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In Music

Crouton issues Bosetti's compelling "Her Name"

Alessandro Bosetti, born in Milan in 1973, is a composer, a saxophonist and a sound artist. As his latest disc -- or one of them -- "Her Name," issued in a limited edition by Milwaukee's Crouton Music, shows, he's also fascinated by the spoken word.

Although even Bosetti isn't sure whether or not to call his works "songs" -- I'd argue yes -- the seven works on "Her Name" are some of the most accessible sound art pieces around and that's thanks in part to Bosetti's penchant for verbage.

Often, avant garde music is difficult for mainstream listeners who seek something to latch onto. The pieces here are in English, Italian and other languages and provide a "hook" for the uninitiated, but the music -- with its tantalizing forays into free jazz (as on "Mask") -- is as evocative, wide-ranging and open-minded as one expects from a talented sound artist.

We caught Bosetti -- who has spent much of recent years outside Italy -- at "home" in Milan just before leaving for a short European tour.

OMC: I read that you are very interested in languages, but before I saw that, I listened to "Her Name" and I was struck by the use of languages: English and Italian. Are many of your works -- such as the ones on "Her Name" -- born out of the texts and then set to music? That is, does the language sometimes inspire you before you have the music?

AB: Most of what I do is based on the musicality of spoken language. I love to listen to it and also to listen to languages that I don't understand. "Idiot," for example, is based on a one to one transcription of a shortwave radio broadcast where I cannot understand which language is spoken and what is said. I transcribed it as precisely as I could. What I believed I understood and what came out is a language that mostly does not make any sense. I like misunderstandings. Most of the times, but not all the time, actually...

I've been working with all sorts of languages; it's really an obsession. I just completed a project of 12 portraits of languages I don't understand -- Dogon, Mandarin, Tsalagi/Cherokee, El Silbo, Basque... -- called "Zwoelfzungen" that means "Twelvetongues."

Since I often carried out projects with a strong conceptual connotation like "African feedback" or "il fiore della bocca" at some point I decided to change and to work with the same type of materials or sensibility but on a "no concept" or "hidden concepts" album and repertoire and that's what came out for "Her Name" and has been the core of my live performances in the past two years. It's been really exciting to play those pieces literally dozens of times, see them transforming slightly or immensely and my appetite and energy going up and down.

OMC: "Her Name" is a very "international" project, with musicians from many countries and recorded in studios in five cities around the world and released by a Milwaukee label. Is that common in your work? Do you travel a lot to collaborate or do you more often stay at home and work with Italian musicians?

AB: Neither. I've being living in Berlin for about six years and took part in several exciting musical adventures there. Eventually I concentrated only on my own projects and that left little time for collaborations. I've been increasingly traveling in recent years both for touring and for "field work"-based projects and most of the time alone, apart some extensive tours with Audrey Chen in recent months.

Last year was very intense, living and traveling in the U.S., Europe, Asia and West Africa. Now I'm touching base in Italy for a while, (where) I'm a guest of an art space and the label "Die Schachtel." We produced an exhibition, an art multiple edition and a new CD coming out today or tomorrow all called "Exposé." It's kind of weird to be back as a guest in my hometown after such a long time. I'll keep moving again; in May I'm going to Baltimore and working to grow some roots there since the woman I love is there.

I'm not planning to live there but to be in Baltimore and try to come back often to Europe.

OMC: What is the situation like in Italy these days for your art? Is there an interested audience and are there venues and the like to support what you do?

AB: There's for sure a growing interest. Quoting (jazz pianist) Mal Waldron it's kind of a place where people don't really look at you if you buy cigarettes in the same supermarket (as them), so since I've been away some people changed attitude towards me.

Italy is harder in terms of funding and places to play than let's say Germany or the Netherlands, but there are a lot of active and vibrating scenes over here. But I must admit there's lots of stuff I don't know, these last few months I've met lots of new people.

Italy seems pretty much a land of curtains to me, there's always something hidden behind something else that's again hidden behind something else, similar to Japan in that extent. Also, a country deeply influenced by historicism, so that you find yourself sharing the scene with dead people very often.

Avant-garde fans are often as interested in you as in Charlotte Moorman (American musician and performance artist who died in 1991) or Alighiero Boetti (Italian "arte povera" artist who died in 1994) and that may sound depressing at a first sight, but it could also be really exciting, giving more depth to everything.

There are some excellent archive labels like Algha Marghen or Elica or labels like Die Schachtel or Fringes, doing both archive and new proposals. Sometimes you are 33 years old, sometimes you are 80, sometimes you are 300 years old, doesn't matter, that's the kind of feeling it gives you.

OMC: How did you connect with Crouton here in Milwaukee?

AB: How did I? I forget. I liked Crouton, had a long correspondence with Jon (Mueller); we never met actually! I have no idea what he looks like. Is he tall? Short? Thin? Round? I should Google image him.

When he's in Italy I'm for sure in Milwaukee and when I'm here he's probably home. We hide from each other like night creatures. Once I dreamt of him wearing big boots and a Napoleon-like hat. I actually don't really know how old is he. Maybe very old or still dealing with adolescence?

It can happen that you get to release an album and then eventually discover that the label is run by a group of 12-year-old aficionados who made money selling weapons on eBay and are now needing to invest in some clean activity to regain face in front of their parents and teachers.

OMC: Will you work with Jon and Crouton again?

AB: Sure, why not! If he's still going to pay me loads of money like for "Her Name" I'm for sure interested in going on. But for now I don't feel like working. I need holidays, ice creams, sun and seafood. I'm lazy at the moment.

OMC: I know you are heading out on a short European tour, but are you coming to Milwaukee to perform anytime soon? We have ice cream.

AB: I will, I will... the beach first though. Last time I was in Milwaukee -- where I performed at Hotcakes, a really cool space, hi Mike! -- it was very cold and snowy.

OMC: Do you have other projects that you are working on right now? Can you tell us about them?

AB: I'm working on new songs -- it's kind of odd to call them you really think those are "songs"? -- continuing the work of "Her Name", preparing a new radio piece for the German national radio on Gesualdo da Venosa madrigals, having them re-sung by street people in Naples and then rearranged by me. I've got to learn a lot of those.

Finishing a series of composition also for German national radio on the feeling of objects -- my first "voiceless" project in a while -- finishing the "African Feedback" book with Brandon LaBelle's Errantbodies Press and then go to the beach. Maybe in Palau, Sardinia.

You know the prepared guitarist Paolo Angeli? He's an incredible musician from Palau. His family always has some sort of a tent in the middle of the beach over there. I wish I could just go there, feel my feet digging in the hot sand, walking and sweating in my city person clothes, I'm sure they're going to be there reading a paper in the shade. Hi Paolo!


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