Luciano Maggiore’s second solo release for venerable Italian label Senufo Editions arranges recordings of acoustic sound sources into patterns and structures, in a similar fashion to that heard on his recent collaborations with Enrico Malatesta. However, the sounds chosen for this roughly 30-minute piece are not only interesting in terms of their timbre, but also frequently faintly absurd, or, well, silly: air being let out slowly from a balloon, a handsaw being driven through wood, and various squeaks, creaks, and pops of an unidentifiable nature are among the acoustic elements used. “willy nilly” seems to have its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, though for all the music’s playfulness, its structure and composition are no less rigorous.
The piece is split into two sections, both of which begin quietly and develop by gradually adding instruments and patterns. Some of those patterns are rhythmically regular and uptempo, providing a beat of sorts that drives the piece along while remaining wonderfully loose and free-wheeling. This looseness is perhaps related to the way Maggiore works with the sounds: from what I can tell, they are “diffused” or performed using multiple playback devices such as cassette and CD players, rather than meticulously arranged on a computer. However he does it, the results do come across as a lot more ‘live’ — i.e. less rigid and more precarious, leading to a greater sense of what I would call performing agency — than similar work.
The second section builds into a tapping, knocking low-key juggernaut, moving swiftly along without raising the volume much further than half-way. There’s no tonality to speak of, and the sounds crowd together in the middle of the frequency spectrum, though there are rarely more than five or six of them sounding at once. By keeping his instrumentation narrow and limited, Maggiore focuses attention on the timbres of the sounds and the way their rhythms interweave, sometimes stumbling into or tripping over one another.
“willy nilly” is a huge amount of fun to listen to — the perfect antidote for those who feel that experimental music can sometimes take itself a little too seriously. Behind that wink and that grin, however, the musician’s hand remains deft.
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