whose strings iv: silvia tarozzi
s i l v i a t a r o z z i is a violinist, performer, & improviser. born in italy, she has lived & studied in both italy and france, and now lives near bologna, italy. silvia is involved in many contemporary music projects, including collaborations with composers pascale criton and eliane raidgue, and christian wolff, alvin lucier, michael pisaro, jürg frey with the ensemble dedalus. she is known for her improvisation, as well as her gestural approach to the violin.
silvia recently shared some of her violin strings with tsii, which are now available in the silvia collection. 10% of your silvia collection purchase goes back to music education charities. I asked silvia a few questions to explore the intentions & vibrations that make up her music practices.
what have been some of your biggest inspirations & influences?
silvia: it's nice to think about that... probably the first influence is always our surrounding soundscape. for me it was the countryside: a mix between the sounds of nature (birds, wind, leaves, cicadas, chickens, silence) and the country work machines, very loud and noisy and insistent under my window. I hated them, but I guess they affected me! besides that I was always interested in human voices, spoken voices, singing voices, timbres, textures, loudnesses, expression, ages... with just a block over lyrical voices or unnatural postures in pop or jazz singing.
as a teenager I was charmed by the sound of john cale's electric viola in "heroine," by the velvet underground. I remember this distorted, acid, tense texture that spoke to me very deeply. as a teenager I listened to industrial rock, punk, psychedelic music and a funny genre that was called "demential rock," consisting of surreal texts over a punk rock sound. at this time I was learning classical music in the conservatory and I didn't consider these musics as "influences" on my playing.
after, when I discovered free improvisation with musicians as joëlle léandre, everything spread out. finally I could consider musicians like ornette coleman, cecil taylor, don cherry and many others as an inspiration for me because through improvisation I could integrate the big lessons I learned from them in terms of freedom, originality, courage, and musical research in my playing, using my means, my vocabulary, my personality, my limits.
how did you first become interested in microtonality?
silvia: I'm not especially interested in it. I consider use of differents tones and intervals that are "not tempered" as a part of my music language, just like other elements. for a string player, the tuning is a primary question: first we learn where and how to put the fingers to play "in tune"... but in tune with what?
when I practiced baroque music, this question become more evident: many temperaments, many diapasons, many concrete, and special problems to solve playing together with flutes, bass, keyboars, voices etc.
when I'm free to improvise, I like to leave my fingers free to touch the fingerboard where and how they like!
also, to integrate microtonality in the musical language for me means to approach the expression of the human voice.
a lot of your playing involves gestural motion. what is the relationship between movement & performance for you?
silvia: for me, the movement is basically an experience of my body. if you mean "performance" as to interpret something, it is not so related. I'm very interested in playing as an activity that concerns the whole musician. for playing the most part of composed music, the musician has to learn precise patterns of movement and integrate these patterns in his body and mind, because the styles, the references, the models, the patterns, and so on can be quite far from the physical experiences of the interpreter. what I am searching for is a vocabulary of personal patterns that allows me to express a large range of states and emotions in an organic and integrated way also when I'm playing music by someone else. some composers like pascale criton and the experience of the improvisers helped me a lot to precise this direction of playing.
do you have any rituals surrounding music, as far as practicing, composing, performing?
silvia: not really for practicing or composing. just before performances I practice some exercises for calming the breath, to relax my shoulders and back, I connect myself with my heart. I'm an emotional person and I need to be quiet before performing.
what role do extra-musical energetics or elements have in your playing?
silvia: I suppose that all sort of energies are involved in playing, but the one that I'm able to work with more consciously is the "chi." I practiced for few years tai-chi and I'm quite able to feel the difference when chi is conducting and organizing movements or not. In some musics, like eliane radigue's music, I worked a lot on this consciousness feeling.
how does improvisation inform composition for you?
siliva: because I'm an "intutitive" composer, I didn't studied composition, often the musical ideas come out from playing in improvisation, as well as from playing compositions or listening to other musics. improvisation often gives me starting points or materials or suggestions for a new composition. sometimes it's improvising on instruments that I don't know well, like guitar, or accordion, or organ or my son's toy instruments that I find something unattended and interesting for me to develop. other times are basically dreams or visions, or more abstract concepts that suggest the way but after improvisation can help me anyway to shape the music.
what projects are you working on right now?
silvia: I conduct an experimental children's choir in bologna, italy named piccolo coro angelico that I founded 7 years ago with choir conductor giovanna giovannini and now we are working all together composing musics for a performance next spring based on art books for children. they will perform mainly vocal pieces but I wish we will arrive to create a piece for violin and children choir too in this collaborative way!
I'm also working with a canadian composer, cassandra miller, who I like a lot, on a new piece for violin but also related to vocality.
in december, deborah walker (cello) and I will premiere a project based on traditional songs from our area, sung by women choirs (cori delle mondine), and our own compositions.
for a closer look at silvia's recent concert with deborah walker & pascale criton, check out this blog post.
thank you for reading & supporting your fellow artists.
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