Saturday, February 27, 2016

Riccardo Dillon Wanke 13 Questions

Photo Vera Marmelo 

Riccardo Dillon Wanke (b. Genova, Italy 1977) established in Milan from 1982 until 2005, lives and works in Lisbon. multi-instrumentalist and composer. From 1995 active in arts (music, installations), his interest includes classical, improvised and exploratory music and it is focused on the diffusion of contemporary art. He runs the Mazagran label.

He is particularly interested in digital and analog manipulation of sound and its use into musical compositions. His work with guitars, keyboards (piano and rhodes) and electronics has started from pure radical improvisation and has drawn to the investigation of drones sounds, static music. Recently he explores sonic interactions, binaural beats and extreme microtonality.

He collaborates with musicians such as Giuseppe Ielasi, Rafael Toral, David Maranha, Manuel Mota among others. He set up a trio with Maranha and Mota, "Dru", and regularly collaborates with italian classical cellist Francesco Dillon with whom he co-founded 'Amuleto' collective. He published music for international labels such as Sedimental, Glistening Examples (USA), DieSchachtel (IT), Three:Four (CH), Headlights (PT), Apice (MX) among others.

Photo Sara Rafael

Riccardo studied Chemistry, Piano, Sax, Music Harmony, Improvisation and worked as Musical Label Editor, Chemist and Musician and he’s currently investigating contemporary experimental music at Centre of aesthetic and sociological musical studies at the University “Nova” of Lisbon.

Amuleto — with Riccardo D. Wanke and Francesco Dillon in Venice, Italy.

What do you remember about your first approach to sound? What do you recall about your playing learning process?

I could not really locate the exact point in which I had my first experience to sound. I would probably prefer to refer to the first experience of a volunteer listening experience. Even in this case I would differentiate to listen and to play sound... for instance, I remember when I listened for the first time my favourite records through a very good sound system (Hi-Fi) was quite astonishing!

About the classical learning process, I remember clearly the special moment of the learning practice when I was able to stop worrying about the notes. During the rehearsal there is sort of step of “appropriation” of the piece: everything moves to another level of appreciation (practicing, performing, listening and enjoying the piece…). Today, my learning process is more related to unravel sounds, their combinations and interactions.

Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?

The first record was a cassette of Piano Concert n.5 ("Emperor") of Beethoven, played by Horowitz. I had a classical music education: piano theory, harmony...and so on...thus my first passion was classical music!
The last record I bought was Jakob Ullmann ‎– Fremde Zeit Addendum 4... Nowadays, there are too many ways to listen to new music (streaming, download, formats...) that I significantly reduced the number of records I buy...

Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why?

Surprised? Well, I usually arrive to complete a musical work after sometime. I mean, I usually reach the point step by step, so I could not exactly talk about surprise! I am not an improviser... What is surprising, it is every discovery in sonic possibilities and sound interactions during the creation of a work.

On the other hand, I can say that my collaboration with the Italian cellist Francesco Dillon, in the duo-project Amuleto, it is surprising to me. In Amuleto I play instruments and I use techniques (Field Recordings, Percussions, Harmonium, Electric Bass,...) that are not typical of my approach... and I discover to enjoy playing, from time to time, folk tonal melodies and progressions, quite unusual for me!

How's your musical routine practice? What's the relevance of technique in music, in your opinion? 

My practice changed a lot during last decades... I am a classical-trained musician thus -for years- I instinctively started thinking about notes, score, technical practices and so on. Then (when I moved from piano/keyboards to guitar) I started to approach to the instrument (guitar) in a very primitive way: first the sound then the notations and the chords. I almost re-started learning music trying to forget what I knew about music theory.

I approached the guitar in a "tactile" way! This new way to border on music, open my vision to a more direct interest to sound matter. Then I came back to theory and study and I try to organise and put in order this spontaneous passion to sound, noises and textures.

Today, I usually start with an idea of sound I am looking for, then I choose the equipment (guitars, electronics, keyboards, computer...) more appropriate for what I am searching.

Technique is very important. I experienced the double strategy: the technical approach and the instinctive one. The latter is nice, but it is poor (at least for me) without a technical training... I recognize the talent of musicians that approach the instrument in a naive way: but it is rare! In my case, I know I need to study and practice to be free, spontaneous and instinctive! In general, I am quite suspicious about inexperienced approach to music... Nowadays it is very easy to make music: as musician, composer, listener, it is important to study and learn to be able to choose and select among the enormous quantity of music.

Why do you need music? Can we live without music?

It would be impossible, since I always have music in my mind, also without listening. When I wake up in the morning I already have some music that plays in my head, I never have my mind in silence. So, I dont know If I answered to your question but in a way I could stay for a day without listening to music, but I wont be free of music.
I just finished to read Grauer's book "Sounding depths", it is really fascinating!... it appears that the first human almost start to communicate (and hunt) through music!

What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?

As I said before, I think it is quite positive to have access to a huge quantity and variety of sounds but it is also crucial to know how select and choose. This sentence could fit both for listener and performer. Today is the time of choice: I believe every sound has been already explored what it is new is the combination, the use of it.

When I play and compose I usually prefer to reduce my freedom (i.e. to select and choose) in order to explore deeper the sound.

How do you feel listening to your own music? Depict the sound you're still looking for, or the sound you'd like to hear.  

....not really comfortable. But it depends, when I am alone I am quite happy to listen to my music... not in public!

I am always looking to deep sounds, three-dimentional sounds (not in terms of diffusion), I always look to the space in the sound and not the sound in the space.

What special or strange techniques do you use? Which is the main pleasure of the strings? What are their main limitation?

I do not consider myself really bizarre, I usually realize that the best setup for me is the simplest one! I like clear sounds that usually do not need great transformations or manipulations! I started preparing guitar with many objects and complex articulations, now I use more pedals and analogues filters. I like to explore pure tones, their interactions and combinations… I used for a long time Ebows trying to mask the sound of the attack (touch) of the string… so in a way I used guitar like an organ!! What continues to be special in the string instrument is to explore the subtile interactions of detuned strings: I like to work with minimal detuning and microtonality and I continue to enjoy doing this with an acoustic instrument!

Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician? Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.

For sure I can tell about a sound experience that changed my perspective. First time I play a guitar, I was with my friend Giuseppe Ielasi. He encouraged me to play a guitar. He knows me since long time and I started to collaborate with him because of my experience in playing classical piano. When he listened at me playing piano, he said: “you should play guitar”! I bought one (it was a fender telecaster) after awhile I met him at his apartment to play… He started to play his Gibson 335 and I joined him… and I started approaching the instrument looking exclusively at the sound I was emitting, at the tactile contact with the strings and at the sound that every gesture could create. This episode could appear insignificant but until that moment, I was used to have a score or (in case of improvised music) at least I knew exactly the notes I was playing…

I will tell you two musical works, both from classical repertoire: Robert Schumann - Humoresque and Giancinto Scelsi - Quattro Pezzi su luna nota sola, Op.59. The first one is probably something really personal: I played the piece and I renovated my thinking on melody, inner and hidden sounds, rhythmic and percussive sequences and its construction so rich of music ideas not evident but intimate… The second piece is a composition of Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, it was written on 1959: four short orchestral pieces each one written for a single note: it is a sound exploration of the inner space of a single note: astonishing! It could appear a composition of Minimalism, I would better see it as a maximalist piece!

What would you enjoy most in an art work?

I am deeply passionate about other expressions of art… Those that are more connected with my music are for sure literature and video-animation/painting. Literature is a passion that comes from childish and is part of inspiration for many musical pieces: short stories, novels… During the last years I prepared several pieces/sounds based on some works of South-American writers (such as Onetti, Cortazar, Bolaño…). Still, I continue to be devoted to the Italian writer Italo Calvino…!! The “Amuleto” duo-project (with Francesco Dillon at the cello) takes its name from a novel of Roberto Bolaño and is deeply influenced by literature and iconographic traditions, mostly coming from old soviet and latino-american icons!!!

Concerning the video-animation and painting, I collaborate with the Italian artist Luca DiPierro. I love his drawings and painting and I composed several soundtracks for short films and animations.

I had chance to work a couple of time with the guys from Metamkine for visual projects, once within the group Medves together with Giuseppe I., Renato Rinaldi, Andrea Belfi and Stefano Pilia… and more recently with David Maranha and Xavier Querel in Lisbon.

In general, I think I always look at the “materic” nature of a work of art, being it musical or non musical. On this theme, I just finished my last record (it appears in Glistening Examples in these weeks) in collaboration with the Portuguese photographer Pedro Tropa (he joined me with a series of photographs specific for my music. We will present this project in Portugal soon!). The work is called “Oxidation States” and refers to all possible transformations of a substance (being it solid or sonic…).

If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your musical career? What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?

I do not really care about my musical career; I mean that I don’t know what I could suggest to a younger myself. I made some decisions when I was ready to make them! I probably lost some opportunities because I usually take time to progress, but I believe I probably needed that time…

I could not say. I like a lot all special recommendations that appear in past compositions… For example in a piece, Schumann indicates: “Langsam, mit innigem, ausdruck” that could sound like “slowly, with intimate expression”... and everyone could differently interpret this advice, it is amazing! In music exists a wide space in which every musician could find his own place.

What quality do you most emphatize with in a musician? Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?

Flexibility and Commitment. I would love to work with Alvin Lucier.

What instruments and tools do you use?

I recently bought in India a Bulbul Tarang!!! I play guitar (mostly electric), but I am a multi-instrumentalist. I studied classical piano, I played for years electric pianos (fender rhodes, hohner paint), organ, harmonium and all keyboards. For 4 years I studied saxophone (tenor) and guitar of course. I moved also to electronic devices, modular synths, sequencers, analogues filters. In studio (and at home), I use softwares for editing and  sound manipulations (Logic, Live, Max…), but I continue to enjoy playing traditional instruments and explore physical manipulation of instruments.

What is the most recent musical experience that has attracted your attention?

Last November I was in Huddersfield for the contemporary music festival, I attended to some pieces of Jacob Ullman that were really soft… the live experience to listen at pieces so quiet is fascinating!… An experience… I remember also when I listen at the 3rd String Quartet of Georg Friedrich Haas (“in the dark”), it was performed in completely dark and it lasts 40-50 minutes… it is something really interesting! There is a great difference when the room is completely dark and your sight -even after some time- could not distinguish any profile or figure, in these conditions your aural appreciation become quite different.

What’s your craziest project about? What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

I don’t know… I am probably boring... I look at Prepared Guitar website and I see many beautiful images of incredible prepared guitars!!! I think I am more an experimentalist of sounds than of instruments… So I am thinking about crazy projects and I find some examples that probably would appear quite normal…

I am preparing a live solo performance for this year and I have some collaborations that I want to cultivate: I have a trio with David Maranha and Manuel Mota, it is called DRU, one record should come out soon! I have an idea for next my solo project but I did not start yet.


with Giuseppe Ielasi, Stefano Pilia, Renato Rinaldi, Andrea Belfi
Fringes Recordings 2004

L'Aiguille Du Dru 
with David Maranha and Manuel Mota
Headlights 2010

Sedimental 2008

Repetita Iuvant
DW1-09, CD-R, 2009

11h15 Local Weather Forecast
with Francesco Dillon
Die Schachtel 2010

To R.S.
Sedimental 2010

Oxidation States
Glistening Examples 2015

No para siempre en la Tierra, sólo un poco aquí
with Francesco Dillon
Mazagran 2015

Three:four Records 2015

Prepared Guitar Facebook

Photo Vera Marmelo