☼ Pietro Grossi - Musicautomatica LP [December 2008 re-post]
Minimalist before the Minimalists, pioneer of Computer Music, founder of the Studio of Phonology of Florence, visual artist and hacker ahead of the time... this was Pietro Grossi, a larger-than-life Italian composer who questioned the concept of musical authorship, the idea of personal artistic expression: "A piece is not only a 'work' (of art), but also one of the many 'works' one can freely transform. Everything is temporary, everything can change at any time. Ideas are not personal anymore, they are opened to every solution, everybody could use them." Pietro Grossi was a cellist and composer, born in Venice in 1917. From 1967 until his death, he experimented with digital media: presenting computer music software at the Venice Biennale in 1970 and in the same year organising one of the first experiments in telematic performance through a telephone line between Rimini and Pisa. By invitation of lannis Xenakis, he presented another telematic concert between Pisa and Paris in 1974. Deeply opposed to entrenched ideas of musical virtuosity, copyright ownership and artisanship, he developed software that produced open, unfinished compositions, then distributed these around the world "to be used for various compositional purposes." As soundscape artist Albert Mayr writes in his sleevenotes to Battimenti: "Obviously his intentions were misunderstood and ridiculed (the golden age of plunderphonics was still far away)." His last works were electronically produced and individually unique books derived from his Homeport project of automated visual processes. Progetto 2-3 was composed in 1961 at RAl's Studio of Musical Phonology, Milan. His first electronic composition, it explores combinatorial calculations to produce a kind of endless music that would never repeat itself. In fact, Grossi came to realise that his calculations were going in the other direction, though this error doesn't detract from the fascination of the music or the seeding of future possibilities. Again, the basic sounds of sinusoidal waves are relatively pure and regular, though a slightly tremulous quality gives them a character somewhere between telephone dial tones and a medieval portative organ. Collage, from 1969, in a denser and more hectic piece of complex textures that explores the computer's capacity to produce endless variations of source material. Anticipating the file sharing, remixing and anonymity now familiar within the electronica scene, Grossi felt that anybody should feel free to develop these materials as they wished, and they were presented as works by The Studio, rather than under his own name. The third place, Unicum, was composed in 1985, though there are few clues to place it within the timeline of Grossiís electronic music career. In 1969 he had designed one of the first interactive computer systems, the DCMP, and as a later development, created Unicum on the TAU 2, a polyphonic, polytimbral audio terminal controlled by an IBM mainframe computer. Grossi was clearly more interested in the process of programming endless automatic music than in any metaphorical or sonic elaboration. Nevertheless, there's a weird hypnotic beauty to this work, a fascination that grows with immersion in the brief bursts of energy, frequency swoops and beat frequencies that wriggle and twist within its very limited range. Limited to 300 pieces.