Paragone d'Archi

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On the contrary, Piranesi’s studies as an architect taught him to reflect
thoroughly and continuously in terms of balance and weight,
of blocks and of mortar.(1)
When facing  “Paragone d'Archi” with its double-entendre title (‘archi’ in Italian means ‘bows’ as in those used to play string and, also, ‘arches’ as in the architectural structure) and its implicit materials and subject matter – one of the threads holding these elements together is explicitly manifest in the choice of track-titles and in the combination of the images of the artwork – it is quite impossible to give up opening and closing these notes by quoting a few lines of Marguerite Yourcenar's meditations on the great engraver and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi.
However, both because of an assonance of words and because of its function as a source of inspiration, it is impossible not to evoke the discussion which saw the involvement of the most important artists and thinkers of the Renaissance and spread through the major courts and artistic centers of Europe, known as the “Paragone delle arti” (Paragon of the arts). A theme still very much alive in this age where multimediality imposes a widespread and necessary examination of the relationship between the different arts and, therefore, of their relative maturity and value.
And, when facing this work whose structural center is reflected in space-time – the ‘design’ of reality and the ‘design’ of esthetic inspiration – and which gains strength along the lines of a robust and multifaceted conception of sound, one cannot avoid comparing Pastor's violin and Hug's viola, just as if they were two different Arts. The terms for this comparison do not reside in defining them with a major or minor sign, but rather under the sign of their own and reciprocal exponentiality.
A duo is and remains by definition a relationship which is practiced within the independence of the two parts, especially if the word ‘paragon’ comes into play. This premise implies that a voyage will take place whose structure is cognitive, emotional, constructive, evocative. Therefore, it becomes an itinerary. Not to be understood as a series of preordained stops, but as something shared and/or antithetical, something continuous/contiguous, and directly connected to a possible element which has already been accomplished.
Something close to experimentation, but not when the meaning of the term is reduced to an act implying a simple improvisational element. Fieldwork, yes, but not impromptu improvisation, since a preceding process of study and results already exists which does not, however, contaminate the work’s originality beforehand. A non-predetermined process, something which in the act of taking shape, and in the very nature of its taking shape, underlies an itinerary. All this without giving up its capacity, theoretically, of re-proposing itself and assuming another thousand different shapes. As a sufficiently open work, not the fruit of a passing moment of delirium.
Lines which are straight or curved, soft or spiky, are drawn by the instruments and occupy space by expanding or suffocating – not in a negative way – the music itself intended as a spatial manifestation. In construction, of construction, construction of music: indicating the specific meaning of the term but also, in a reflexive way, music building itself. It is space and builds space. It is space and becomes part of space. Poetic, musical, sound space. Within and throughout a spectrum of geographies and geometries from which emerge twilights and shadows, cracks and oscillations, incisions and decisions.
Those of Pastor's: a bold instrumental transposition/transfiguration, by now well known to European ears as to those across the ocean. A violin whose sound production is akin to that of wind instruments – especially close to sax, trumpet and flute. Its breath moves inhaling and exhaling a sort of undefinable interior voice; this is also thanks to the set up of the amplifying system, capable of capturing minimum, almost imperceptible sounds, and to the intervention on different physical planes of the instrument, to the extent of re-stringing it with rigid electric guitar strings. It is meaningful, at this stage, to quote Pastor's own writings: ‘The string as tube’ – a chapter title in his treatise “Violinjazz”(2) – and ‘The bow as reed’ – reasserted in conversations and interviews about and around music.(3)
Those of Hug's: multi-perceptible shades and refractions of a spectrum of sound and a reflection of sounds reside in her absolutely personal soft bow technique, created and perfected over the years through the use of a proper ‘collection’ of unique bows; the interpenetration of voice and viola: vocal emission (the most human of sounds) and instrumental emission adhere and penetrate one another, generating a vast range of hybrid sounds, an unprecedented sound combination articulated by a specific language stemming from it and within it; lastly, her continuous scientific and image laden confrontation with electronics' trajectories  and principles: electronic sounds from past experience are renewed by Hug through and within the coexistence of the infinite acoustic and ‘natural’ possibilities of voice and instrument.(4)
Those of Pastor's and Hug's: a ‘beyond’ in the potential of ‘sound nature and technique’. A beyond of musical thought. An unprecedented configuration of the relationship between musical moment and place, outlining a new form of the whole and of the minimal distances between the sections and the angles, the margins and perspectives of a sound design in n dimensions.
In “Paragone d'Archi” we might speak of the passing of space and the traveling of time – the concept of passing is usually applied to time, although there is, of course, a passing of things, but usually it is time that passes. Here time and space lose their traditional coordinates, not as in Einstein's relativity theory, but by poetically/musically/ architecturally becoming an ultra dimension. To the flowing of a mythical dimension of time related to a conception of time and space which becomes time going beyond itself and space going beyond itself and beyond their own transcendence. All this meant in a musical dimension, rather than one of content, an element intimately connected to music and deeply rooted in it.
It seems in particular that the passion for building, repressed
in this man limited throughout his career to the two dimensions
of a sheet of copper, rendered him particularly apt at rediscovering
in a ruined monument the energy which originally raised it
from the ground.(5)
Erika Dagnino

Translation Lee Colbert

1 M. Yourcenar, The Dark Brain of Piranesi translated by Richard Howard in collaboration with the author in The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays, Farrara, Strauss, Giroux, Inc., New York, 1984.
2 S. Pastor ViolinJazz, analisi degli aspetti esecutivi e tecnico-interpretativi, Casa Musicale Eco, Monza, 2008.
3 “I wrote this sentence in my treatise 'Violinjazz' (Ed. Casa Musicale Eco) in order to emphasize some elements which are fundamentals of my playing style. First, the history of jazz, which remains the major point of reference in my music, develops mainly through the use of wind instruments rather than through bowed strings, and this is the reason I believe one must adapt the instrument to a language which is quite hostile to strings and bows. Second, the sentence introduced a chapter regarding forced harmonics which I personally discovered researching a sound similar to that of the highest register of the saxophone (the tenor, in particular). As with the sax, where the column of air may split in order to form harmonics, also the string of the violin may behave in the same fashion. If the string is the tube, then I would say the bow is the element which initiates vibration which is then transmitted to the tube. In the sax, this is the function of the reed. I have tried, and continue to try, to transform my bow into a reed, in order to employ a better “pronunciation” in a language which, as a violinist, I've always moved in as a foreigner.” S. Pastor in La percezione/decifrazione dell'evento musicale, E. Dagnino, ED. Casa musicale Eco, Monza (Italy), 2009.
4 See C. Hug, Writings and Thoughts about Bows, Acoustic Electronics, Hybrid instruments (Of Voice and Viola), Micro-tone Structure in Music, The Son-Icons at
5 M. Yourcenar, The Dark Brain of Piranesi translated by Richard Howard in collaboration with the     author in The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays, Farrara, Strauss, Giroux, Inc., New York, 1984.