Based in Rome, Elisabetta Luciani, aka Elisa Luu, is a musician and the co-founder of La Bèl, one of an increasing number of Italian netlabels offering free electroacoustic music...
Why is it that there are so few women within the electro-acoustic scene in Italy?
EL: I am not sure why that is, even when I started playing jazz, I was one of the very few women musicians playing the sax. The situation has improved in recent years with many more women venturing into the jazz scene. I hope it will be the same with electronic music.
In the early 90s you studied under the legendary Italian folk singer Giovanna Marini, before moving onto jazz. How did you end doing electronic music?
EL: The saxophone was my passion. I studied it for five years at the conservatory in Frosinone. I then went on to the Berklee School in Perugia and from then on I was playing in jazz quartets and orchestras. It was not easy, though, to find venues to play in Italy, and Rome was no exception. It was frustrating and I wanted to try something different. In 2007, I picked up a laptop to see what I could do on my own. I liked the freedom it gave me. I have not looked back since.
Your music is very much instrument based, it is steeped in digital production while retaining a tangible human quality, it could be said that what you do is electro-acoustic music by default.
EL: The most important thing to me is the melodic quality of a particular composition, rather than the technical and machine based side of things. I still like to play my own instruments, not only the sax, but also guitars and synthesizers. This remains the basis of my music. I then sample my own stuff, and create loops and process sounds.
For a while I was just experimenting, then I started uploading the first tracks onto mySpace. Things took off quite rapidly. I released Floating Sounds on the British label Phantom Channel. From that came Hidden Shoal with Chromatic Sigh in 2007.
You mentioned your difficulties in finding venues to play in Italy as a jazz musician. What has your experience been with electro-acoustic music and electronic festivals in particular?
EL: The dearth of venues is something that applies across the board. In terms of festivals, last year I was invited to Flussi a young electro-acoustic festival held in Avellino, a medium sized town in the Irpinia region, which was severely hit by an earthquake in 1980. Due to budgetary constraints, the 2011 edition had to be scaled down to just three days from the original week long celebration of all things experimental. Nonetheless it remains a very vibrant and exciting event that, in a sense, takes the electro-acoustic scene to virgin territory, away from the usual hubs of Milan, Modena and Florence. Also, really interesting is the Half-Die festival, which takes place every July here in Rome. It is run by Gianni Rosace on the terrace of his house overlooking a Roman aqueduct in the Quadraro district. It is entirely Gianni’s creation with no sponsorship or anything of that kind. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the only way to make things happen here in Italy.
How did La Bèl come about?
EL: I met Adriano Bossola, co-founder of La Bèl, on mySpace. Adriano is based in Biella in the Piedmont region. He is also a musician, who sometimes records under the moniker Di Bois. We got talking, even though we have never physically met, and we decided to start our own label to group together like-minded people. We were thrilled to find a really active and exciting scene in Sardinia. Indeed, the first few releases, such as Menion, Nick Rivera and Ballpen, all came from that region and even the latest one, Adriano Orrù is a double bass player from Nuoro who now lives and works in Cagliari.
Not all your artists are Italian, though.
EL: No, the most important thing, at least to me, is the melodic quality of an album. I like it when artists play an instrument and the music is not just about processed sounds. A great discovery was the German guitarist Frank Schültge Blumm, who’s recorded Quatro Covers with the Colombian but Barcelona based Lucrecia Dalt, a clever reworking of classic songs from the likes of Iggy Pop, Simon and Gerfunkel, Burt Bacharach and Nat King Cole. We also have a Japanese duo N-qia, Plusplus from Britain, and more things in the pipeline.
Do you have a calendar for releases?
EL: Adriano would like to release an album every two months, but I am more casual about it. If we find something we like, than that is great, if not we just need to carry on searching.
If you were to choose a place in Rome to send a postcard from, what would that be?
EL: The Garbatella district. It is full of sublime architecture from the 20s and 30s and is a great area to explore. Originally, it was going to be linked to Ostia by a navigable canal, hence most of the street names have same reference to waterways or waterworks, but the project was never realized.
Your clip A Slow Ride Along the River was filmed in Rome. It paints a gentle and idyllic picture of Rome…
EL: Indeed, traffic is a real problem in Rome and one that no mayor is neither willing nor capable of tackling. We only have two tube lines and everyone drives a car. Rome is not bike friendly, it is more of a moped city. Having said that, there are a few cycling paths which enabled me to film the clip on my iPhone while cycling along the river. The whole thing was done in just a few hours.