Mani. Mono requires, in addition to the instrument, a rectangular metal plate positioned horizontally about a meter above the ground, with which the instrument’s spring may make contact. Figure out the action: above is the spring drum, a resonating thunder, the sound source; below is the metal plate, a surface that receives and reflects. Between them, the possibility of a contact: the player with his hands, his body, and his voice makes it possible for complementary elements to meet, and for different dimensions too – soil and water.
Mono is the name of an ancient lake sacred to Native Americans, which is located about 2,000 meters above sea level on the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Mono Lake is an ecosystem that provides a habitat to numerous populations of migrating birds. In recent days, eerie calcareous concretions that had stayed submerged for long time are now visible, as the depth of its basin keeps decreasing. The haunting landscape has been witness to an ancestral time, simultaneously human and pre-human. Ancestral like Billone’s sound, which creates its own cavern where unexpected resonances arise, where the sound turns on and off. Or is it perhaps our own ears that find the limits of perceiving, of what is and what is not?
In fact, with Mono our hearing is flooded by a constellation of new sounds, and we are just spellbound by their quantity and heterogeneity. Had we not known that the piece was written for one player and one instrument, the variety of timbres, attacks, harmonics, rhythms and resonances would rather suggest the presence of multiple sound sources. There is only one instrument (mono) but several divergent shadows, sound reflections precisely determined in Billone’s writing. How is it possible for one instrument, and one hand, to give rise to such sonic energy? From the smallest gesture, a whole universe is generated. From the slightest contact between different substances (instrument-plate-skin-hands-bones-voice) arises a chance to vibrate cavities that are ready to receive and reflect the sound.
In each of the five pieces for percussion, the performer takes a leading role becoming a resonating instrument himself. His chest resonates when hit by the fist (Mani. Mono, Mani. De Leonardis), or through the gong hanging over it (Mani. Matta). Sometimes it is the hand that becomes the resonant instrument and the medium of the vibrations propagating from the suspensions to the player’s whole body (Mani. De Leonardis). A distinctive feature of Billone’s music is the exceptional creative energy able to multiply the sound source. From a singularity (one instrument), it becomes plural when it meets with the player’s resonant body and his principal and vital instruments, without which he couldn’t live or communicate – that is, hands and mouth. Is the sound within us, or outside us? Billone’s questions are about this borderline space, about the manifestation of a vibrating essence (Sound) that flows around, inside, outside, and throughout the bodies. (1)
Tom De Cock explains the different difficulties that you as a performer will encounter when you approach the percussion repertoire of Pierluigi Billone. He also explains his solutions to tackle these problems.