Erika Dagnino - Stefano Pastor
Cycles, a cura di Anthony Barnett
is a remarkable work, with literary and psycho-philosphical groundings and
overtones, by a remarkable violinist, Stefano Pastor, in equal
collaboration with poet Erika Dagnino.
has, of course, a European sensibility—he and Dagnino are, after all,
Italian—but his innovative improvisational conception is rooted in the
development of the jazz tradition; it is not a eurocentric classical
shall not say much about either the music or the words, which, with
attention, will sound and speak for themselves. And attention is in order—in
the order and the chaos.
do you know that you are listening to a violin? It sounds uncannily like a
soprano saxophone; on other recordings Pastor has also evoked the sound of
the shakuhachi. But these are no gratuitous imitations but logically sited
explorations of inherently discoverable qualities. There is a noble
tradition of making the violin sound like another instrument, more than
whistles and canaries. In a Caprice Paganini requires that it
become a hunting horn, an instruction all but ignored by many virtuoso
interpreters though not, for example, by that champion of new music Paul
Zukofsky. On a broadcast transcription, Eddie South turns his violin into
a precursor of the oboe: the ghayta or zurna, the shawm of Algeria. Stuff
Smith makes a trumpet of his phrasing, in fact a whole brass section
talking to a reed section. Seifert, following on from Ponty, transposes
Coltrane. Mat Maneri takes a micro-tonal cue from Joe Maneri’s alto. And
Pastor. All utterly violinistic.
text of Cycles is prefaced with two quotations from Samuel Beckett.
In fact, they are the work’s starting point. And nothing could be more
appropriate for the to and fro of chaos and order. Here is Beckett
speaking in an interview: “What I am saying does not mean that there
will henceforth be no form in art. It only means that there will be new
form, and that this form will be of such a type that it admits the chaos
and does not try to say that the chaos is really something else. The form
and the chaos remain separate. The latter is not reduced to the former.
That is why the form itself becomes a preoccupation, because it exists as
a problem separate from the material it accomodates. To . nd a form that
accomodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.”
that why Dagnino’s writing accompanies Pastor’s music only on the page? That Pastor’s violin takes the sound stage only with some drums by
Maurizio Borgia and some overdubbed percussion by Pastor himself ? For
whatever reason, this is the successful strategy. No poetry and jazz here,
thank the gods. And I ask you. Just how often has that ever worked?
Mingus’s “Freedom”, ok. But the poets, almost always no. And I say
this as the author myself of Poem About Music, twice performed with
exceptional musicians: interesting but failings. Why? Because, ultimately,
there can only be writing round about music. For the
only music about music. Yet Dagnino’s writing is here too,