Giorgio Battistelli's Experimentum Mundi and Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair

This article is from 2009.

Experimentum Mundi

Revolutionary sonic collaboration between composers and craftsmen

Giorgio Battistelli is demonstrating the rhythm of a conventional piece of classical music. ‘Peak-peak-peak-peak,’ he counts out. By contrast, he says, the beat of a shoemaker’s hammer is altogether less regular: ‘Tic-tic-tack, tic-tic.’ That was the discovery he made 28 years ago listening to the cobblers, masons and pastry cooks at work in his home village of Albano, 12 miles south of Rome. Being involved in the avant garde, he was delighted to have struck upon their naturally occurring asymmetric rhythms.

Gathering the craftsmen together, he built Experimentum Mundi from their everyday hammering and watched as they became as exacting as professionals. ‘After the first month the craftsmen would come to me and say, "I think this sound would be much better if you play not with a mallet but something drier",’ says Battistelli, whose ‘Fair is foul, foul is fair’ will be premiered by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 26 August. ‘It was fantastic; they were like professional musicians asking the composer for more staccato.’ With 400 performances under their belts (and indeed their aprons), the workers have passed on their roles from father to son. ‘We have three generations of craftsmen. The piece is a collaboration between them and me.’

Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, 2–5 Sep, 8pm, £17.

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