Studio Visit #2 | Donato Epiro
The subject of your art is sound and, like the beginning of every interview in this column, I would like to start with this peculiarity. Can you explain your relationship with sound and how it has evolved throughout your life?
First of all, there is music, which has accompanied me from a young age, first with singing and then with classical flute studies. One of my music teachers at the time introduced me to listening to music that totally changed my path. So I approached this world in a different way and began, slowly building my independence, to explore it and take part in it in a more active and conscious way: this is where I consider my activity as a musician really began.
I moved from Taranto to Pisa and started playing in various bands, moving between experimentation and improvisation. The move from Puglia was an epiphany, it allowed me to unprovincialise some of the musical attitudes I had and to deepen my listening (I owe a lot to the historic Wide Records shop).
Back in Apulia, a decisive moment was working on Fiume Nero. With this album I confirmed my interest in a certain type of electronic music. If I had to decide, retrospectively, a work from which to tell my story, I would choose this one: a hyper-saturated supercontinent in which noise, industrial, library music and fantasy-biology coexist. Basically, for me, composing used to mean, and partly still does, choosing sounds and mixing them.
I find this point very interesting and would like to explore it further. What methodology do you apply to your creative process?
My first works had a very spontaneous spirit, there wasn't too much meditation behind them, the search for sound was very intuitive, although it was always an expression of a precise concept. That's how I composed "Fiume Nero" (Black River) and with this attitude I formed the duo Cannibal Movie, active from 2011 to 2015, born initially with the intention of recreating the atmosphere of Fiume Nero live. I played an old Italian organ, filtered and distorted, totally unrecognisable: I felt it almost like an extension of my voice.
The project worked well, the feedback from the audience was very positive, but I don't think it was ever really understood: the sound was so primitive and essential that you could see anything in it. The wild pathos that characterised this season was also visible in our way of being on stage and living the concerts, all very physical and street (being among people without a stage, playing with the makeshift instruments we could find, choosing absurd locations, 70s style...).
With Rubisco and the Origin of Birds (soon to be released on Holidays Records), my approach to sound became less and less impetuous. I acquired, if I may say so, a more conceptual and reflective methodology and felt the need to study the connections between sound and the natural environment, between biological mechanisms and compositional strategies.
A research that I still carry out today with a more 'musical' type of composition, working with acoustic instruments, synthesisers or in totally virtual environments. My way of presenting my works has also changed: before, concerts were very performative, the presence was important, but now I would like to gradually disappear, leaving space only for listening and sound.
Choose a work/event/residence that was significant for your journey.
All my works mark transition points in my life and my research, so I feel differently connected to each one. Composing takes me a long time, several years usually pass between one record and another, and I only release material that I am totally convinced of. Certainly Rubisco marked a decisive turning point in my work and for my idea of sound, which has become increasingly thinner and thinner to deal above all with the concept of absence. My absence from the work and the absence of sound.
This absence is precisely the space suspended between the possibility of being and its actual concretisation - rubisco is in fact that enzyme that catalyses the entry of carbon into organic molecules. I wanted to render, in these compositions, the state of tension between these two worlds, from the inorganic to the organic, from non-being to being. "L'Origine degli Uccelli (The Origin of the Birds) takes up Rubisco's discourse but pushes it in the opposite direction. Here it is not a question of crossing the threshold of the creation of life but of witnessing its disintegration. Catching it in the dust of sound, in the last breath sung by beings destined for extinction.
In addition to your work as a solo composer, you also have several collaborative projects. Would you like to tell us about any of them?
Most of the collaborations revolve around my curatorial work. The first edition of 'Ogni Altro Suono' (Every Other Sound), a project produced by Ramdom for which I was the artistic director, has just ended. It is a programme of 15 concerts held in the Baronale de Gualtieris palace in Castrignano de Greci, the headquarters of Kora - Centro del Contemporaneo, in which musicians who are developing their own discourse in the field of contemporary research have been invited to engage in a dialogue with local artists from the Salento folk tradition, particularly from Grecìa.
Then there is Canti Magnetici, the label of which I am founder and curator together with Gaspare Sammartano. Trifoglio is the artistic collective made up of me, the dancer and choreographer Marta Bellu and the light designer Andrea Sanson. We debuted in 2020 with our first work "Where Else? "and we are currently developing new ideas. And finally “Zone Umide”, un a project curated by Studioconcreto in collaboration with the Pietro Parenzan Museum of Marine Biology in Porto Cesareo and the University of Salento.
I would like to conclude this interview by asking you which book you have read recently that is in some way significant to your interests, and which is an artist who has in some way been a teacher for you.
The last book I read was 'We always lived in the castle' by Shirley Jackson. It is a horror text that, in a very gentle and slow way, takes the reader into the heart of a paranoid scenario. It's a web that twists and turns on you without you feeling it and, by the time you realise it, it has already immobilized you. I have a great interest in readings of this type and in particular in 'green' science fiction (Jeff Van DerMeer, Brian Catling, Karel Capek, Antoine Volodine, Alan Moore…), settings that continue to profoundly influence my music. As for my musician of reference, I have no doubt in naming Franco Battiato.
He accompanied me at various times in my musical training and in my life, introducing me to different genres and languages that I was then able to study in depth and absorb. Through Battiato I approached the freer and more creative forms of rock, and then discovered the avant-garde, minimalism, concrete music and electronics. Above all, I learned to recognise and appreciate the value of pop music, the depth and power that a song can have, and the importance of respect for the listener.
STUDIO VISIT presenta una serie di interviste ad artiste e artisti pugliesi o o la cui ricerca è connessa a tematiche legate al territorio.Filo rosso delle diverse conversazioni è l’esplorazione della materia: il suo utilizzo, le sue specifiche compositive e le osservazioni. L’obiettivo è di creare un dialogo a più voci, una mappatura dei materiali utilizzati nella pratica artistica contemporanea tesa tra la ricerca di nuove possibilità di concretizzazione e la riattivazione delle vecchie.
STUDIO VISIT presents a series of interviews with artists from Apulia or whose research is connected to themes linked to the territory.the red thread of the various conversations is the exploration of matter: its use, its compositional specifications and observations. The aim is to create a multi-voice dialogue, a mapping of the materials used in contemporary artistic practice, stretched between the search for new possibilities of materialisation and the reactivation of old ones.
STUDIO VISIT is a column edited by Elena Bray for the Salgem magazine.