Surreal, anarchic, original, “décalée”, entertaining, sometimes boring. Duo Alterno is this and much more. Formed by pianist Riccardo Piacentini (professor of Composition at the Alessandria Conservatory) and vocalist Tiziana Scandaletti (professor of Vocal Chamber Music at Santa Cecilia Academy), the Italian artists performed in Los Angeles for the second time, guest of the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), surprising the audience with their show “The Sound of Things.”
The interdisciplinary contemporary arts center in Downtown LA is known for encouraging experimentation in all the art fields, and no better place could in fact host Duo Alterno for this rare US appearance supported by the local Italian Cultural Institute.
Considered one of the most interesting projects of the last years, Duo Alterno presented the results of its experimental research. Their art is a mix of philosophy, esthetic, and music, as they say, and is the result of a different point of view on music, that open the doors to new experiences.
No sound was born as music; it is the way we combine each sound that creates a melody. Therefore, we should pay more attention to those sounds of our everyday life, those that we often consider just noise: they also can become music. Sounds, objects and movements we would never expect can create something beautiful, like the closed piano that Piacentini “plays” by touching its surface, while the vocalisms of Scandaletti “fill in” the space. The message is: every little sound is important in music, as well as every little brushstroke is important in painting.
Music meets words then. Piacentini and Scandaletti accompany their music with lyrics taken from John Cage (A Flower and The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs), Carlo Alessandro Landini (Mother of Hope), and alternate them with their own compositions, like Rataplànplanplan and Jazz Motetus VI. This last one is the perfect synthesis of Duo Alterno’s theories: a mix of sounds and pictures taken in California, Hong Kong and Italy. The Pacific Ocean is no longer an element of separation, but a connection between parts of the same reality. The show goes on with Ophelia Fragmente by Luca Lombardo, which swings between the beats of pianissimo and fortissimo.
Traces of Italy in Epitaffi Sparsi by Ennio Morricone, an abundance of sounds that doesn’t distract us from the world, but connects us to that. Come passa la giornata Betty Boop (Betty Boop’s day) by Ada Gentile is the climax and closing act of the show, a funny, crazy performance that perfectly reflects the paradox of Duo Alterno… A duo that seems to have found some harmony between order and chaos.
With all its facets, music is conversation.