CHITARRA ACUSTICA – february 2014 – by Andrea Carpi
CANTI LONTANI NEL TEMPO – Interview to Franco Morone and Raffaella Luna
With his album “Italian Fingerstyle Guitar” of 2005, Franco Morone outlined important reference points for the arrangement of the traditional Italian folk music on acoustic guitar solo. He has been able to instill in that repertoire a stylistic unity that blends with his own taste and musical personality. A unit from the customary with open tunings, familiar to him from its beginnings in the field of acoustic blues and who calls himself even more precisely using modal tunings, techniques developed for the embellishment of melody and counterpoint, which arise from subsequent visits with the Celtic-British music. Today, in this “Canti Lontani nel Tempo” recorded together with Raffaella Luna’s voice, the approach to that repertoire takes another step forward in the total size of the singing with guitar accompaniment, building on the previous experience of “Songs We Love” of 2008, where Franco and Raffaella had found its own balance competing with a contemporary international repertoire and and partly through original compositions of various kinds. In parallel, Franco has also published a new anthology of his scores with enclosed CD, in the series “10 Original Compositions” published by Fingerpicking.net, just a year after the previous CD anthology “Back to My Best” in which he reenacted a selection of his songs. These two new works we spoke to Franco and Raffella, newly restored fortunately from a dangerous adventure with the fumes of the boiler of the house. We are delighted to have them found in top shape.
After two albums like Italian Fingerstyle Guitar and Songs We Love, indeed it was expected an album like Canti Lontani nel Tempo. How were incorporated into the new album those two experiences and, more generally, your previous musical paths?
Franco: I hope the wait pays off! In fact, before the release of the CD, we had already anticipated some of these Canti Lontani live. The two previous albums were experiences that have made possible this new job. But already during the preparation of Italian Fingerstyle there was opportunity, with Raffaella, to try some of these melodies, you know, after dinner with friends or during the workshops: Although the project of Italian Fingerstyle was all instrumental, she followed this work. And even Canti Lontani nel Tempo aims to adapt traditional music on acoustic guitar, then to extend the guitar repertoire associated with Italian folk. With the presence of singing everything develops more smoothly because it is much more challenging to make a song sung in instrumental version. The experience of the duo then began with the covers of Songs We Love: there are beautiful songs with the sound of open tuning. With the presence of the voice, the guitar has a greater freedom and scope for action, not having to perform the main melody; then in each piece more rhythmic-harmonic draw pictures or just sonorities around the voice.
Raffaella: like Songs We Love for me has been fundamentally the preparation work and recording in the studio. I shared with Franco all steps of first draft with the various amendments, which gradually led to the final result: it was great to see the birth of the whole project. On this CD there has been much more fieldwork. Our traditional music, as opposed to the covers, it’s felt more familiar and therefore you hear it under the skin the sense of belonging to every song.
What were the criteria that you have followed in the choice of repertoire?
Franco: The prevailing policy was to give priority to content that would seem the most significant. There are four titles that were already present in Italian Fingerstyle, as “Mamma mia dammi cento lire”, “Non potho reposare”, “Bella ciao”and “Donna lombarda”: in order to adapt them to sing, I modified the hue and then the arrangement. We preferred not to confine the choice in a territorial or regional criteria strictly. Of course, given the origins of Veneto and Piedmont by Raffaella, we have given priority to songs from this area: “La bergera”, “Un bel giorno andando in Francia”, “La turineysa”, “La fiola del paisan”, “Siamo tre sorelle”, “Sotto l’albero del Piemonte”…
Raffaella: in the choice of songs we have favoured also the contents of the text, choosing some historical pages of partisan songs as “E quei briganti neri”, then a song dating from the first war as “Era una notte che pioveva”. Sometimes we resumed traditionals proposed in the past by groups of Italian folk revival, as “Nella Maremma là”, “Rusinot” and “Prinsi Raimund”, because simply they excited us in their complex.
n his previous interview with Mario Giovannini on acoustic guitar by October 2012, Franco had announced, somewhat facetiously: “it will be a collection of mainly northern songs given the origins of Raffaella; It would be nice to do something Abruzzese, but I’d have to give her some lessons in dialect “. In fact, the choices were geared mainly towards the North Italy: but the reasons are only those which are reflected by Franco?
Franco: In song selections at the beginning there were chants of Abruzzo as “Nebbi alla Valle”, “Tutte le funtanelle” or “Vola vola” and even the pugliese “Pizzica de lu Santu Paulu”,but frankly, we felt that the voice of Raffaella wasn’t for timbre and interpretation away from those contexts. Then the correct diction in songs in dialect is also important, but it wasn’t the only reason …
Raffaella: we left aside some monferrina and other northern ballads that sounded in some cases too obvious and less interesting texts. A different speech for Neapolitan music that I love, but I believe that only a true Neapolitan can make the best of it; and the proof is that the great performers of this tradition remain unsurpassed.
In the liner notes say that you set “the goal of rediscovering melodies that, more than others, had elements of authenticity”. The sources from which you have borrowed from field recordings of Diego Carpitella at searches of Roberto Leydi, from printed documents to reinterpretations of musicians from folk revival. What is ultimately your idea of authenticity of Italian traditional music?
Franco: you know that over the years the traditional music undergoes continuous changes, so it is not very easy at times going back to the original versions. The concept of authenticity is therefore objective, not subjective. Through old monophonic recordings or notation on the staff, I left one that presumably could be the original melody and then develop the arrangement.
Among the various influences of the traditional domestic female singing, opera singing, and folksinger and singer-songwriter singing, how has been defined Raffaella singing in this context?
Franco: Raffaella in this context plays a few songs of our tradition and my only suggestion was to invite her to sing in a simple and natural way, leaving aside contexts by foreign folk singer or singer-song writers. I believe vocal qualities and timbre of Raffaella give these songs a touch sweet and refined, which I hope is away from certain foreign influences or references of easy listening.
Raffaella: this context of traditional songs is very different from other areas you mentioned. Conceptually, I’m back with the memory when at feasts, we sang the songs of our land, our family and our tradition. The song defined itself for membership and not for emulating some other singer. We sang songs of different extraction and meaning, whereby alternating Traditionals to the Belcanto Arias was part of how we experienced music.
There are several ballads from the fundamental and historical collection of folk songs of the Piedmont by Costantino Nigra, which in turn refer to the Repertoire of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child. In this relation, can you see the possibilities for dialogue of Italian folk songs with a broader corpus of European and American tradition?
Franco: Definitely the music on its move, acquires different contamination and there can be several similarities. Already the Bard harpist O’Carolan, during the period of Vivaldi, modeled on some sonatas of Geminiani. The music of Northern Italy, somehow, went out of border. But the Arias and ballads, English, Scottish and I would add Irish, have similarities almost solely on the structure. Our songs have melodies derived from major or minor scales; instead, on the music of the British Isles are the Dorian, Mixolydian modes-derived melodies and so on. Even at rhythm level, although there are timings in common, accents and rhythmic figures are different.
Some of the Italian revival groups from which you have drawn inspiration as La Piva dal Carnèr and the Pivari Trio, refer to Northern Italy’s ancient piva, which is similar to bagpipes as the Breton biniou. Also, this seems like an important element that characterizes the Northern Italy as ancient ‘ Celtic-romance ‘.
Frank: for historical, form and content, the tradition of Northern Italy are very different from that of southern Italy. But in any case I think there was also a lack of growth, or a gradual loss of certain elements. Think of bagpipes from Abruzzo in comparison with other pipes you cite: has always been confined to just the Repertoire of Christmas Novena. And anyway the fact to point out is that often we have lacked a generational, musicians who rejoined the art of the previous generation. A lack of evolution or in some cases not complete. Some in the North, also for the presence of other neighbouring cultures, I think there were more comparisons and contacts.
In “fiola of paisan” there is a part of guitar played with a pick, which seems to me to draw very traditional Appalachian style and sound of the dulcimer, itself reminiscent of ancient ‘ zither of the Alps ‘. Why this choice? There could also be the evocation of some ‘ songs you love, maybe by Joni Mitchell?
Franco: it was the self rhythm of the piece which led me to this accompaniment, which rhythmically imprints a strong intercede throughout the song. It seems the more Celtic – style, but then it is obvious that the experience you have gained this far jump out somehow. We love Joni Mitchell, so it’s possible that there is some connection unconscious. But the way to accompany the songs and ballad on acoustics, I think that has more to do with the dulcimer and zither that with classical guitar, for example.
In a guitar style that on this record, I feel making reference mainly to ‘ Celtic ‘ heritage by Franco, other elements emerge naturally as well: for example, in “Bella ciao” there are bluesy overtones and sophisticated chromatic descendants in the harmonic section.
Franco: I’ve heard different versions of “Bella Ciao”. I wanted to make one that comes loose by certain chiché. Well, basically it is the only track where the alternating bass suited perfectly. Here also some blues accompaniment pronunciations it sounded good to me. I really like that chromatic descending passage which I think is not present in any of the previous versions. Even if it departed from the native datum, it always ends up that you add items at the discretion of the performer. I think it’s a good way to give new life to this repertoire.
In the parts in ‘speak-stolen, as in “E quei briganti neri” the accompaniment of the guitar has the tendency to maintain a dense rhythmic undertone, that makes me think about the way to accompany of Pete Seeger with the twelve ropes. What is Franco’s approach in this regard?
Franco: at the end was the only accompaniment that worked for this song, and of course I didn’t think about Pete Seeger when I wrote it, but it’s curious that there are points of contact with the storyteller. In the economy of a CD of guitar and singing, I was careful to try not to repeat myself and find solutions that differ even between different sections of the same song. In this sense “Briganti neri” seems to me that this dense and rapid arpeggio of the strophe prepares in a quite natural way to the chorus.
There are very few overdubs of guitar on this record, among which it detaches the solos final of “Rusinot”: an opening toward the acoustic rock?
Franco: it was a basis of chords on which have not known to withstand, as if somehow the same song had asked me for! As arrangers, we don’t do anything else other than to insert inside these torn fragments of our sensibility. The most beautiful comment for Italian Fingerstyle Guitar is for sure that to have given back a new youth to that traditional song. I hope Canti Lontani succeeds in the same intent, that is that to make feeling still actual this repertoire.
Why did you put in connection with one of the most classic ballads, like “Ameme mi dona lombarda”, with the two singers like Sergio Endrigo e Mia Martini version?
Franco: you know that “Donna lombarda” has more than three hundred and fifty different versions, both in the text and the melody. I had then already recorded an instrumental version in Italian Fingerstyle based on a text by Roberto Leydi. Raffaella asked me this version ‘ light ‘, with a short text and a sweet and melancholy gait. At the beginning I had some misgivings, but with the new arrangement, everything worked.
Raffaella: I liked the text version of Endrigo, because he avoided telling the whole story of serpentine with its poisoning of her husband. In this case we preferred to emphasize the meaning of the history of this impossible love between a young man and a young woman married to an old man.
Although it is undeniable the relationship between the great Italian opera and popular worldwide, the style of operatic singing I always seem so far away somehow from ‘natural ‘ style of traditional folk song. What meaning did for you air insertion “Babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini?
Raffaella: putting this song on the CD has for me a personal, almost intimate value I would say, because it is a dedication to my father who started at singing since I was a baby girl. So I feel very attached to this track. Then, in spite Franco at the start twisted a little his nose, he then found a guitar arrangement that is different from the classical one.
Franco: I think it’s the first time that a CD of traditional music one interprets an air of bel canto! In the past, we know that mental and technical factors accounted for rigid separation barriers between art music and popular music. It’s a transgression, ours, which on the one hand not relegates the CD inside rigid schemes. The problem is that the dominant culture has always placed these two genres on two different steps. And then, since in fact the classical music has drawn abundantly on the popular repertoire, I think these Arias are more extra-cultured elements than imagined. Always there was a reworking of the popular elements of classical music, just that this has never been mentioned in books for obvious reasons. Many of the major stylistic changes in the history of music have come about through popular music. Several pages of music history, in my opinion, should be rewritten taking into the right consideration this undeniable truth.
Will be released an album of scores of Canti lontani nel tempo?
Franco: everything is in turmoil in the publishing world, we are considering a number of proposals.
We also make a nod to the recent release of scores of Franco, 10 Original Compositions with the enclosed CD, another anthology only a year after the previous CD Back to My Best. What criteria did you choose this new selection of songs that totally differs from the previous one?
Frank: When Reno Brandoni told me about this collection of 10 Original Compositions published by Fingerpicking.net, I was already at work with Back to My Best, so I promised myself that I would put in the pipeline as soon as possible a new book. I wanted to publish this collection because there are songs that have never been published in Italy, taken from Guitàrea, Melodies of Memories and Stranalandia CD, Running Home. The selection criteria was to select the traces that more than others could be representative and, at the same time, less complicated to play.
Again, as you did in “Back to My Best, you re-registered and revisited your compositions with the experience of today?
Franco: I revisited the scores improving graphics, fingering and notation. As for the tracks on the CD, I remastered the material in my studio.
What will reserve your near future, either individually or together?
Frank: there are a couple of projects for new books, a second volume of Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar and my new CD of original songs. The Raffaella’s voice would also be very suitable to interpret something Celtic, we will see later.
In the aforementioned interview Franco said: “Raffaella is becoming increasingly good at singing, but also with the guitar, I must say. You know that she plays all the tracks on the Basic and something even Celtic? ” We can expect an upcoming Raffaella singer and guitarist?
Raffaella: Already as a young girl I sang and played guitar. But with Basic and Celtic Fingerstyle I must admit that my fingerstyle technique has grown exponentially. However, from here to perform in public will take time and, in any case, for now I prefer to do it privately. In any case, many fans recognize Franco credit for having permitted to rediscover, through his books, their passion for acoustic guitar. Said to me sounds like a side judgement, but is the real truth.
Franco: UM, no comment, but if you come to see us I’ll convince Raffaella to play something!
Finally, Franco, can you update the situation of your equipment?
Franco: for concerts I keep using a guitar made by Rod Schenk. Has a handle very tapered profile behind, almost as electric guitar, very comfortable then. It is electrified with a magnetic Sunrise to the hole and with a contact microphone under the bridge; They both go on a pre inside the guitar body, which then connects to a second external pre. The system was created by a Japanese engineer and costs the same as a luthier-guitar … As Amplifier I’m trying the new amp Acus, Italian brand that is making road also abroad. As strings I keep using the Elixir Nanoweb light and medium depending on the tunings used.
CHITARRE N. 273 – by Mario Giovannini
SONGS WE LOVE – Interview to Franco Morone and Raffaella Luna
Of course I’d like to begin talking about Songs We Love: How did the idea of your disc and how did you choose the songs you want to insert?
These are songs that somehow are related to our generation. Together, gradually, we found a common way for the interpretation. Although I have studied opera singing, I always sang even different things. With Franco I quickly found a meeting point of those that are almost perceived for magic and they emit a strong positive charge. Things that you notice immediately that are worth sharing.
The classic setting of the voice you hear, on some tracks is almost overpowering…
I was born in a house where we used to sing, a tradition already coming from my mother’s and father’s families. A numerous family mine, mother Dusolina, last of thirteen children, dad Giulio, fourth of six; I have three brothers, Gianni, Amerigo and Marzio. We gathered to sing together, especially popular songs. And I was always involved, despite my shyness and I were the youngest.
But I must say that it has helped a lot to me, it was essential to become familiar with the voice. But there was no preparation behind, I have always gone by ear. The desire to seriously study came later, encouraged by some teachers that were able to help me a lot. Also to understand what happens ‘in there ‘ when you sing.
Back to the ‘ pop ‘ song has it forced you somehow to change your way to sing?
No, it was absolutely normal. It deals with changes of register, but the technique is the same. In any case, there’s always been a lot of music in my life, with a great passion for guitarists, even before I met Franco. John Fahey, Leo Kottke, John Renbourn and many others I was accompanied for many years. These Are things that leave a sign..
We want to talk about some of your original songs?
I see that you know well the disc!
I must confess that is stationed in the cd player of my car for a while. And it’s not something I often do. You hear all the care that took you, where there is little or nothing left to chance..
It was an important experience, I would say essential. Writing songs can be easy or difficult, it depends a lot on how you feel. Although I think that from the most difficult moments that go out the best things. In the end we decided to include on the cd “Roses, Blue Skies,” “La Nuit” and “Il Tempo Per Noi”, on which Franco, inspired by my original versions rather rudimentary guitar standpoint, worked with its sensitivity enhancing the melody with beautiful arrangements. I hope, however, to keep on working in this direction, with beautiful melodies and lyrics with meanings that go over the simple diversion song; for songs worth to interpret. Because the result is very rewarding. Perfection in music is important, but what I look for is mostly interpretive intensity and emotions that can be sent. And sincerely, with the first concerts we received a great response of critics and audiences. For me this album is truly a dream come true, an important step in my career. Which, moreover, did not begin with this record, departed from far through the meeting with Franco with whom I shared so many experiences. Not just trials, recordings and concerts, but also seminars, workshops, many trips to get into concert venues, contacts with wonderful people that in addition to this passion, they share a sensibility and a scale of values that is hard to find in other contexts.