MUSIC SELDOM HEARD explores the intersection of the production and dissemination of music, probing questions of media, form, and feedback from the perspective of a musician and organizer. Earlier this month I attended the final event of the third edition of the Napoli-based festival La Digestion, held at the incredible Maschio Angioino, a 13th century castle on the water front. This was also the first of three Musica Sanae events, exploring the intersection of sound and medicine in consecutive concerts in Napoli, Sokolowsko, and Berlin. This episode features a wide-ranging discussion with Mimmo Napolitano, one of the organizers behind La Digestion. As a musician, he produces challenging and dynamic sounds inspired by musique concrète and noise. Utilizing the Revox B77 reel-to-reel tape player together with no-input feedback and other sounds, SEC_ has cultivated a very singular approach to live performance. This episode brings together his work with music from just a few of the many exciting artists who Mimmo has helped to bring to Napoli over the last decade. Mixed in are live recordings made during Musica Sanae in Napoli, as well as field-recordings recorded around the city earlier in the year (mostly as a part of my [Useless Sounds] series). Headphone listening recommended.
Episode 6: MUSIC SELDOM HEARD
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SP* at Anchor
Musica ascoltata raramente. Music seldom heard. This is the tagline for La Digestion, a festival based in Naples, Italy which just completed its third edition. The festival features a variety of experimental music genres, and has brought a truly impressive caliber of artists from Italy and abroad to experience the unique energy of this chaotic Mediterranean city. The emphasis, however, is not just on unusual music, but finding the nexus between form and content, “where the sound is the protagonist.” Each concert location is therefore central to the presentation and perception of sound, and it is this aspect which, for me, makes La Digestion’s curation especially worthy of broader attention.
La Digestion is organized by Phonurgia, a cultural association founded by Napolitano alongside Giulio Nocera, Renato Grieco, and Andrea Bolognino. The former three are all accomplished musicians: Napolitano (SEC_), Nocera, and Grieco (kNN) also perform, alongside Valerio Tricoli, in a Revox quarter known as Ritorna. Bolognino, on the other hand, is not a musician but a visual artist, one whose talents have conferred upon the concert series a distinct and instantly recognizably visual identity. (@improdogger recently paid tribute to this idiom with the parody seen here to the right.)
Past editions have been held in a variety of venues as peculiar as a 13th century castle. Marc Baron sonorized a monumental staircase of the palazzo, Casa Morra, the headquarters of the Fondazione Morra, one of the supporters of La Digestion. Other concerts have been held at the Museo Nitsch, surrounded by the works of the provocative Austrian artist. Michel Doneda performed at ex-Scugnizzo Liberato, an occupied former juvenile detention center for scugnizzi (Neapolitan street kids) that has been transformed into a “social center.” William Basinski performed in an ancient church that has been closed since the devastating earthquake of 1980.
Perhaps the most extraordinary utilization of space came from Rie Nakajima & Pierre Berthet‘s concert at the Cimitero delleFontanelle, a bizarre cemetery in a cave dating back to a plague during the Spanish occupation of southern Italy. The walls and ground of the cave consists of stacks of bones and skulls, like a metal album cover come to life. A uniquely Neapolitan tradition grew up around the “adoption” of skulls, in which devotees would take care of skulls, praying on their behalf, until the Church authorities deemed the cult too unseemly and fetishistic, closing it in the mid-20th century. Nakajima and Berthet placed various small objects around the space to “activate” it with small sounds, as listeners explored the space and the low din produced by the myriad objects surrounded by the bones of the anonymous dead of Napoli’s past.
Back in March, just before the first event of their third season, I sat down with Mimmo Napolitano, one of La Digestion’s organizers. We discussed his artistic practice, his work as an organizer, and the changes the scene in Napoli has experience in the past decade, growing and developing without the international spotlight afforded to Rome and Milan. Napolitano also runs Toxo Records and keeps busy with many related musical projects, including mixing and mastering the work of local artists. In addition to his solo work as SEC_, he is a also member of the duo Aspec(t), with Mario Gabola. Both Mimmo and Mario contributed slept on mixes as part of the early in the Lost Children series. (Read the interviews and listen to their mixes here.)
Napolitano has been busy as an organizer for his entire career as a musician. Initially, along with Gabola and others, he organized the Altera! festival in Napoli. Later, he joined the crew behind the Flussi festival in nearby Avellino. La Digestion has seen his work as an organizer enter a more “professional” stage, but also one with a very clear conceptual underpinning. The name is taken from a work by the French avant-garde sound poet Henri Chopin, a work made from recordings made of Chopin’s own internal organs, captured through swallowing a small microphone. (You can read more about this seminal work in Napolitano’s essay, “The engulfing machine of Henri Chopin” [Italian original].)
While this conversation took place the week before the first event, with David Moss and Tomoko Sauvage, I had returned to the city in time for Musica Sanae, which took placed on 3-4 May 2019. I therefore heavily incorporate into this episode live recordings from several of the participants. As live recordings of past editions were unavailable, I searched for examples of work from the same artists, mixing them with field-recording’s I’d made in the same locations at different times. Phonurgia’s La Digestion festival in May was only the first of three Musica Sanae events planned for this year. The second event will take place in Sokolowsko, Poland from 16-18 August, organized by In Situ (Sanatorium of Sound Festival), while the third and final event will take place in Berlin 15-16 November, organized by N.K. Projekt.
SELECTED POSTER ARCHIVE
ARTIST – “TITLE” (ALBUM, LABEL, YEAR)
SEC_ – “Send” (Outflow, DEN/Heart & Crossbone, 2013)
FIELD-RECORDING – Napoli metro rhythm
SP Intro (the new objective – “vita activa”  plus film samples)
SEC_ – “Moscaio” [except] (Moscaio, Bocian, 2012)
Henri Chopin – “La Digestion”  (Les Mirifiques Tundras & Compagnie, Alga Margen, 1997)
Jerome Noetinger & SEC_ “Side A” [excerpt] (Testacoda, Bocian, 2012)
Felicia Atikinson (Live at Musica Sanae, 4 May 2019)
Marc Baron – “un salon au fond d’un lac” [excerpt] (Un Salon au Fond d’un Lac, Potlatch, 2016)
FIELD-RECORDING – via Benedeto Croce
William Basinski – “The Deluge (The Denouement)” (The Deluge, Temporary Residence, Limited, 2015)
Michel Doneda & Lionel Marchetti – “Montpellier – 2018” [excerpt] (Montpellier – 2018 ~ improvised electronic music (concert), Bandcamp, 2018)
EKS – “Mario And A Minitape Recorder Killed L. Armstrong feat. Mario [Aspec(t)_Aspirale]”_(_Sedic, HysM, 2015)
FIELD-RECORDING – Per Grazie Ricevuta
Rie Nakajima & Pierre Berthet – “Dead Plants and living objects” (Live in Udine, Italy, 14 April 2016)
Inconsolable Ghost – “Sokolowsko Channelling” (Sokolowsko Channelling, Fourth Dimension Records, 2018)
Anthony Pateras and the Pseudacusis Ensemble (C.Mallozi, R. La Foresta, M. Maikowski, G. Lebik, T. Bertoncini, L. Capece) ] (Live at Musica Sanae, 3 May 2019)
FIELD-RECORDING – salita Tarsia
SEC_ – “Music for a becoming-insect” (commissioned by Kunstradio, broadcasted on 11/12/2011)
Okkyung Lee – (Live at Musica Sanae, 4 May 2019)
Aspec(t) (Mario Gabola & SEC_) – [soundtrack excerpt] (Seppo Renvall’s Napoli Film, 2019)
Aspec(t) – “asymmetric mimicry” (Abattoir, NUUN, 2011)
Valerio Tricoli – “IV. Clonic Earth” (Clonic Earth, PAN, 2016)
Kassel Jaeger – “algae 2” (algae, Senufo, 2011)
FIELD-RECORDING – heard from my balcony
David Moss – Warming up for La Digestion, Casa Mora (Instagram, 2019)
Tomoko Sauvage – “Clepsydra” (Musique Hydromantique, Shelter Press, 2017)
Lionel Marchetti & Jérôme Nœtinger – “Paris” (Live / Paris & Genève / 2011 ~ improvised electronic music (2 concerts), Bandcamp, 2011)
CM Von Hausswolff – (Live at Musica Sanae, 4 May 2019)
FIELD-RECORDING – Croatian Amor heard from the courtyard of the Maschio Angioino, 4 May 2019
FIELD-RECORDING – The same courtyard, but during the day
FIELD-RECORDING – near 76a, buzzing and church music
FIELD-RECORDING – plane overhead
FIELD-RECORDING – applause at Musica Sanae
Sound Propositions is written, recorded, mixed, and produced by Joseph Sannicandro.