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Osvaldo COLUCCINO (b.1963)
Atto: Acoustic Objects
Atto 1 (2011) [4:54]
Atto 2 (2011) [9:03]
Atto 3 (2011) [8:56]
Atto 4 (2011) [4:42]
Atto 5 (2011) [10:58]
Osvaldo Coluccino (various acoustic objects)
rec. Milan area, Italy, February-May 2011. DDD

The only notes for this release by avant-garde English label Another Timbre state that "Atto uses various acoustic objects but no musical instruments or electronic manipulation". In fact, there are not only no instruments, there are no melodies, no harmonies, no real rhythms, no perceptible structures. It is somewhat bizarre, therefore, to find this disc categorised by the Discogs website under jazz and reviewed by at least one online jazz magazine! Its critic comes to the conclusion that Atto "sits at the overlaps between ambient, EAI, improv and modern composition and should find favor with devotees of any of those musics. It is music that will stand the test of time and be richly rewarding for years to come."
None of that could be further from the truth. For one thing, this is not music by any sensible definition. Sound art, objet trouvé work, musique concrète: these are all labels that might apply to varying degrees - but not music. For another thing, only those fascinated by extreme compositional experimentalism - John Cage at his strangest, say - are going to find rewards in Osvaldo Coluccino's Atto. Like a true post-modernist, Coluccino will not be bothered by this. His previous recordings (of his 'string quartets', for example - see review) make absolutely no attempt to follow any populist route towards fame and fortune.
Though no notes or indeed booklet come with the arty-looking digipak case, Another Timbre's website does provide detailed background to the recording in the form of an interview - albeit rather heavy-going in places - with Coluccino here.
One way to approach Atto is by way of a guess-the-object exercise: what items is Coluccino using to make sounds with? At times he seems to be blowing across a bottle top, rattling a saucepan lid or scrunching some gravel, but the bathroom with a chunk of polystyrene? Are those guinea-pigs in an air-duct? Is one of Malcolm Arnold's old industrial floor polishers being reassembled and tested? Is he frying some bacon now?
According to Coluccino, however, answers should be hard to come by, because "the acoustic sounds that occur are neither the result of musical instruments, nor recognisable sounds that can be associated with a particular object - as happens in Musique Concrète and with field recordings. I wanted to escape completely from the limitations imposed by the cages of our cultural habits, and to look for independence from existing methods. For me the situation is, both as a composer and a listener, a vivid, natural and necessary situation; it is the bread of our time and yet classical at the same time, not just a provocative gimmick to attract attention."
As it happens, Coluccino, rather than escaping from any cultural cages, may arguably succeed only in locking himself into one. This is a line of creative activity he wishes to follow up, but where can it lead? With the five 'Acts' pretty self-similar, the overall effect of this work in lay terms lies somewhere between 'people moving in next door' and 'creepy film soundtrack': rustling, whooshing, scraping, fiddling, rattling, hissing and a host of other semi-familiar, semi-exotic sounds, mainly small with the odd clatter or rumble, consolidated into artefacts or, perhaps, into a modern art 'installation'. For Atto is an artwork: though there is no orthodox sense of structure or progression, that does not mean the noises are randomly thrown together. In fact, Coluccino has assembled his found sounds rigorously, to keep textures translucent and preserve a sense of spatiality. In a touch worthy of John Cage - an Another Timbre catalogue regular, by the way - background traffic is very faintly audible in some quiet passages. Audio quality is nonetheless excellent, as is to be expected: Coluccino recorded and then mixed the sounds himself.
Intrepid sound-explorers can buy this disc from the label's website or at one or two other outlets online. For the very low running time it does not come particularly cheap, but for this kind of heterodox aural experience 39 minutes feels about right.
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