Dario Buccino - Corpo Nostro [Extreme - 2009]
Corpo Nostro introduces us to Dario Buccino, a composer based in Milan whose work appears to centre on the use of suspended steel sheets, occasionally accompanied by voice, or the odd instrument, and reveals the bases behind Sistema HN, his unique approach to composition applicable to any instrument. The package offers both a CD of a piece completed in 2007 “for steel sheets, voices and plasterboard walls” and a DVD that, in addition to footage from his performances, features a 47 minute, self-directed documentary, providing much-needed context into his intentions and approach.
Through fly-on-the-wall coverage of Buccino in workshop settings getting what he wants from other musicians (and occasional snippets of interviews with some of them), the documentary reveals Sistema HN as a compositional system completely unconcerned with notes and its ensuing harmonies and melodies. Rather, Buccino is interested in extremes and the dynamics involved in reaching them – he asks his performers to play on the cusp of inaudibility and elsewhere at full strength – and takes them through his way of scoring that instead of instructing what to play it merely indicates how to play through a series of simple symbols that carry gestural codes. As one of the talking heads indicates, this produces a music that is ‘bodily’ in intent. And while the system can be applied to any instrument, such a physical intent could wish for no better instrument than a steel sheet. This is demonstrated throughout numerous clips of Buccino on stage with back to the audience facing his suspended steel sheet that reflects his every move as he travels from gentle nudging to frenetic pummelling, snuffling, grunting and even licking the sheet along the way.
Curiously, while rich in visual metaphors – the artist stares into himself as his mirrored percussive movements of anguish turn to joy (or vice versa) – the performances on the DVD don’t always help its audience to immerse themselves in the actual sounds. Though intriguing and entertaining to watch the charismatic Buccino confidently assert his atonal intentions in front of other professionals – particularly the bit where he explains the importance for a performer to slobber heavily while playing his wind instrument – the films constantly remind us that what he are hearing, for the most part, is the bashing of steel sheets: a sound rich enough in dynamic morphologies but one that can become exhausted if left unaccompanied for long.
Such soloing is also centre stage on the CD, but without the images the sounds are surprisingly more dramatic. Divorced of the dance-like theatrics that produces it (despite retaining the knowledge) Buccino’s sounds are free to become associated with storms and tidal energies, swarms of bees or soaring aeroplanes, erupting volcanoes and the internalised sounds of the circulatory system. Although the most affecting moments are still the rare instances where the recording allows layers of different sounds into the same moment, initially experienced half way through the second track where a smooth layer of light, steely reverberations rolls underneath muted hits and taught breaths, like someone struggling to dig an escape tunnel during trench warfare.
Despite the DVD providing a rare level of contextual awareness and intriguing insight into some of Buccino’s eccentric experiments, and the CD providing the results, you’re still likely to be left with questions, but you won’t be the only one – as one of the musicians amusingly confesses at the end of the documentary: “…he’s either mad or a genius. I still don’t have an answer! I don’t know which one he is… Maybe both.”Russell Cuzner