Tag Archives: Barcolando

An extremely overdue post about my trip to Milan.

First of all, I think this post is about two months late. Since I returned from Italy I have been manically documenting my project for university deadlines. I made a book with photos, diagrams and c.d. and last week I gave a presentation. I made a theatre studio into an osmiza to make my presentation nice and informal. So it is only now that I’ve got around to updating my blog – apologies to my most dedicated fans!!

So a bit of context about this last venture in my trip: I briefly met Stefano Schiraldi at the Barcolando in October. He then contacted me through this blog and we began meeting informally to play music. He told me about this project he was working on, creating original music and songs for a theatre piece. He was writing for many different arrangements such as solos, group vocal pieces, accompaniments, so I we were able to try out various parts and develop the scores.


(performance flyer)

After a few of these meetings, quite unexpectedly, Stefano asked if I would like to join him and the theatre company in Milan. Of course I willingly accepted the offer and couldn’t quite believe my luck. So on Monday 25th November we drove to Milan to start rehearsing – the performance would premiere on the Thursday and ran for 4 nights and 1 night in Trieste the following week.

The company had only these three days to rehearse the piece pretty much from scratch so the rehearsals were quite tense at first because many things had to be achieved before opening night. As a result the music changed a lot, having to cut and paste sections here and there. Having to navigate the situation solely in Italian was… challenging. Not being familiar with the performance or cues was an added difficulty especially as there was little time to faff about/continuously ask people to repeat themselves! But luckily I soon caught on the the structure of the performance.

By the opening night Stefano and I were confident that the music would go well. We had developed a good rapport and communication over the rehearsals and his ruthlessness over accuracy and selection of the final performance material had paid off.

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Dell’Umiliazione e della Vendetta (of humiliation and revenge) dealt with attitudes and violence towards women in Italy but, moreover, it celebrated womankind, femininity and girl power. It was a piece of Music Theatre devised by an all-female company.

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In discussion with the director, Marcela Serli, I found out more about the devising processes. Although the piece was contemporary there were quite a few influences from traditional practices such as the Tarantella dance  and Marina Abramovic’s Balkan Erotic Epic.

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In short, it was a great opportunity to be able to work on and perform in this piece and I am reaaaally grateful to ATOPOS (the company) for letting me play and to Stefano for guiding me through! It was whirlwind of a week – I stayed in no less than 4 different people’s houses in various locations around Milan which was quite disorientating but also pretty exciting.

Overall it was heaps of fun and I am very happy to have been involved in such a quality piece of theatre.


Playing & Learning

Last week I finally found the so-called Gypsy musicians – a trio of friends who busk regularly in Trieste, playing a Gypsy Jazz repertoire of old and new. Almost everyone I’ve met here had told me about them and recommended listening to them. I came across them in Piazza Cavana, which, as far as I can see, is the number 1 busking spot. After listening for a while, I went to speak to them whilst they were having a break – I told them I really liked their music and that I, also, was a violinist (the group is made up of a violin, double bass and guitar.) On learning this, Berki, the violinist, offered me his violin and asked me to play them a tune – which I did. He asked me how long I’d been playing and was quite impressed when I said 7 years. I had meant to say since I was seven years old! whoops. They continued playing and I stayed for a few more tunes – as I was leaving I asked Berki if he ever taught Gypsy style violin – he replied apologetically that he didn’t read notes and plays only by ear. ‘Anch’io’ (me too) I said. ‘Davvero? Porta il tuo violino!’ (Really? Go and get your violin!) So that was that – I left feeling very lucky as this was to be my first collaboration with local musicians.

About an hour later I returned ready to go and… they’d gone. After looking in the other popular busking spots around town I was beginning to doubt whether I’d find them, but alas, they returned to their original post. I was immediately welcomed into the crew, being offered cigarettes and a Radler (a lemony-beery drink.) Then we began to play – I think they kindly started with their more gentle repertoire to ease me in! Here are a selection of the results in the form of sound snippets. I think you can just about hear the 2 violins (I am the slow one trying to catch up!)

And here is a video –

Once again, I have the problem of not know what these tunes are or where they come from. I asked Berki about them but he also did not know the names – as they had been passed down through his family from his Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother etc. ! I have been able to find out more about the songs from last weekend’s Barcolando, as they all had lyrics, but music without lyrics will be more of a challenge to research!

At the end of the session, I thanked the group for letting me join them and Berki for giving me tips throughout. It was the first time someone had given me instruction on how to play since my last violin lesson (2-3 years ago) which felt quite strange but also nice. Strangely nice. He said that I had a good tone but need to practice rhythmical bowing. The melodies of these tunes aren’t so complicated but the bowing of the Gypsy Jazz style is completely new to me. And once I am more familiar with both the melodies and rhythms I can start to improvise a bit more.  It was also my first time hearing violin terminologies in Italian – the names of the strings, Sol-La-Re-Mi. Archetti lunghi (long bows) – though whilst trying to pick up the tunes and work out the meanings of new terms, I don’t think I put these into practice very well!

This encounter has made me think about teaching, learning and sharing music. In the U.K, at least, music teaching and learning tends to be a very formal experience – lessons are costly and, in a way, quite solitary. Using written musical notation, dominates the teaching methods of ‘classical’ instruments. The experience I had with these musicians was the absolute polar opposite of this – I was learning with a group, in a public place, responding solely to what I was hearing. None of the musicians had ever seen written versions of what they were playing. For me, learning to play by ear feels more organic and personable. It has a more grassroots feel – an exchange between musicians without a third party (written notation) involved. Imagining myself learning to play these tunes on my own with a score feels kind of… artificial. And also a hell of a lot less enjoyable!

Well, I have my work cut out for me – I’m off to practice.