by Giovanni Renzo
Why the mind wonders, if universe is infinite,
as far as where it would arrive with its eye, as far as
where the thought would fly freely,
far from the walls of this sky what there is.
Lucrezio – The Nature
“Atlas Coelestis” is a collection of pieces written between 1997 and 2004, conceived as an exploration of the universe, a musical journey in space and time that starts on the night of the 7th of January 1610, the date in which Galileo Galilei points the new-born telescope at the sky and discovers the four satellites that gravitate around Jupiter, upsetting forever the geocentric conception of the Aristotelian universe. The journey, starting from this concept and flying through the notes, leads to the deepest borders of space. After the prelude, Incanto, describing the sense of astonishment felt by Galileo in front of the heavenly vault; after Noctis Splendentia Signa, whose score is a metamorphosis of the astral plan reproducing the appearance of the sky observed by Galileo that historical night; with Lacteus Circulus our eye is captured by the intense twinkling of the myriads of stars of our galaxy; and than we explore, in Orionis Nebula, the amazing gas spirals and powders that hidden the young stars of Trapezium. Pleiades is dedicated to the thick but delicate net of the Pleiades, jewels of the winter nights; while with Pulsar we enter more and more in the depth of archetype sounds, in the cosmos wonders, led by the exact rhythmical beat of the first pulsar discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell. Finally we are irremediably attracted by the black hole of Cygnus X-1, source of X rays in the Cygnus constellation, seized in one of the greatest mysteries of universe: what could we find on the other side of the black hole? The absence of space and time in a unique and multiple dimension? A way to a parallel universes? A space - temporal tunnel? The big bang of a new-born universe in a stratified “multi-verse”? Astrorum nexus closes the circle of compositions with a melody that ploughs the spaces between the stars fading in the depth of cosmos, in the infinity and even beyond…
· Noctis splendentia signa
· Lacteus Circulus
· Orionis Nebula
· Cygnus X-1
· Astrorum nexus
In order to complete my report I add some notes on the genesis of the two first compositions included in “Atlas Coelestis”.
Noctis splendentia signa
For about a month Galileo was spending that cold winter nights on the open air, renouncing to the warmth of his room.
He has just improved a new telescope,
able to enlarge objects even thirty times, much more powerful than the Dutch
one, built in 1608, a plain toy to bring near the far-away objects. With
telescope, pen and drawing-instruments, the scholar has moved in the garden of
his house in
The cosmos was now deepest and more unknown than how anybody had thought till that moment.
But the most incredible and unexpected discovery has still to arrive.
Galileo finally found what he were looking for: the proof that would invalidate forever the geocentric theory attacked by Tycho Brahe at first, and later by Niccolò Copernico. If the existence of another planet with even four satellites had been confirmed, the Earth would have lost ever more its privileged position at the centre of cosmos.
Aristotle had proposed a theory of universe in which the Earth were in the centre of a system of spheres rotating around it, but, in order to explain the apparently irregular orbit of the planets, he had applied to a complex and involved system of spheres in other spheres. Tycho Brahe on the contrary had theorized a cosmos in which the planets rotate around the Sun and altogether around the Earth. Copernico, in the end, had formulated his heliocentric theory that now, with Galileo, found its demonstration..
The universe, after that night, will have nevermore been the same.
I had the idea of
composing Noctis Splendentia Signa while
I was reading the Sidereus Nuncius. I
imagined Galileo, his eye on the telescope, plunged in the sidereal night,
taking notes on his copybook from time to time (many years later, very moved, I
could see that copybook exposed in an art exhibition). The precision in his
notes caused in me the desire of seeing, on an astral plan, what he describes
little by little, with enthusiasm and wonder. So I re-create on my computer the
appearance of the sky seen from
For which concerns the length of sounds, I preferred not to establish rigorous rules, and to leave complete freedom to pass from one note to the other as when, watching the sky, we are free to look to a star, enjoying its sheen and then pass to another. In this sense the performance too has not to be perfectly linear, stave after stave, as a common score; it was possible to follow the profile of a constellation, for instance, or to play the most important stars, or simply to wander freely with the eye. The composition was ready, at last: now it was the moment to put my hands on the piano and listen if all that had a sense or if it was a mere joke, a funny graphic experiment.
I still remember the emotion felt when I played Noctis Splendentia Signa, for the first time alone, in the twilight of my studio. I can’t describe it: it’s impossible for me to write suggestions created by this wonderful language without words that music is. I created a score in which stars became sounds, an enchantment, a magic, a flight of fancy, a personal variation on the theme of Music of Heavenly Spheres gazed by Pitagora and Platone and theorized by Keplero. But my job has no scientific pretence: astronomy is only a creative starting point. Pitagora had found relations between the length of the chords, the music intervals and the orbits of heavenly bodies; Keplero had even defined the notes each planet play during the orbit. Now we know that the sound-waves are vibrations through solid, liquid or gaseous bodies as water or air, and then, as a consequence, no heavenly music can be heard in the boundless, empty spaces around the stars. We only can look to the sky and imagine to listen at that quiet and far sounds, crossing space and time to enchant us with their stories never heard before …
The Pleiades are a mass of very young, shining stars surrounded by a cloud of bright gas. They are visible in the north-east of the winter nights, in the constellation of Taurus, a small group of stars remembering in its shape the Ursa Major. The naked eye can count only six or seven stars, (Alcione, Atlante, Elettra, Maia, Merope, Pleione, Taigete), but when Galileo pointed his telescope on them he was astonished in finding other forty stars or so. Nowadays we know that the Pleiades are about 500, far from us 400 light years.
In the Greek mythology the Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlante and Pleione: the hunter Orion, meeting them, fell in love and chased the sisters for seven years, till the pity of Zeus changed them in stars and put the Taurus in their defence. Orion still seems to pursue them every night to the dawn.
For the composition of Pleiades I enlarged the astral map of the Pleiades, superposing on it, as in Noctis Splendentia Signa, a series of staves that let me to attribute different heights to the various stars. This was however not enough to emphasize the characteristic of this mass of star, the cloud of gas around them. So I let the finger run on the
string of my piano during all the composition, keeping the pedal pressed: this effect reminded me the impression of a subtle veil of gas.
In order to give the idea of light points holing this veil, I thought to use a technique largely employed by John Cage, the “prepared piano”: this artifice consists in inserting among the chords of the piano some pieces of metal, wood or gum so as to give more evidence to harmonic sounds. So, after a long preparation of my instrument, I obtained a result that completely satisfied my desire of changing into sounds the emotion given by this extraordinary mass of stars.
Born in Messina in 1962, he got his diploma in piano at the “Corelli” Conservatoire of his town in 1986, later perfecting himself in Rome with Martin Joseph, at the Seminari Nazionali di Musica Jazz of Siena with Enrico Pieranunzi and Bruno Tommaso, at the Berklee Summer School of Perugia with Bud Fredman in composition and orchestration and at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana of Siena with Ennio Morricone in music for film.
He made his debut in 1979 as a jazz pianist.
In 1986 he creates, with the bass player Pippo Mafali and the drummer Angelo Tripodo, a trio that collaborate, among others artists, with Paolo Fresu, Gianluigi Trovesi, Giulio Capiozzo, Bradley Wheeler, Faisal Taher.
In 1994 he founds and directs the Messina Jazz Orchestra.
He regularly performs
in concerts and festivals in all
He writes music for piano, for various cameristics and orchestral instruments, addressing with particular attention to theatre.
His first record, "Eclisse", in 1989, collects compositions for piano solo.
In 1996 he takes part to the 50th Edimburgh Fringe Festival, performing for three evenings at the Demarco European Art Foundation with the show “Partitura per sangue e anima”.
In '96 he also
ultimated the composition of the opera "La
distanza della Luna", performed in January '97 at the Theatre V.
With the composition “Le tempeste” he won in 1999 the third
edition of the National Piano Composition
Contest by the “Associazione
Culturale De Musica” of
In 2001 he publishes the Cd “Il mare” played with Paolo Fresu and the Quintet “Suono e Ritmo”.
In January of 2002 he performed
In 2003 he composed the soundtrack of the film “L’amore di Màrja” by the italo-finnish director Anne Riitta Ciccone, whose edition is previewed in 2004.
The balance between improvisation and composition is the peculiarity of Giovanni Renzo’s style. The element of improvisation is derived from his profound jazz experience, however supported by solid classic studies. But the very original style of his compositions, in which we found a melodic, often melancholic vein, prevents any univocal definition.
Web Site: http://digilander.iol.it/giovannirenzo/
Report: M° Giovanni Renzo
Contributions and translation: Dr. Francesca Bonici