality of dialogue] and empathy [as the sharing of values on common traces] are not the same thing, but they play a part in my quest for knowledge of the world. And my quest for self-knowledge as well.

My dear Colin, I sign off this manifesto with the axiomatic principle of my artistic being.