Reviews about PRIMA MATERIA
…a large group of mostly young people gathered around Roberto Laneri, Michiko Hirayama, Susan Hendricks e Alvin Curran, to savour with them moments of musical sublimation through the atmosphere created by their voices. No doubt can be entertained on the four artists vocal mastery.
(Como, La Provincia, Oct. 1973)
…incredible and fascinating the way in which the overtones slowly build up on one another…
(Berlin, Der Tagespiegel, 20.10.1974)
…the overtones produced and modulated by the five (vocalists-n.d.r.) link together in structures of pristine suavity. And then we remain enchanted, listening to overtones strung in perfect chords, the way of Zarlino.
(La Repubblica, 25.03.1976)
…we are dealing with a highly original, not to say unique, group… The listener receives something very fascinating and unusual, the more so for coming from the West. PRIMA MATERIA… has made the inaudible audible. A fascinating experience…
(Amsterdam, De Volskrant, 20.06.1977)
…PRIMA MATERIA the most incredible group, three men and two women who use these techniques as a way to meditation…
(Rotterdam, Algemeen Dagblad, giugno 1977)
PRIMA MATERIA’s improvisations… were much more convincing, not only because of their breathing technique and their intoxicating multiple-voice singing, all extremely advanced, but also because of the modality in which they perform. …After two improvisations (each lasting more than a half hour), one has certainly heard enough music, and yet woud like to hear more.
(Harlems Dagblad, June 1977).
…the high point in the festival came with PRIMA MATERIA’s vocal improvisations…
(Musica Viva, May-June 1978)
Roberto Laneri has taken the path of contemporary music. He builds his musical jungles multiplying his voice on tape: a human synthesizer! He’s had his moment of mysticism, now it’s over. Now he’s witty, cultured, an entertainer and an aesthete. In his workshops, he has people do exercises and does a lot of talking…. true, I’ve seen people in front of me producing perfectly perceivable harmonics, even though at first they didn’t perceive them clearly themselves. Good biphonists perceive higher and higher sounds, higher and higher harmonics in the noises of the wind, of automobile engines, in the voice of an opera tenor. An infinite process… Sounds which heal, hypnotize, manipulate, seduce. Overtone singing helps to be in touch. A myth, perhaps. And yet one thing is certain: the closer one gets to natural harmonics, the more resonance one acquires.
“As is the case with La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music, David Hyke’s Harmonic Choir and Pauline Oliveros’s Deep Listening Band, Roberto Laneri has had a life long penchant for the droning mysteriosa of the Sound Current and with the Prima Materia ensemble he has expressed it in a disciplined, expansive and singular way”
(Terry Riley, 2005)
The way of the holy longform vocal drone is most strongly associateci with the mystical wing of the American post-war avant garde, particularly La Monte Young and Terry Riley. But there were adherents in old Europe too. Resplendent in their matching white robes and long hair, Italian a cappella vocal group Prima Materia were the most accomplished. Active through the latter half of the 1970s, they released a single album on a label set up by MEV’s Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi, which has now been lovingly reissued by Die Schachtel.
Prima Materia leader Roberto Laneri’s concerns were very much ofthe period: he wrote a thesis on “sound as the vehicle of altered states of consciousness”, exploring his interest in Asian tantric techniques, Ur-klang trance states and the collective unconscious. The concepts may no longer resonate in the same way, but the group’s music remains an intensely focused and ascetic experience, slicing through the brain with narrow-beam psychedelic power. Sustained vocal drones, originating deep in the throat and diaphragm, are layered one over the other in impossibly long, treacle slow pulses. At times, Prima Materia might draw upon recognisable North Indian and Tibetan vocal techniques, but a concentrated monastic minimalism rather than florid ornamentation characterises their approach.
Resonance becomes key to the interest of the music, as the sedimented voices conspire to produce gorgeous overtone clusters that float lazily across the still surface of the drone like threads of lightning over a midnight prairie. Two unreleased live tracks (one of which is a full 12 minutes shorter than the advertised time given on the sleeve) are equally strong. But the one recorded at the 1974 Berlin Metamusik Festival burrows particularly impressively into nasal Mongolian khoomi territory and Diamanda Galas-like speed glossolalia. The exquisitely designed silver on white package includes a booklet of fractal mandala patterns on translucent paper.
(The Wire, by Alan Cummings)
Formed in 2003, die Schactel has been putting together some uniquely beautiful albums, mostly archival releases, of impossibly rare avant-garde sound pieces and other-worldly music. They certainly out-do themselves and just about anyone around with their packaging, but the sounds contained within are the real treat. I was first hooked by their release of Insiemusicadiversa: a reissue of an early 70’s avant experimental record, knee deep in mad, Fluxus-inspired mayhem. Along with posh CD issues, die Shachtel also issues delicious artist edition-style LP’s that are very limited and just plain decadent with their layout. Started by Roberto Laneri in 1973, Prima Materia was a group of musicians working with extended vocal techniques, using these techniques to create sustained drones composed purely of human vocals. Involved with the project were notable composers Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi whose label originally released this album in 1977. The group toured, performing at numerous European music festivals, before their split in 1980. Presented here with serene white & silver photographs and a beautiful booklet of hypnotic designs, The Tail of the Tiger is the sole release by Prima Materia. This disc presents that entire LP and two previously unreleased live performances. The feeling captured here is hard to describe. The all-vocal choral-drones moves from dirge-like to bombastic, eerie to beautifully surreal. It’d be hard to choose which genders voices turn in the most striking parts. One wouldn’t dare attempt to break it down but each contributes seriously moving portions, along with moments that are sexually indistinguishable. True howling of the soul, label-less, just cathartic and pure. Occasionally the skin crawls, the shrieks rise above the current and tickle your tympanic membrane until your jaw twitches. The music here is a true testament to the power and range of the human voice, to the abilities of the human body to create stunning sounds. We also have a test for your ears and your stereo. Can you hear the subtle nuances; can you pick apart the different layers of voice? There are moments where voices no longer sound human, where they sound like an amplifier feeding back or a large machine humming in a cavernous factory. Played on decent equipment, these sounds enter your chest and take your breath for a moment. It’s remarkable to experience. The sounds here are haunting and playful, religious and darkly sinful. The music still sounds frighteningly fresh and vibrant. These are the sounds of artists who were looking to test the limits of their own capabilities, the bounds of voice. It’s car engines, it’s grain mills, it’s train tracks, and it’s opera records sitting in the sun. Eastern musics are acknowledged, as is minimalism. I am not the first to note a resemblance in desire and technique to that of the Theatre of Eternal Music. All of that is here and so much more. I advise anyone with an interest in extended drones, marvels of the voice or who are curious to hear what occurs when someone actually.
(Indieworkshop, by Adam Richards)
On the same Italian label that brought us that lovely Luciano Cilio disc in 2004, here’s more import-expensive but totally worth it amazing archival material (in ultra-nice digipackaging to sweeten the deal) from the Italian ’70s sonic art underground, specifically Roberto Laneri’s Prima Materia vocal drone ensemble. This is some heavy stuff here — and heavy can mean a lot of things, AQ list readers have come to realize. In this case, it’s heavy the way that Tibetan Buddhist Rites From The Monasteries Of Bhutan double disc reissue we listed last year was heavy (so said our distro rep when we ordered this, and he was right!). And this mesmerizing, yogic drone-fest does have a monkish sound, being produced entirely by live human voices, gargling and moaning and droning. Though if you didn’t know that, you might think it was in part electronic. It’s the sound of wind and weariness, sorta spooky and haunted, wavering and weaving, building and building, with overtones galore, a howling of souls into the Universe. Like a bunch of Tibetan monks or Tuvan throat singers wordlessly saying woe is me… and we’re pretty sure that one of ’em at least sounds a heckuva lot like Elmer Fudd!! Seriously, though, it’s really good and intense and magical… if you’re a trance/drone fan (maybe digging stuff like Grouper, that has a vocal component), you should listen to this!
We’re told that “the musicians of the group Prima Materia individually researched and developed unusual vocal techniques (originally used in Tantric rituals in North India, Mongolia and Tibet), based upon the use of overtones coupled with a special state of inner concentration, which was the essential condition for both the emission and control of long-sustained and complex vocal sounds. Their capacity to sustain a note for what seems an eternity, and then continue to provide endless variations generated a continuous and sustained drone of sound, in which the overtones are clearly perceived.” We believe it.
The Tail Of The Tiger LP was originally released in 1977 as a private pressing by a small label run by Laneri, Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi. Now, this digitally remastered cd reissue features the 33 minutes and 30 seconds of music from the original LP plus another 42 minutes of live performance recorded in Berlin in 1974 and Rome in 1976. And it’s packaged not just with a booklet of liner notes but also 16 pages of “visual overtones”, beautiful full color prints on tracing paper. Yup, nice! And it case you’re still unsure, the blurb on the cover sticker contains high praise from none other than Terry Riley, who knows his drones.
In 1977 Italian label Ananda, owned by Roberto Laneri, Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi, issued this recording of long and dense trance-inducing drone of sustained notes, rich with overtones and harmonic embellishments. The area of music explored seemed so vast that it seemed almost of non-human, even electronic in nature. Paradoxically, the recording was produced using only the most original and archaic of instruments: the human voice. The musicians of Prima Materia individually researched and developed unusual vocal techniques originally used in Tantric rituals in North India, Mongolia and Tibet, based upon the use of overtones coupled with a special state of inner concentration, which was the essential condition for both the emission and control of long-sustained and complex vocal sounds. Their capacity to sustain a note for what seems an eternity, and then continue to provide endless variations generates a continuous and sustained drone of sound, in which the overtones are clearly perceived. This CD digitally remasters the original LP recording, and also presents two live concerts from 1974 in Berlin and 1976 in Rome. Beautifully packaged in a triple-fold digipack with a booklet in Italian and English, and a stunning booklet of complex circular artwork on semi-transparent paper.
It was only under the gaze of soft morning light that I noticed the hidden layer of cover art that adorns the most recent Die Schachtel release. Composed in the label’s telltale silver on white motif, the jpeg file may slightly capture the gorgeous Tibetan mandala, but nothing more. Only when physically held in hands toward the light does the cover reveal an ornate exploding blastula pattern etched in a clear gloss. And wait until you see the transparent booklet of more complex mandala design that accompanies it. A reissue of Roberto Laneri’s six-person group, Prima Materia, the package is literally illuminated beauty. Originally released on the Ananda imprint (who, if you’re wondering who the labelheads might be, is MEV co-founder Alvin Curran and master of the monochord and the Jenny Ondioline, Giacinto Scelsi), Prima Materia is the result of composer Roberto Laneri’s studies into the transcendental study of sound as achieved by the overtone singing of the human voice. The most noticeable touchstone for such a group cannot be found in much Western music, but rather in the Tantric rituals as practiced in North India, Mongolia and Tibet, and the resulting out-of-time trances that such regions produce with their singing. As the notes attest, the discipline lies less in the physical regiment and more in the inner concentration necessary to reach such psychic states. That all six members of Prima Materia are dressed in flowing white robes, their hair and beards unshorn suggest the spiritual dedication that such work also entails. But don’t expect some hippy-dippy vibes here, as the sound is far heavier and difficult than that. The group name itself suggests a difficulty in pinning and naming the source of such sound. As found in analytical psychology dictionaries, Prima Materia suggests a “primordial element, collective unconscious, unknown psychic substances, nocturnal sea-voyage, diminution of consciousness,” things not readily namable or understood. The six-person group strives not just for sound, but its absence as well, taking its cue from The Upanishads quote about sound and non-sound and how “non-sound is revealed only by sound.” The 30-minute main piece ebbs and rises with a guttural wave of multifarious voice that rises forth not from the lips but from the guttural depths of each person, and the two accompanying live versions from Berlin and Roma are similarly rooted. And what a haunting, delirious sound Prima Materia unleashes with their throats! Suggesting both Tibetan and Gregorian chants, Tuvan throat singing, Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra’s The Great Learning, the overtone singing of Pandit Pran Nath as practiced by American minimalists like Terry Riley and La Monte Young, perhaps even the throaty growl of extreme black metal such as Corrupted, all coalesce here into something that defies description. Or as Laneri states in his notes: “Well, not only it’s (sic) not easy to sing it, it’s not easy to speak about it too.”
(Dusted Reviews, Usa)
Die Schachtel, na co nazwa nie wskazuje, to ulokowana w Mediolanie wytwórnia, która od trzech lat przybliza dokonania mniej lub bardziej znanych wloskich twórców z kregu muzyki elektronicznej, konkretnej oraz sound-poetry. Ambicja twórców Die Schachtel (jednak nazwa zwiazana jest w Italia, bowiem jest tytulem pochodzacej z 1969 r. kompozycji autorstwa Franco Evangelisti) jest nie tylko publikowanie plyt z nieosiagalnymi dotychczas nagraniami z lat 60-80, lecz wydawanie niezwyklych wydawnictw, które lacza interesujaca muzyke z niezwykla i korespondujaca z nia oprawa graficzna. Nic zatem dziwnego, ze posiadajace niewielkie naklady winyle oraz kompakty dosc szybko staja sie pozycjami niedostepnymi. Na koniec tego wstepu warto jeszcze wspomniec, ze Die Schachtel to równiez rodzaj galerii, w której regularnie goszcza instalacje dzwiekowe, wystawy oraz inne wydarzenia zwiazane z muzyka elektroniczna. Godna rozpropagowania inicjatywa tandemu Bruno Stucchi-Fabio Carboni jest SoundOhm – strona internetowa, majaca byc swoistym kompendium wiedzy na temat muzyki awangardowej z lat 60-80 minionego stulecia. Poniewaz jest to nieustanny “work in progress”, twórcy zwracaja sie o pomoc do wszystkich osób posiadajacych wiadomosci, które umozliwia rozbudowe archiwum.
“The Tail of the Tiger” to reedycja jedynej plyty nagranej przez Prima Materia. Material pochodzacy z wydanego w 1977 r. przez niewielka wytwórnie Ananda, której wlascicielami byli Roberto Laneri, Alvin Curran i Giacinto Scelsi, albumu w wersji AD 2005 poszerzony zostal o dwa nagrania koncertowe z Berlina (pazdziernik 1974) oraz Rzymu (styczen 1976). Jednak niewielkie róznice dotyczace czasu oraz miejsca powstania tychze w zaden sposób nie wplynely na muzyke zespolu – zdawac sie moze, ze czas i jego uplyw niewiele maja z nia wspólnego. Twórczosc wloskiej formacji, porównywanej przez Terry Rileya, klasyka minimal music, a zarazem jednego z komentatorów reedycji, do Theater of Eternal Music, Harmonic Choir oraz Deep Listening Band, w jakis przedziwny sposób wymyka sie analizie umyslu.
Roberto Laneri, glówna postac Prima Materia, rozpoczal prace nad nietypowymi technikami wokalnymi w 1972 roku podczas studiów na Uniwersytecie Kalifornijski (zajmowal sie tam m.in.: dzwiekiem jako nosnikiem odmiennych stanów swiadomosci), zespól powstal rok pózniej w San Diego. Od samego poczatku wspólpracowala z nim Suzanne Hendricks, a po przenosinach do Wloch, skad Laneri pochodzil, do grona scislych wspólpracowników dolaczyli Gianni Nebbiosi oraz Claudio Ricciardi. Prima Materia istniala do roku 1980, w tym czasie przez jej sklad przewinelo sie wiele osób, m.in.: Alvin Curran, Michiko Hirayama i Maria Monti, regularnie koncertujac i propagujac spiew harmoniczny. Niestety nagran pozostawila niewiele – zdaje sie, ze istnieje tylko ten jeden album. Okreslenia: “minimalism, drones, overtone singing” wyczerpujaco przedstawiaja charakter zawartej na nim muzyki. Niezwyklym jest to, ze choc do stworzenia muzyki uzyto wylacznie ludzkich glosów, to rezultat wydaje sie nie posiadac cech ludzkich – tutaj brzmienia i posiadaja aure “elektroniczna”. I choc przyzwyczailismy sie juz do technik spiewaków Tuwianskich czy Tybetanskich, to wciaz jakze trudno jest uwierzyc, ze ludzkie cialo jest w stanie wydac takie dzwieki. Wyglada na to, ze jest glos ducha, a nie ciala, a te trzy nagrania zawarte na nowej edycji “The Tail of the Tiger” zaswiadczaja , ze podróz w glab duszy przynosi niezwykle rezultaty. Goraco te plyte rekomenduje.
“…it is a mystic dialogue that brings us closer and closer to the source of light…” (Giancinto Scelsi, from the liner notes). Here’s another extraordinary sound document from the Italian label die Schachtel, the folks who brought us the genius Luciano Cilio album the year before last. This one features the work of Roberto Laneri and his extended vocal drone ensemble Prima Materia. Born in Italy, Laneri graduated from the University of California in San Diego with a thesis on “sound as the vehicle of altered states of consciousness” in the early-’70s, and for the remainder of the decade his ensemble Prima Materia would be the primary means of transportation.
Using a wide variety of vocal techniques inspired by the musics of Tibet, Mongolia, and India, the members of Prima Materia created dense polyphonic drone music of intense concentration with clear affinities to the concurrent work of folks like La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, etc. The first 30-minute-long piece was originally issued by the Italian label Ananda, a short-lived artist run consortium headed by Laneri, the American composer Alvin Curran, and the elusive Giacinto Scelsi. Nearly impossible to find upon its initial release, and ever after for that matter, The Tail of the Tiger has been coupled with a further 35-minutes worth of material recorded while Prima Materia were at the height of their power. Die Schachtel again wins the award for most gratuitously beautiful packaging, as this reissue comes with a lovely white-on-white and silver embossed cover, metallic tinted liner-notes and photos, and a free-standing 16-page booklet of exquisitely printed multi-colored mandalas. These guys are setting the bar for what a proper reissue ought to look, and sound, like.
(Other Music, Usa)
Reviews about didjeridoo
… Roberto Laneri’s extraordinary contribution, with overtone singing suggestive vocal emissions and the sounds of the Australian didjeridoo.
(Giornale di Sicilia, 04.28.02)
… Roberto Laneri’s vibrant and guttural overtone singing mixes with movement. And the sounds generated with the didjeridoo go back to the primordial origins of human existence.”
(Bergische Morgenpost, 06.03.03)
…unusual for its beauty and suggestion composer Roberto Laneri’s participation, as overtone singing specialist and a player of that peculiar Australian instrument, the didjeridoo…
(La Sicilia, 7.08.2002)
… Night sounds, dark and raucous to give one goose bumps, are produced by the most incredible among the contributors to the show: Roberto Laneri, (…) who’s capable to create (…) acoustica atmospheres of absolute suggestion, to the point of transporting the listener to another dimension. His instruments are very peculiar: …the so-called Australian didjeridoo… And yet Laneri’s natural voice is the his most precious instrument…
(Giornale di Sicilia, 08.09.2001)
Reviews about BLUESPRINTS/MUSICA FINTA
Some day will come when no one will be writing new music, and composers will add notes to pre-existing scores. The Apocalypse is still far away, but Roberto Laneri-composer and instrumentalist, overtone singing pioneer- prophesizes it and creates the future to come looking at the remote past, the medieval musica ficta. With the help of his soprano saxophone, Laneri has applied this practice to none other than Franz Schubert. …not variations as such, but rather “extensions” of the pre-existing harmonic-rhythmic space, projections into the now.
The most original concerts of the entire festival are in fact definable as a true revisitation of works from the great chamber music repertoire… artistic director Roberto Laneri’s (who opened the festival on saxophone) has actually been something more than that. …Roberto Laneri has realized a true counterpoint which cannot be defined as improvisation, since everything is written, studied and thoroughly practice. Laneri great experience and mastery have made this courageous project convincing from and exquisitely musical standpoint. Speaking in practical terms, it is a path which unfolds gradually, “intersecting” more and more deeply very far genres, styles and sounds, little by little leading us to understand (or better still, to “feel”) the roots and reasons of jazz, a musical tradition which Laneri considers, and rightly so, “memories of a music which has changed the world.”
(Il Mondo della Musica, n. 135, marzo 1998)
I’ve run into Roberto Laneri many years ago, listening to ANADYOMENE, one of his most beautiful recorded works from the eighties, and above all I’ve been struck by his ability to express himself beyond any known model. However we have met only in January 1998, when I invited him to my radio program. On that occasion, I discovered and appreciated his rich artistic personality, both as a leading figure of overtone singing, and a bold sound-explorer, and, finally, as a refined jazz clarinet and saxophone player, whose simple and subtly ironic tones put him out of the current time-frames. This work marks Laneri’s re-entry in the world of jazz, an interesting journey to the wellsprings of afro-american music in their archaic and classical period, a homage to the jazz he loves most from a musician contemporary and yet ancient, capable of fusing extremely well echoes of Morton, Bechet and Armstrong together with original readings in a jazz key of classical 19th century compositions by Schubert and Schumann. The result is a perfectly successful project of contamination between jazz and classical music, fully enjoyable and most atypical in today’s Italian jazz panorama.
Reviews about LA VOCE DELL’ARCOBALENO
Roberto Laneri, a genius who all by himself roams Africa, the East and mitteleuropean thought, among Tibetan vocal overtones, conceptual electronic architectures, Pygmy and Bach cantatas.
(Fare Musica, 08.07.86)
…Roberto Laneri’s performance, one of the Italian figures who have worked in the field of musical research with the most coherence and intelligence.
(La Repubblica, 30.05.’86)
…among the festival’s most felicitous moments, Roberto Laneri’s solo-performance. Founder of the historical group PRIMA MATERIA and collaborator with the noted critic Joachim Ernst Berendt in the Nada Brahma permanent world-wide project, Laneri propounds a musical-cosmological idea which goes from Pythagoras to the 20th century historical avant-garde, touching on his way Bach, jazz and electronics. A versatile soprano-saxophonist (even with Charlie Mingus and Peter Gabriel), a specialist of the wind instruments of the world, a great manipulator of synthesizers and singer extraordinaire (both with tibetan overtone techniques and a peculiar falsetto), Laneri has offered, all by himself, a set consacrated to the most brilliant and all-encompassing eclecticism. He has produced vocal harmonics, a modulated high melodic whistle on a low pedal tone, on a tape with many voices (always his own) from his latest album “Two Views of the Amazon” by Wergo; he has played synths, programmed with phantom oscillating pitches on two of his own lyrical, twisted songs, “Black Lily” and “A Blossom”; he has performed his own classic “Memories of the Rain-Forest”, minimalistic, pentatonic, almost bluesy in a swirl of sequencers and live electronics; finally he has concluded by singing (in falsetto) an aria from the Bach Cantata n.33, using his synths as a “simulated baroque ensemble” a-la-Wendy Carlos. A tour of the world in an hour’s performance!
(Tastiere, Sept. 86)
Reviews about MEMORIES OF THE RAIN-FOREST
“I don’t know what Africa is really saying to me, yet she speaks” This record is an event, for many reasons. It is the first CD by Roberto Laneri, an artist of the highest level who, for various reasons, has never had the fame he deserves. It is a record of avant-garde music, all Italian, which wins the match with most foreign works. It is a record conceived during a long time frame, deeply felt, sublimated, sprung from inner journeys. Often postponed during the year, it is now easily available. Jung’s statement which opens this review is taken from the CD’s liner notes and is thoroughly enlightening: in fact I can attest that the listening experience leads back to remote times and situations belonging to the history of humanity, to Africa, cradle of mankind and beginning of everything, still a source of sounds and colors which are extremely important for western man. Roberto Laneri’s Africa does not have geaographical connotations, it is more like an image, a point of departure, a starting point to transform the evolution of ethnic realities very far from one another into music. Art with a capital “A”, music of cosmic dimensions, in the sense that Roberto has succeeded in composing with the voices of the planet a work capable of expressing millennia of history and to reunite in an ideal sphere all the expressions of folk traditions. Voice, a didjeridoo, a few percussions, samples of primitive voices and ambiences, a sprinkling of electronics to organize and enrich the whole. Here we have a compositional structure, luckily without the aridity of Academia; love for improvisation as opposed to artistic inanity; absolute technical mastery as opposed to the amateurishness of today’s much music; an ethnic revival not dictated by fashion. Following Roberto we find Giuppi Paone, an unforgettable voice of immense potentials, and Daniele Patumi with his bass strings, old reliable friends, perfectly of one mind with their leader after years of shared adventures in the thousand meanders of artistic fusion. “Jung in Africa”, attributed to Peter Gabriel (but there is only a rhythm track donated to Laneri by the Englishman during the recording of “Gabriel IV”), “Hut Song”, “Mongombi II” and the title track are an immersion into the foliage of the equatorial forests and remain striking sonorous experiences: it is one thing to sing a few overtones, but composing using the voice and to reach such heights is something else. Finally, “Air” ventures to the most extreme boundaries, enetering avant-garde territories which should make many intellectual composers blush. How not to notice the enormous difference in quality compared to the other Overtone Singing gurus? I love naif painting, yet Kandinski is a different story! Today Hykes is a demi-god, Vetter saturates the record market, Bollmann and Goldman have a following; for years Laneri, a secretive and reserved charachter, has remained in the shade to compose and elaborate his music, waiting for the right occasion, distant from the spotlight and the noise: he was right, if today he illuminates our minds with this masterpiece. I cannot believe that in a sea of improvisers, snake-oil salesmen and peddlers of sounds, an artist like Roberto Laneri has much longer to wait. “Memories of the Rain-Forest” calls for the attention of the serious aficionado, and must put him in the forefront in the world of the avant-garde.
(Gianluigi Gasparetti, Deep Listenings n.2, Winter 1995)
Reviews about INSIDE NOTES
…here the depths of singing and of harmonic sound speak, or rather are heard. To know how to capture the inner beauty embedded in the fundamentals is an experience perhaps uncommon, and yet universal.
(Gino Dal Soler, World Music, n. 50,September 2001)
Reviews about SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Old style sonorities from the forties (the artist’s memories and background) framing all the music which Laneri touched and studied and practiced during his musician’s life: this ambitious CD contains all the knowledge of this eclectic instrumentalist, who would seem to show us not so much the result of all these studies, but rather its parts before they are added together. And so, get ready for listening to “Sentimental Journey” sung by Giuppi Paone’s electronically manipulated saucy voice on a woodwind background (Laneri is a multi-instrumentalist). The effect is almost nightmarish, even though the harmony is thoroughly traditional, much like a soundtrack of a chilling thriller at moments, hypnotic in others. Laneri plays didjeridoo and didjeribone very well, emphasizing their compulsiveness with compelling riffs from electronic keyboards (Metamorphosis I). Or the bass clarinet’s refined sound on a not too reassuring melody of wind blowing (“Soul Massage”), subsequently changing into an almost “regular” polyphonic arrangement for winds (note the “almost”). The same goes also for the lighthearted rendition of “Bach Aria”, between jazz, Bach and Bobby McFerrin: “almost” Bach, almost jazz, almost musical fusion but not really, since everything is “almost novelty” deriving from the juxtaposition of diverse musical styles, rather than novelty deriving from their cultural assimilation. Romantic melodies (“Pienezza di luna”) with split-second delays which fools our hearing into an alarming doubling (a most attractive idea, one must say, exploited in “Polyphone” as well); overtone singing (of which Laneri is a scholar and practitioner) joined with the fascinating sound of the kontshovka flute into a sound search for ecstasy (“The Landing”); oniric or visionary post-LSD trips atmospheres (“Dream a Little Dream of me”) which we wouldn’t be surprised to listen to as a soundtrack from the “Saw” series. Summing up, a work which certainly stimulates curiosity and interest, but one which we cannot really make sense of the way sound research leads to, as if all this musical material were stacked together, waiting for being reworked into an up to date new material. A work in progress rather than a finished work: or perhaps a contemporary work for which we do not yet have parameters for interpretation, because too revolutionary? The ball is in the court of the listeners of this CD, surely interesting and “debatable” in the best sense of the term, meaning a welcome source of contrasting opinions.
ALTERED STATES OF DREAMING-TRAVELING WITH LANERI
an itinerary of memories, loves and irrepressible technological fantasies in the sound laboratory of a visionary artist.
Records by Roberto Laneri do not appear too often, this secluded artist with an exquisite esoteric vocation, musician and researcher of ample breadth in the vast world of those musics and cultures which we are used to define as “other”, thus emphasizing a still lingering discrimination; worlds which we have met, chewed up and relegated in a corner, like exotic objects. The reprint of Sentimental Journey is the occasion to plunge again into the fantastic (oniric is too restrictive) world of a musician who has been practising the transcultural dimension of music for almost forty years, well before so-called world music. Laneri’s “sentimental journey” is an itinerary of memories, loves and irrepressible technological fantasies, mixed with a taste indulging in an altered, out of focus perception, between dreaming and sound-lab, starting from the memory of Sentimental Journey, the song made famous by Doris Day in the mid-forties and recreated by Giuppi Paone’s sympathetic vocal acrobatics. Articulated by the didjeridoo (Australian aboriginals’ ancestral tube, with its unique, throbbing sound) and its ideal partner, the zarb (the Persian drum with its deep dark pulse); then voices, the most diverse sound materials, clarinets and saxophones (of which Laneri is performer extraordinaire), flashes from Bach in the guise of joyful country garb, echoes from Ellington’s Mood Indigo, and, finally, a mischievous ars combinatoria, which puts everything together in an unpredictable kaleidoscopic collage. Laneri’s almost bulimic syncretism incorporates a life which has passed through the most diverse experiences and concrete musical practices, from didjeridoo to the overtone singing of central Asia. Neither experiment nor new age, rather a smiling, evocative and liberatory game.
(Giordano Montecchi, L’Unità, 29.01.2011)
Your record is a great clever madness which succeeds in mixing the impossible: jazz, opera, world music, classical music, tribal music. Most important, your music is free in your heart.
(Fran Muñoz Antón, programming director, CANAL 9 RADIO, LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA – ESPAÑA)
A didjeridoo is joined by a dreamy-and dreamt of-voice, and soon the mounting noise of the accompanying wind instruments becomes clearer, and leaving the didjeridoo, takes form in this suspended version of Sentimental Journey, the title piece of this CD. I was astounded by this arrangement which comes from nowhere, grows strong and energetic, then comes down in level again, finally swinging as if drunk with itself until it fades away. Intangible voices, didjeridoo, saxophone, clarinets, percussions and other distant sounds run one after another in Laneri’s latest work, but as one is trying to decode the unattainable, everything becomes more clear: the clarinet, saxophone or the didjeridoo take over and tell ancient soundtales. The author’s mastery, technique and experience allow him to intertwine the old and the new, noise and music, words and silences. A CD which may result dificult at a first listening, but if I may offer a suggestion try to listen to it a couple of times without paying attention, while you are engaged in other activities, then listen to it very attentively. You will hear different things according to your attitude: overtone singing, classical music, Pygmy singing, percussions like slowed-down tablas, strange voices, will transmit to everyone prrecise sound visions but different mental visions.
Love it! Great variety of stuff-and varied use of didj. This is all studio work? I’ve always liked electronic whisperings of well-known tunes-all that dreamlike stuff. Intimations from jazz and sentimentality for sure. I think my favourite was Mood Indigo. Strong didj with pitch shifts in the sound-goose bump stuff!
(Ron Nagorcka, composer and didjeridoo player)
Contemporary music composer, connoisseur of extra-european musical traditions, multi-instrumentalist, habitué of the Italian jazz scene from the sixties and teacher at the Florence Conservatory, Roberto Laneri lists even Charles Mingus among his teachers, and today is an eclectic and original musician, just like this CD, Sentimental Journey. Easy and ifficult at the same time to talk about this work, since on one hand it has a coherent and distinctive structure, on the other hand it does not fit into any other possible “genre”. In effect we are dealing with a music which is above all oniric. It is so in its intention, since in the liner notes the title piece is linked to a childhood listening experience and its symbolic significance of opening up to a wonderful sound universe. It is so in concrete terms, since that wonderfully indefinite universe is recreated through the composition of diverse sonorities, both instrumental (reeds, didjeridoo, zarb, kontshovka, played and multitracked by Laneri), vocal (Laneri and Giuppi Paone) and percussive, often mixed with delays and bewildering effects. Finally, it is so in its structure, fusing into an organic and coherent whole classical (“BachAria”), jazz (“Mood Indigo”), rithmic (“Tough Tigers”), lyrical (“Pienezza di luna”), African (“Metamorphosis 1”) and oriental inspirations (“The Landing”). In the end, an intriguing CD, classifiable only as “contemporary”, meaning much or nothing, which has a lot of originality and begs for listening in order to understand. Not bad, in this “fast food era”.
(rating: 3.5*, Neri Pollastri, All About Jazz)
Dreaming with sounds
A sense of anticipation, the heartbeat throbbing, a train rolling along, voices in the distance cut through the air, a breeze of a gentle persuasion caresses head, mind and soul. Melodies, memories, wanderings that melt all resistance away, encouraging the ride in the sounds, to allow one’s scattering (of the self) in the mosaic of sound forms, to get lost in the assembling and disassembling caleidoscope. The author tells us how, still a child, Doris Day’s voice in Sentimental Journey opened up to him, this imaginary sound-journey: a perfect voice, clean, ringing, tender and seductive. I have a similar memory myself, and was similarly affected. I must have heard it as a baby in Venezuela in the 50s, and since then that undulating, embracing melody has always triggered deep emotions, opening up for me great vistas of freedom. Traveling with no fear, and yet with the homesickness that goes together with new discoveries. A journey going forward as it comes back and coming back as it goes forward.
Can one really come home without getting lost before? And where and what is home?
Roberto Laneri goes in and out through the whole world of sounds and compositions, part of his quest. Obviously, his way is not Doris Day’s. It cannot be the same in a world so inesorably new, whose landscapes are in a state of perpetual fluctuation, under ever-changing skies, lights and shadows, a world in which all existing musics are meeting and impregnating one another whilst men make war. Music—such is its power—“makes peace”, can make distances grow near, can lovingly bring together all the sounds of the earth. Music can play with time as well, bringing together distant and near past. Laneri’s music can conjure up this magic: everything becomes present here and now, yet evoking the longest, even eternal journey. The individual soul succeeds in tuning up with the great collective, perennial unconscious. The enchantment may flash in each new piece, one step after another, although the journey might just as well begin with any piece, in a circular fashion.
Metamorphosis is pressing and urging. We cannot always stay the same, even though at times we may think of ourselves as immutable and eternal. The urge is to learn how discover the subtle mutations and discreet variations within a single note.
We can let the music massage our soul, then tone it up with a Bach Aria, then again languidly relax in the yearning luminous spell of a full moon. If only we could stay on this moon a little longer…
Poliphone sucks us in again, like a sudden small vortex in a lazy river. Nothing dangerous, only a spritz of refreshing bubbles, a voluptuous shower of sounds. Multitracking multiplies Giuppi Paone’s voice, bringing us into the thousand refractions of sound-mirrors: again, the chase of difference and sameness, landing for a moment (The Landing) on root tones and their overtones. Another shower, a massage perhaps, but no, nothing of the sort. This time it is the deepest within, a feeling in the chest waking up and lying contained, centered, still, powerful: energy slowly opening up with no dispersion. Grounded, for sure, firmly poised yet weightless. Ready to meet Soft Tigers and Tough Tigers—all tigers ask for caution, above all those which could tear the soul apart.
Soft Tigers materialize on an exotic, hypnotic carpet, woven with all the clays, colors and percussive sounds of far away lands. In reality, the didjeridoo leads the pack, since the sax by itself would never make it. Tough Tigers, the more dangerous and disturbing ones, need the overtones of human and non-human voices to be kept at bay.
A sudden veering off course takes us back to a western time-zone—Mood Indigo’s jazz revisited—zooming up again on Pangea, the echoes of conventional instruments left behind by an overbearing didjeridoo. How elementary our musical instruments, although refined and detailed in their construction, compared to the didjeridoo, truly elemental yet able to evoke such complex and manifold listening experiences!
Is it because we are so used to our instruments, whereas aboriginal and exotic instruments zero into new areas of sensory and psychic consciousness? One more reason then to be grateful for Laneri’s music, whose listening opens wide up visual and synaesthetic horizons of all kinds. It really feels like being there, in all those places, with all the colors, the smells, the faces and the bodies of other men and women both like and unlike us, and also being in the no-place of our inner world, each of us with one’s personal representation.
Drum Talk puts together more definitely the perfect blending between synthetic sounds, produced with the aid of our advanced technology, and the sounds ostensibly coming from the acoustic instruments of poor, indigenous people, as well as human untreated voices. And yet the true origin of each sound is hard to trace, as it gets lost in the harmonious ensemble. In the end we can listen to the dreaming just because the CD is here to stay with its digital technology, affecting not only the composition of music but its reproduction and public exposure.
On several occasions I have had the chance to listen to Roberto Laneri’s live performances, a different, perhaps more total experience for sure, as it happens, I believe, in the case of much music. Actually, private and repeated CD-quality listening of the individual pieces helps to discover not only new elements of the compositions, but above all new personal reactions to the myriad of creative facets Laneri includes in his artistic work. Habit never really sets in, in fact one could say of him he is not only a “composer”, but a truly original, perhaps unique, “de-composer.”
Not by chance, this sound-dreaming ends with another classic, mirroring and echoing the CD title: from Sentimental Journey to Dream a Little Dream of Me. After this journey around the world, the traveller goes back to the intimacy of the night, of a small, personal dream—“dream of me, a little dream is enough”. Perhaps this is the meaning of a home to come back to, of this “sentimental journey home”. A home within the heart, a feeling, a thought, a dream in which all things can abide peace-fully, in the fullness of peace. If only for a while. Thank you, Roberto.
(Elena Liotta, Jungian Psychoanalist)
Reviews about ESCHER
The blues marks the start and end of this CD, which is certainly innovative in its structure and concept, and yet plays with the listener, leaving him room to breathe suggestions which are familiar and not twisted as in Laneri’s other work reviewed in this same newsletter. A sort of journey in the world of sound, according to the two artists, which explores sound in all its possible facets: the clarinet and saxophone’s melodic mellowness, seconded by the piano’s harmonic richness and the percussion’s laziness (“Imaginary Crossroads”); or, almost in form of nostalgia and reminiscence, the most archaic blues, with the piano sketching the most typical ostinato of traditional blues, evolving into a short destructured, almost atonal episode as in European contemporary music, coming back to that blues in the beginning, however distorted into creative digressions, even in the form of “noise”; or the almost onirical dimension of only two alternating swinging chords of oriental flavor securing the atmosphere, both with this harmonic alternance and the instruments’ stretched intervals, the piano’s swinging, never repetitious improvisation; or the goading–neither melodic nor rhythmic- “cybernetic” atmosfphere of “Wind & Water Dance”, which, even when it opens up to long-winded phrasings and chords does not give up the mischievous prickly sounds in the background; or the continuos sonorous thickness of “Circular Crossroads”, in which the bass clarinet paints a dark background for the higher winds to embroider improvised, almost precious melodic digressions, occasionally bringing to mind golden scribbles on a heavy important black cloth, fading into the fascinating sound of the solo. This work (except the two blues in the beginning and in the end, recorded live) is entirely built by multitracking, with much attention to details, very interesting, to be enjoyed in total silence, without clinging to any visual or hearing surrounding space or time, for the hour of its duration. New, aesthetically very pleasing, relaxing, interesting.
Albums and projects bring up again the creative and unorthodox figure of Laneri (composer, multi-instrumentalist, overtone singing specialist, conservatory teacher). Trained mostly in the U.S.A., collaborator of Charles Mingus and Peter Gabriel, the clarinetist and soprano sax player proposes a circular journey which takes the blues as its point of departure (the first one Monk and Lacy-like, the last one with imaginary echoes of Johnny Dodds) touching a series of stop-over pieces charachterized by a strong sense of space-time: from Colorado to ancient Egypt, from the “South” as a mental category to California. His associate is pianist Fabio Sartori, and he uses multi-track recording and electronic elaborations. Roberto Laneri’s music is never merely descriptive, rather evocative and visual-visionary, essential, profound.
(Luigi Onori, ALIAS, Il Manifesto, 1.10.2011)
Reviews about DREAMTIME PROJECT
Eyes wide open and alert senses for a show (at Rome’s Teatro Vascello) which deals with magic, Because all human experience, coming down to it, is magic, as the aboriginals are very well aware of. Ilaria Drago, Roberto Laneri and Alberto Tessore, who built this hour-long project, not to mention the time to settle down once it is over, are well aware of this too. (…) Poetry becomes an alluring flow, broken by the sounds of a man on the ground who blows his own spirit’s origin in the archetype of a vital breath in the didjeridoo’s long chamber and spreads the now into his soprano sax, resetting any distance between what was and what is.
Reviews about BREATH
The breath of music.
The multi-instrumentalist’s journey between sounds and cultures.
Roberto Laneri’s new double CD, BREATH-MUSICA IN FORMA DI CRISTALLI, is a witness to the boundless musical culture of this intriguing character who inhabits today’s music planet. Clarinet and saxophone player, didjeridoo virtuoso, Australian aboriginals’ wind and lip instrument, Laneri is also a practitioner of overtone singing, the technique which emphasizes the overtones of the human voice, allowing the vocalist to produce two or more sounds at the same time.
It would be misleading tough to talk about fusion or multiethnic culture, because Laneri shows deep respect for different cultures, which are never, so to speak, re-hashed in discographic sauce, but rather studied and used to widen a very personal expressive palette. The CD includes wo separate projects, but which mirror each other even in the number of the pieces, 7 each. In both cases the center piece, fourth upon seven, corresponds to two different readings of John Coltrane’s Spiritual, which goes to prove that number symbology has its weight. In this piece John Coltrane opens up his language to Indian scales, initiating the progress of gradual loosening of the rules which in effect is part of the jazz tradition: an urge toward freedom of expression which obviously Laneri endorses. The first CD, Breath, is a solo performance by Laneri, supported by multitracking and samples. After what has just been said, one would not expect the performance to start and end with two dances, an Allemande and a Bourrée, taken from the Partita Bwv 1013 by Johann Sebastian Bach,amply reinterpreted by Laneri on soprano sax from a perspective of improvisation. In fact, Bach’s pieces are the gates of entrance and exit for a kind of musical introspection in which different musical parameters such as sound, harmony, rhythm, are interweaved in a liquid dimension. The link between Laneri and a character like Giacinto Scelsi must have originated from their common interest for introspection: some excerpts from the second part of Il sogno 101, Scelsi’s autobiography provide a text for Musica in forma di cristalli, featuring Ilaria Drago as narrating voice, and IN FORMA DI CRISTALLI, the overtone singing ensemble founded and directed by Laneri himself. Compositional virtuosity shows itself in this suite, wittyly reinterpreting Guillaume de Machaut’s famous Complainte from Le reméde de fortune, followed by music from the Notre Dame school (which marks the beginning pf polyphony in the West), Pygmy chanting, already mentioned Coltrane and even Irish echoes.
(Luca del Fra-L’Unità, venerdì 29 marzo 2013)
Reviews about LA VOCE DELL’ARCOBALENO (book)
A new release of La voce dell’arcobaleno (288 pages, €14, Edizioni Il Punto d’Incontro), a “handbook” on overtone singing as well as a wonderful essay on life as vibration, written by Italy’s leading authority Roberto Laneri. Laneri is well-known, other than as a composer, arranger, clarinet teacher, player of a vast number of instruments (alto and soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet. didjeridoo), for his in depth work on overtone singing, both as a scholar and interpreter, which has been going on for decades.
In simple terms harmonics, or overtones, are the sounds which constitute a sound (they are responsible for the shaping a sound as well as for each instrument’s unique timbre), and their sequence is arranged according to a precise, mathematical order. The relationships among the frequencies in the harmonic series reproduces the same ratios found by Pythagoras in his experiments with the monochord, which he defined as archetypes of form, examples of the harmony and equilibrium which can be seen at work everywhere. In the philosopher’s opinion, music and life coincide. In this, Pythagoras is certainly not isolated: in the ancient shamanistic traditions of Mongolia, Africa, Arabia and Mexico, in the judeo-christian cabalistic traditions and the sacred spiritual traditions of Tibet, vocal sounds and overtones have been used to heal and transform, to communicate with the divine and to balance the body energy centers.
In La Voce dell’arcobaleno, Laneri takes the reader step by step into the nature of the overtones, the history of music and humanity’s spiritual search, finally touching upon the teaching of the vocal techniques which make overtone singing possible.
(Valeria Trigo, L’Unità, 3 aprile 2012)
Reviews about NEL CIELO DI INDRA
The discovery that white is not devoid of colors, but contains them all, opens new fascinating spaces in the mind. It triggers a little “hunt” toward that which exists beyond what the eyes see, and that may trickle off as a river in the desert, or bring fruit and expand into the “feeling” of life.
The experience of “awakening” has a different ring for different people. For musician Roberto Laneri it was the discovery of what was inside the voice: “In the summer of 1972 I had a spontaneous experience of overtone singing… I had no way of knowing then that that experience would later prove the most efficient and disrupting single factor of transformation in my life, which would bring me to a total change of attitude regarding music, and not only music.”
Forty years after that ring of metamorphosis, Laneri has a second book on overtone singing, published by Terre Sommerse, whose title, Nel cielo di Indra, is already a vision in itself. “In the Heaven of Indra-says the buddhist sutra- there is said to be a network of pearls so arranged that if you look ot one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way, each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact is every other object.”
Voilà, for Laneri overtone singing actually is the Heaven of Indra. “it is something real–composer and multiinstrumentalist who taught at the Florence conservatory until 2011 explains in an interview to Adnkronos–since each sound contains in itself many more sounds, viz. the overtone series as a gossamer net, for those who are able to distinguish it.” As the astral body, which exists side by side with the physical body even though not everyone is capable of seeing it, so does each sound have harmonics within itself. It is as if, taking a book in our hands, we could see all its subatomic interrelationships. “For this reason–he remarks-to practise overtone singing means developing these possibilities of interrelating, both with himself and the others. The way I see it-says overtone singer Laneri-music is not a superstructure, but the Universe’s real structure, its energy structure. Therefore,developing awareness of this energy net can change one’s life.”.
Nel cielo di Indra is a true how to do book for overtone singing, comes with a CD, and “has been written-Laneri the didjeridoo player informs-to answer what appears to be the no. 1 problem of those who have received an introduction to overtone singing techniques and yet cannot find opportunities for practice and evolution, both technical and spiritual”.
“In general the first impact of a workshop or other situations conducive to the harmonic experience-adds the musician, who has recorded for the most important radio stations and lists several records to his credit-is in any case very strong, to the point that for many people (certainly for myself) the first overtone singing experience may be akin to a true initiation, a quantum jump in aural perception. The result-he hemphasizes-is a stepping up of the individual’s energy level, which nonetheless bears the risk to dissipate if it is not supported not by a casual experience, but by a daily practice”.
For Laneri “a factor which favors this integration is the very structure of overtone singing, inescapably modeled on the harmonic series which, as any other geometric-mathematical progression, is in itself devoid of personal contents, which may be implemented by everyone according to infinitely different modalities. Usually I am not very fond of prophesizing, and yet-dares the musician, in 2002 elected creative member of the Budapest Club, founded by Edwin Laszlo fo further planetary consciuosness- I like to imagine a universe (including our own) in which, after the first experience, every practitioner manages to incorporate its procedures, techniques and modalities in his own work and life, so that the aural perceptual leap forward favors something which may be defined as ‘harmonic thinking’ or ‘harmonic consciousness’. Only then the original experience attains creative and transforming possibilities.”
(Veronica Marino, Roma, August 18, 2014, Adnkronos)
Roberto Laneri ©2018