There's nothing official about The Lift. No programme, no website, no phone number. One gets the address and all the relevant info by replying to an email. And yet, this atypical venue just off Via Padova, Milan's very own micro Brixton-Bricklane melting-pot, has played host to some of the most interesting electro-acoustic musicians around, including Valerio Tricoli and Robert Piotrowicz, Giuseppe Ielasi, Alessandro Bosetti, Ignatz Schick, mAt Pogo, Claudio Rocchetti, Andrea Belfi, Jim Sangtae, Mark Templeton, Melissa Moore, Dominique Vaccaro, Luciano Maggiore, Nicola Ratti, Kassel Jaeger, Aspirale, John Chantler, and Aspec(t).
Q: How did The Lift come about?
Attila Faravelli: I took the lead from a number of House-shows I attended during the years and decided to open up my tiny recording space for public performances. It used to be part of a much bigger studio where some big names in Italian pop have recorded, such as Tiziano Ferro. The original 130 square metres have now been converted into three flats. What is left is just a tiny portion, the annex, where tracks were usually mixed.
I named it the Lift as you get the same embarrassed intimacy between strangers you get in an elevator with an even heightened sense of silence. I was amazed myself when I realized, I could fit two rows of 10 seats. Some performances do suffer from the space constraints, but the level of concentration is unique. What I find intriguing is the way different performers have of inhabiting the space. For instance, when Christian Wolfharth and Enrico Malatesta played together, you were confronted with two opposite approaches to a drum-kit. Christian was far more controlled, he was almost still when playing, while Enrico’s movements were enveloping giving the impression he was embracing the drums.
Q: How is the program scheduled?
Attila Faravelli: There is no program as such. There can be four weekly performances in a row followed by a couple of months break. When I first started, I invited people I wanted to hear perform live and Fabio Carboni’s (from the record label Die Schachtel) helped with a mail out. Nowadays, it works more on a word of mouth basis, and I sometimes get contacted directly by musicians. It is all done informally. There’s no money involved, I only ask for a symbolic donation of 5 euros to cover the artist’s expenses. The response so far has been very good, and when a performance is heavily subscribed, I usually ask the musician to do more than one set per night to accommodate everybody. It is also a chance to meet people and, make friends and interact directly with the musicians.
Q: The acoustics are indeed optimal, where does your interest in sound stem from?
Attila Faravelli: Aside form being a musician myself, I’ve worked as a sound technician and producer.
I came from a musical family and have been exposed to music from a very early age. My uncle is musicologist and my father was a choral music conductor specializing in XVI and XVII century music. What has always fascinated me, though, was the way acoustic sound propagates and was generally suspicious of amplified sounds. I then started playing a number of instruments including the electric guitar and the flute. Still, at the end of the 90s, I found myself studying philosophy at collage. Alas, in Italy there are no real work prospects for anyone with a degree in philosophy. I realised then I had to push my own boundaries and try to pursue my own interests. I got myself a studio and for three or four years I investigated what I could do with sound manipulation. Technical costs were becoming more affordable and microphones became cheaper and cheaper, which allowed me to experiment with techniques employed to record and fix sounds in order to compose and construct my own musical language. In a way, I was doing what composers like Pierre Schaeffer did in the 50s. My aim, though, has always been to concentrate on the humanistic aspect of the mechanics of sound in order to build a direct relationship with the listener.
Q: What is your approach to a live performance?
Attila Faravelli: I always try and work with the space I play in, and tend to avoid the sound system of the venue. I work with a set of seven or eight small prepared speakers, which I distribute throughout the space or, conversely, I group them together to create a localized sound source.
During the past year, I’ve been working a lot with acoustic reflections. I work with objects that have specific shapes, which allow me to reflect the sound from the speakers I utilize. I always try to have an active approach to sound. Whether I am successful or not, I don’t know, but I aim to give a physical dimension to the bloke behind a laptop cliché of electronic music. Although I still work with a laptop, I physically manipulate the sounds I send to my speakers through differently shaped objects. This makes sounds almost visible. If I were to use an analogy, I would say my performances are akin to the magic lantern, as opposed to the Dolby stereo sound-surround experience your get in a cinema, which effectively neutralizes the physical space of the venue. They are more intimate.
Q: Collaborations are an integral part of your work.
Attila Faravelli: Yes, when one plays with a laptop, it is often very difficult to interact with a live musician. For instance, a drum-kit inhabits the space in a totally different way from a laptop. My solution or rather, the one that works for me, is to create a dialogue between my speakers and a physical instrument through the resonance of their amplification system. I have been experimenting with a number of people under different guises, from Nicola Ratti as FaravelliRatti, to Andrea Belfi as Tumble and Nicola Martini, as well as on my own.
Q: The electronic music scene in Milan seems to me quite lively. Any interesting names you’d like to mention?
Attila Faravelli: Lorenzo Senni from Presto records springs to mind. He recently moved to Milano from Cesena. Aside from creating a very interesting label devoted to both Italian and International artists he is also a musician in his own right. Giuseppe Ielasi has also been highly influential to a number of people within the scene. Generally speaking it is a tight-knit community and we all know each other. You have to be highly motivated, though, as there’s no money for this kind of music in Italy and no public financing. Italy is famous for Bel Canto and the human voice has always been centre stage. Alas, there is little room or appetite for electro-acoustic experimentation.
Q: If you had to send a postcard from Milan what place would you choose?
Attila Faravelli: The Silos Innse, an industrial relic towering in no man’s land under a flyover, tucked away in the Lambrate district. It is an extraordinary place, almost out of this world, where Nicola Martini and I played live. We didn’t just use it as a backdrop, though. By attaching small microphones to its structure, we also incorporated its sound into our performance.