Romitelli: An Index of Metals

On Wednesday 8 October we perform the London premiere of Fausto Romitelli‘s extraordinary video opera An Index of Metals at Southbank Centre. Here’s what Romitelli himself wrote about his piece shortly before his tragic death aged 41.

My compositions take as their starting point the idea that sound is a matter that can be worked. The grain, thickness, porosity, density, brilliance and elasticity are the main aspects of these sound sculptures resulting from amplification and electro acoustic treatment as well as simple instrumental writing. After Professor Bad Trip, where the instrumental harmonies were perceived as through a veil of mescaline ­ satured, distorted, twisted and liquefied ­ I found myself compelled to follow these experiments through to the limits of perception by projecting sound as though it were light, reaching the extreme hallucination whereby sound is seen.

The aim of Index of Metals is to turn the secular form of opera into an experience of total perception, plunging the spectator into an incandescent matter that is both luminous and sonorous, a magma of flowing sounds, shapes and colours, with no narrative but that of hypnosis, possession and trance. It is a lay ritual, rather like the light shows of 1960s or today’s rave parties in which space, having assumed a solid form through the volume of sound and visual saturation appears to twist into a thousand anamorphoses. Rather than calling on our analytical ability, like most contemporary music, An Index of Metals aims to take possession of the body with its over exposition of senses and pleasure.

An Index of Metals is thus not simply another attempt to the new operatic genre by adding a visual element to the production, nor is it a strictly multi-media approach in which each artist contributes to a common narrative. It is, rather, a completely new concept in which sound and light become part of a single through process, like music and video, where timbre and images are used as elements of a single continuum subjected to the same computer transformations. The story is that of the fusion of perception, the absence of landmarks, the henceforth limitless body in the furnace of a ritual mass of sound.

Even the original libretto by Kenka Lekovich is transformed by being translated from one language to another. The music for soprano and eleven amplified instruments develops an impure timbre through counterpoint with the colourful interference in the video by Paolo Pachini and Leonardo Romoli. Three autonomous films, projected on three screens, take up all the visual space, while the sound is projected as patches of light. Both music and image use the same physical characteristics, including the irisation, corrosion, plastic deformation, rupture, incandescence and solarisation of metallic surfaces, thus revealing their inner violence and even murderous tendencies.

Composing sound visually and filming images acoustically, before subjecting both to the sale computer transformation, has meant a certain period of development in order to unify the tools for capturing and manipulating elements of both worlds. The experimental and production stages of the electro acoustic and video handling of the matter were undertaken in collaboration with a small group of artists and technicians working at the Centre du Fresnoy, composed of Leonardo Romoli (video), Paolo Pachini (computer music, video and executive production), Francesco Giomi (computer music) and Fausto Romitelli (composer). The same group is responsible for the spatial aspects of the work and they direct the video, sound and lighting during the performance.

An Index of Metals presents a violent, abstract narrative, denuded of all operatic artifice, providing an initiation rite of immersion and a trance of light and sound.

© Fausto Romitelli

Reprinted courtesy of Casa Ricordi Srl

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