rome

rome

The Room of Sound

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From March 5 to 20, 1977, in the Rome National Gallery of Modern Art was held from the 14th Festival of Nuova Consonanza, an association of musicians and composers congregated around Franco Evangelisti, responsible for the practical organisation of the Festival was Vittorio Consoli, engineer, music lover and enthusiastic investigator of the relations between space and sound. For 15 days in the main concourse of the National Gallery, experimental studies were made on the interaction between space and music and between musicians and computer, using compositions by, among others, Mauro Bortolotti, Domenico Guàccero, Aldo Clementi, Franco Evangelisti, Luigi Nono, Alessandro Sbordoni, Edgard Varèse, Leo Küpper and Giorgio Nottoli. The concourse of the Gallery is an exceptionally reflective space, totally non-musical. A huge acoustic dome made up of 100 loudspeakers, fed by the same number of audio channels, was created by Vittorio Consoli, with invaluable assistance from Leo Küpper, and wrapped up in a cloud of coloured aerostatic balloons, which were not fully inflated, and which gave the hall the acoustic properties required and also lent to the event an extraordinary sense of festivity surrounding the musical experimentation; this spirit can perhaps still be seen in the old black and white photos of the event and is still visible in the image we have of the main protagonists – Franco Evangelisti, Leo Küpper and Vittorio Consoli. Given the date, this was no virtual experiment in spatialisation, but a real-time musical event: the sounds, generated by an impressive analog computer, could be transmitted towards each of the loudspeakers and switched from one to another by a hand-made mixer. The most famous precedent for all this was, of course, the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels Expo, the masterpiece of Le Corbusier and Xenakis, animated by the Poème Electronique of Edgard Varèse. However, the most striking precedent was without a doubt the musical sphere constructed for the 1970 Osaka Expo by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Here the composer established the iconic quality of contemporary absolute music, an icon which subsequently symbolically adorned his grave monument. The project we are presenting here, the Stanza del Suono (Room of Sound) can be seen therefore to follow the path of a great contemporary music tradition; today we can avail ourselves of the innovations of computer technology, which allow us to organise the emissions of sound in space in a genuinely contrapuntal fashion, as Vittorio Consoli would say. The spatial evolution of the sounds thus becomes part of the decisions that the composer arranges within his creative system, to quote Schumann. The musical scores are able to not only specify precisely the limitless paths through space traced by the sounds, but also to envisage the ‘unknowns’ involved in the immediate, real-time interaction between sound and space, and between the musicians and the computer program. In this way, this new project of ours is not merely a place for listening to music, but also a place for creating and processing music in a continuous interplay between, space, music, sound, musicians and audience. The project aims at producing a new, long-term, functional acoustic and spatial device that can be employed by all those engaged in electro-acoustic music research. It was built upon a body of work consistently carried out at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, in its Department of Electronic Music, up till now directed by Giorgio Nottoli, and is the result of a close collaboration with two Departments of Rome Sapienza University: the Department of Architecture and Design, under Piero Ostilio Rossi, and the Department of Architectural History, Design and Restoration, directed by Paolo Fiore. The idea of setting up a permanent cooperative research area between musicians and architects, on the theme of ‘Music and Architecture’, and of including it in the agenda of Emufest, the In...