At the centre of my composing lies the idea of considering sound as a material into which one plunges in order to forge its physical and perceptive characteristics: grain, thickness, porosity, luminosity, density and elasticity. Hence it is sculpture of sound, instrumental synthesis, anamorphosis, transformation of the spectral morphology, and a constant drift towards unsustainable densities, distorsions and interferences, thanks also to the assistance of electro-acoustic technologies. And increasing importance is given to the sonorities of non-academic derivation and to the sullied, violent sound of a prevalently metallic origin of certain rock and techno music.
Born in Gorizia on 1 February 1963, Fausto Romitelli graduated in composition at the Conservatorio “Giuseppe Verdi” of Milan and subsequently went on to take part in advanced courses at the Accademia Chigiana of Siena and the Scuola Civica of Milan. In 1991 he moved to Paris to study the new technologies at the “Cursus d’Informatique Musicale” of Ircam, with which he also collaborated as “compositeur en recherche” from 1993 to 1995.
Although his attention was directed to the principal European musical experiences (György Ligeti and Giacinto Scelsi, in particular), his main inspiration was drawn from French spectral music, in particular Hugues Dufourt and Gérard Grisey, to whom he dedicated the second piece of the cycle Domeniche alla periferia dell’Impero (1995-96, 2000). In EnTrance (1995-96) his writing encompasses the study of the voice, using a mantra from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: the resulting music is extremely compact, with a hypnotic and ritualistic flow, in which the sound, “like material to be forged”, is matched by a taste for technology and the search for new acoustic horizons.
Romitelli also pursued his personal research outside the cultured avant-garde, so his music also accommodates an expressive content of great eloquence and a violent sonic impact of considerable formal complexity. These qualities are featured in one of his most significant compositions: the trilogy Professor Bad Trip (1998-2000), based on a reading of the works written by Henri Michaux under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. In it, along with his taste for the deformed and the artificial, Romitelli added the sonic research of rock, with an electro-acoustic treatment of sound and instrumental gestures. As in Blood on the floor, Painting 1986 (2000), which emphasizes the violent and destructive aspect of the projection of reality onto fiction, the trilogy is also openly inspired by the work of Francis Bacon, particularly the series of Three Studies for Self-Portrait.
With Flowing down too slow (2001), commissioned by Art Zoyd and Musiques Nouvelles, the compositional landscape of Romitelli’s musical writing is enriched by sonic suggestions borrowed from the experiences of artists like Aphex Twin, DJ Spooky and Scanner, though there is always a dominance of the hypnotic and ritualistic aspect, together with his taste for the dissimilar and the artificial.
As for his interest in the social and artistic aspects of the contemporary world, and in particular in the means and processes of mass communication, this spawned works like Dead City Radio. Audiodrome (2003), the essence of which is encompassed in the Canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan’s book The Medium is the Message. “Perception of the world is created by the channels of transmission: what we see and hear is not simply reproduced, but elaborated and recreated by an electronic medium that overlays and replaces the real experience” (Romitelli). Dead City Radio interprets the nightmare relationship between perception and technology and reflects on the techniques of production and reproduction of the electronic channels.
In his last work, An Index of Metals (2003), the musical experimentation and literary suggestions that accompanied his real-surreal approach to compositional work were fulfilled in a grand abstract narration. Based on the “desire to create a total perceptive experience, uniting with the musical aspect its visual double to immerse the spectator in an incandescent, enveloping material”, this work was conceived by Romitelli as “an initiatory celebration of the metamorphosis and fusion of matter, a light show, in which an extension of the perception of the self beyond the physical limits of the body is provoked by means of techniques of transference and fusion in an alien material. It is a path towards perceptive saturation and hypnosis, one of total alteration of the habitual sensorial parameters.”
After a series of successes at various international competitions, at Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Graz, Milan, Stockholm and Siena (first prize at the Casella in 1989), Romitelli’s music was routinely played at the main international concert venues. At festivals ranging from the Festival Musica of Strasbourg, the Festival Présences of Radio France and the Ars Musica of Brussels to the Saisons of the Ircam-Intercontemporain, the Venice Biennale, and the Festival Milano Musica, his works were performed by ensembles and orchestras that included Ictus, L’Itinéraire, Court-Circuit, Intercontemporain, Musiques Nouvelles, ensemble recherche, Alter Ego, the RAI National Symphony Orchestra and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, with commissions from institutions such as the French Ministry of Culture (Acid Dreams & Spanish Queens and Professor Bad Trip: Lesson II), Musiques Nouvelles (Professor Bad Trip: Lesson I), Ictus (Professor Bad Trip: Lesson III), la Musique et les Arts (Mediterraneo), Radio France (Cupio Dissolvi), Ircam (EnTrance), the Gulbenkian Foundation (The Nameless City), Milano Musica (The Poppy in the Cloud), L’Itinéraire (Blood on the Floor, Painting 1986) and the Royaumont Foundation (Lost and An Index of Metals).
Struck down by a fatal illness, Fausto Romitelli died in Milan on 27 June 2004 at the age of 41.
(translated by Hugh Ward-Perkins)