Mauri's blog, and repository of texts published elsewhere, jokes, lists and considerations on life, music, art and worldly affairs.

So 2017 has been a good year after all. The latest album of my trio Fiium Shaarrk, “We Are Astonishingly Lifelike” was chosen by Gilles Peterson as one of the best 50 in his “Essential Jazz and Beyond Records of 2017” chart, and BBC3’s Late junction put it among their best 12 albums of the year! I was also creatively involved in the making of Collocutor’s “The Search”, which has made quite some noise in its wake this year, and it’s probably going to carry on being talked about for another good while. 2017 was also the year when I consolidated and started gigging my solo percussion act, and in the Summer I’ve recorded an album, which I am counting on releasing in 2018. Berlin has been good with me too… I have started some new stuff there this year, which you will hopefully hear about soon. I've just started a Facebook page for my solo percussion project, Like it if you please, for the obvious reasons. I solemnly promise I'm not going to post pics of me smiling like a fool with my gear set up behind me in some studio where I’m working, nor of the grandeur of an empty theatre where I’m about to play. No need to mention cats and meals, of course; while political and philosophical conversations will be, as always, conducted strictly in person, when we meet, in bars, squares, houses. And we will meet; many of us.


Few suggestions for 2018:

Be agnostic. Question everything. Program your reading, and read a lot. Work hard. Be weird. Learn a meditation technique, any one. Don’t buy anything for Christmas. Don’t abbreviate, and use your punctuation impeccably. Maintain a healthy suspiciousness towards neologisms. Be Love.

FIIUM SHAARRK We Are Astonishingly Lifelike Released on March 10, 2017 - Not Applicable, NOT036 - Buy HERE

Quite few stories in need of being told about this album; many of which will not find due space in the fast-paced realm of Instagram stories, tweets and Facebook posts. They will all of course appear on the various social media, as isolated and short-lived bursts, and for all these reasons I have decided to set up this permanent table on my blog.

First thing first, Fiium Shaarrk are:

Isambard Khroustaliov, on computer, Maurizio Ravalico, on percussion, Rudi Fischerlehner, on drumkit.

So that we all know.

  • The genesis of the cover, and how we arrived at defining all the imagery related to the album, is too lengthy to be even told here, and I'm going to leave it to a keen interviewer. However, the photo was taken by one of my dearest friends, Benni Parlante, and the whole process was inextricably linked to my hometown, Trieste. The opulently upholstered dining room is one of the spaces of the Museo Revoltella, a building donated to the town in the 19th century by the Barone Revoltella, a local tradesman and patron of the arts, who also left an unrivalled art collection and a considerable sum of money to upkeep the building and expand the collection for centuries to come. We were very lucky to be granted access to the building for two days, and have virtually unlimited use of the various areas. Few hundred photos were taken before choosing the final two, and we can't thank enough Betty Apollonio, for facilitating the whole process.

  • The horse heads are the invaluable contribution of Alessandro Starc, one of the set designers of Trieste's Teatro Verdi, and are, incidentally, sawn off from a production leftover life-size polystyrene replica of the quadriga statue on top of the Branderburger Tor, in Berlin; hometown of the Fiium.

  • Various models have taken turns wearing suits and masks during the mid July photoshoots: Federico Poillucci, Andrea Bolle, Marco Parlante, myself; and Yara Apollonio was there all the time to help keeping everything tidy.

  • The title of the album is borrowed by kind permission from an artwork by the American artist Barbara Kruger, "We Are Astonishingly Lifelike / Help, I'm Locked Inside This Picture!". Yet another signal of how much this adventure belongs to Berlin was given when, after a short hunt, we discovered that miss Kruger is represented in Europe by the Berlin-based gallery Sprüth Magers. It was a pleasant visit, and we were delighted and flattered by hearing that Barbara liked the cover, and she was happy with us using her title.

  • Alessandro Petrussa and Tiziano Bole, from Little Paris Productions, have taken the whole iconography of the album cover (and the horse heads) and wrote a script, directed and produced a video for our opening track, Conundrums. Praise goes to them and to the whole Little Paris crew, for taking this initiative and expanding the mythology of the band. The video can be seen on Little Paris' Youtube channel. It is purely coincidental that on the video we made four years ago to accompany Wozzeck's Variations, one of our first album's tracks, the main characters are men in black suits, wearing dog masks.

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"Percussion music is revolution", John Cage was writing in 1939, when WRITING percussion music WAS revolution. The idea, as expressed in the article, is certainly out of context in present times, and I’m surely not claiming that other music and other instruments CANNOT be as efficient tools for a revolutionary act as percussion are; but none of it will ever confute that percussion music IS and WILL ALWAYS BE an ideal grounding terrain for any revolutionary agitation. Percussion is not one instrument; it’s a way of relating to the world, it’s an ever available aid to see known objects in a different way, to look at reality from a different angle, and therefore a tool for expanding one’s sense of self, of establishing a tangible unity with things outside of one’s body.

And like the voice of a singer, the natural disposition of a percussionist is always carried around; it doesn’t require anything else than one’s body, which makes it the ultimate statement of freedom.

Mind, of course I’m biased in saying that, and harmony probably does the same for a lot of people. For me it’s rhythm, metric, the alternation of tension and release in a persistent cycle; or the absence of it all for that matter: absence of metric recurrence, that or negation of a rhythmic grid, or the two combined. Or the mechanism of tension and release applied to a non-cyclical, non-repetitive rhythm construction. It’s all up to how familiar one is with any given language, how much that anchors you to a stable and reassuring relationship to reality.

As much as the methodical avoidance of a tonal centre possesses the power of leading us with firm hand to different planes of perception, so the familiar alternation of tension and release, when deliberately and diligently devoid of repetition and metric recurrence can liberate the mind from its known routes, and open the doors to dimensions not so firmly tied to space and time.

Rhythm, repetition, pulse, as much as harmony, bring us all together, they give us a concrete perception of what are the physical and mental features that we all share, thus increasing and encouraging mutual trust; love.

The absence of either, the systematic avoidance of root and repetition, drives us instead to the bottomless depth of our own selves, conversely expanding our sense of self. They’re both good; both are important tools for our evolution, and they do the same job, only from two opposite directions.

So that’s why both appear to be very effective instruments for trance and shamanic excursions, even in their more elemental forms.

But more than rhythm, and its antithesis, which are naturally a big part of what my life is made of, what interests me to an even greater degree is SOUND: it’s the exploration of forms through their vibration; the bond that you create between your body and an external object, and the air between the two and around them.

The seed of revolution lies always in the capacity of seeing and approaching reality from different perspectives, and percussion music will always connect you to something very basic of your nature, physicality and intelligence, rescuing you periodically and safely from whatever misleading logic the culture of your time might otherwise easily persuade you into.

For this reason, any rudimental use of strings and air-based sound-making objects fits naturally and lawfully into the category of percussion music.

Keep an eye on this post if you might care to, as I might articulate this idea in further details in the near future. What follows below, on the other hand, is looking like a pretty well settled declaration, and for the time being it is here to stay.

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Percussion music never really finishes anywhere. It expands to everything that exists. I think I've been a percussionist for longer than I've been a musician.

I remember as a kid, going around hitting everything, listening to things hissing, clanging, thumping, reverberating; imitating them, trying to be one of those things.

That's me; music came later, as a consequence of that. Take everything away from me; strip me bare of everything that defines me. That will still be there: I will still be a percussionist.

My solo percussion music, this particular act I'm working on, and all the various collaborations that stem out from it, is for me the completion of a cycle, the pragmatic expression of and the reconnection with something that predates my interest for music, and encapsulates probably the biggest mystery of my life. Music for me came as a mean for organising and give meaning to this seminal drive, which is that of relating to the world through sounds.

The discovery of the sound that can be drawn out of of things is an exercise that never ends; I think that putting an inanimate object into resonance, getting that body to produce a sound, is to bring it to a state as close to LIFE as that object will ever experience.

Sounds I hear around me interest me hardly less than those I create as a percussionist, and they invest an almost equal musical value in my mind.

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- For the record, here’s the complete John Cage quote (the exclamation mark on the title is mine…). It was originally published 1939, as an article for Dance Observer entitled Goal: New Music, New Dance

"Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm have too long been submissive to the restrictions of nineteenth century music. Today we are fighting for their emancipation. Tomorrow, with electronic music in our ears, we will hear freedom.

Instead of giving us new sounds, the ninetheenth-century composers have given us endless arrangements of the old sounds. We have turned on radios and always known when we were tuned to a symphony. The sound has always been the same, and there has not been even a hint of curiosity as to the possibilities of rhythm. For interesting rhythms we have listened to jazz.

At the present stage of revolution, a healthy lawlessness is warranted. Experiment must necessarily be carried on by hitting anything-tin pans, rice bowls, iron pipes-anything we can lay our hands on. Not only hitting, but rubbing, scraping, making sound in every possible way...What we can't do ourselves will be done by machines which we will invent.

The conscientious objector to modern music will, of course, attempt everything in the way of couterrevolution. Musicians will not admit that we are making music; they will say that we are interested in superficial effects, or, at most, are imitating Oriental or primitive music. New and original sounds will be labeled as “noise”. But our common answer to every criticism must be to continue working and listening, making music with its materials, sound and rhythm, disregarding the cumbersome, top-heavy structure of musical prohibitions."


It goes on for few more paragraphs, concentrating on the relationship between musical composition and dance. It’s not a long article; one day soon I’ll finish copying it. I’m sure John Cage wouldn’t mind.

We’ve gone a long way since then, and the “musical prohibitions” of 1939 are of course no longer in force; but it’s good to remind us where we come from.

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