Infancy: we are taught to sing the alphabet, repeating the letters one after another in a musical way, making it easier to learn and easier to remember. There’s an affinity with music from a very early age, not to mention an apparently unbreakable bond between music and speech, music and language. In this early period, we learn at a rapid rate and singing the alphabet is not only an accelerated learning technique but an important association with melody and rhythm. We’re attracted to the sound and the way it is phrased, and it stays with us for a lifetime.
Can you associate a sound with a certain letter, and a letter with a certain sound? The distinct pitch of the word and its pronunciation does seem to help when it comes to memorization. That’s just the kind of task that Ulises Conti has set himself. He has assigned every letter a piece of music. It’s an ambitious task, but he sails through. So, from A to Z we go. You don’t need Sesame Street’s Letter of the Day when you have this.
‘B’ gives us our first taste of an acoustic guitar, while ‘C’ rolls coolly with a deep piano, as dark as chocolate. It speaks of variety, the notes inside the phrases a part of the diverse language of music. The result is a rainbow collection, music containing everything that life can give. The electronic ambient tone of ‘E’ and the comedown of ‘F’, where a solemn piano treads wearily, passes through the seasons, flicking through her pages. At other times, a serene ambient coating comes to take us away on a wing of deep static, the tone muffled by its own feathers, before dive-bombing and then swelling into oblivion.
The steady notes of a piano linger in the background, rising and falling as a cooler melody plays over the top. An experimental layer of drone hovers above, hiding itself in the clouds. And as we descend the alphabetical ladder, the piano becomes ever more prominent. The instrument lies in the middle of the spiral, with the experimental sound sources cycling and circling around the piano and her ice cool tone. They drift away the day, ambient-oriented but never fully leaving the piano’s classical tones and associations behind.
Like a streak of white lightning, electronics suddenly enter, lighting up the music in a sudden flash. It’s electrically charged, sending jolts and bolts through the music. Ulises Conti has discovered a well of inspiration that never runs dry. But more importantly, he unleashes his creativity, his phrases and musical ideas, in a coherent way. The music is exciting, because Conti’s ambition and execution has found its clear voice and is not only speaking but singing, his own musical alphabet ready to be digested.
As musicians learn their scales, they are frequently reminded that the notes themselves are a part of the style’s language; the notes are letters in their own alphabet. If you can’t speak the language, you can’t understand what the natives are saying. The blues is made bluesy by a few choice notes and a phrasing that suits the style. After all, accents depend on specific countries and continents. Musically, Conti’s continent is piano based, but his experimentation is a part of a wider global network.
Birds sing in their sanctuary, and the church bells chime. Their major intervals are tonally bright, and the mood lightens. However, darkness falls when the piano arrives. It turns the music to black, the letters dripping obsidian. ‘T’ takes us underground, and ‘U’ is pitch black. He never rushes, and every letter has its own quality, its own personality. They do, however, share a cool ambient image. Ulises Conti continues to teach us about music, about her sheer scale and depth that can never be truly understood. It’s impossible to ever run out of water. There are so many possibilities and countless discoveries. This may seem daunting to some, but it shouldn’t be. With Conti as our teacher, he makes the learning experience not only enjoyable but exciting.