Design Catwalk
Inner Out, the Organic Sound of Water, the Sound of Ice

My vision of “The Arts” is strictly related to the the human relationship to its surroundings, to the planet we are living in and its beauty, elements and simplicity. It may sound very obvious but when this description matches an experimental work of art nothing sounds obvious anymore.

Like for Inner Out, a Surround Concert for Ice and Live Electronics by Nicola Giannini,  Italian Composer and Sound Artist based in Florence, where simplicity of ingredients and analysis (in a complex technical study to make the concept accessible of course) leaves room to astonishment and wonder, which personally, are immediately transformed again in confirmed love for art, music and earth caring humanity.

The piece is based on the concept of macro photography, and therefore focused on the micro-sounds caused by melting ice. The sound textures and the percussive elements are generated from ice blocks used as musical instruments. Inside each block there is a hydrophone, a waterproof microphone which can be frozen. During the concert the blocks are played with various tools. The achievable sounds are always different because of the microphone freezing position, and because of the unpredictability of the sonic outcome of the melting process.
Inner Out is characterized by a quadriphonic spatialization, in order to immerse the audience in a tridimensional macro-listening experience. The execution evolves through the dialogue between the acousmatic part and the live phrasings, carried out with the ice blocks.
The concept of the piece originates from the macro / micro opposition, and it explores several dichotomies such as: man / technology, public / private, intimacy / immensity, man / nature. Inner Out, thanks to its performative element, intends to bring part of the creation process of electroacoustic music into a live concert.

Nicola Giannini practice’s focuses on acousmatic and multichannel composition and live performance, exploring subject such as narrative structures, aural features of buildings and organic sounds.

His most recent piece is Inner Out, a surround concert for ice and live electronics. He has recently graduated in Electroacoustic Composition at Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini, Florence. He has performed in events and festivals such as: Diffrazioni Festival, Il Corpo La Luce Il Suono, Segnali, RomaEuropa, Mapping Festival.

Here the exclusive interview Nicola gave to DC, incredibly rich of tips for an artistic approach to life, and a special evocative mini video from his research (as in the last picture of this post), the Sound of the Dome.

J: Hi Nicola, you are a long time musician but you just finished a special project, “Inner Out”, which frames the end of your studies at the conservatory.
How would you introduce it to our readers?

N: Hi Juliana, first of all thank you. Inner Out is a live concert where I play some ice blocks, producing sounds from them. Inside each block there is a hydrophone, a special water resistant microphone that can be frozen and even boiled. I play those blocks with various tools like guitar plectrum, guitar strings, sticks and even a grater; complementary textures are created by the ice melting process. These sounds are always different because of the unpredictability of the sonic outcome of the melting process, which leads to one of the main concepts behind Inner Out: the relationship between the men desire of control, and the mutability of nature.
Another connected inspiration is macro photography. I love unexpectable nature patterns such as leaves veinings, or wood surface micro-structure, as I like the hidden conglomeration of certain materials and textiles. So I wanted to unveil this kind of microstructure sonically via the amplified micro-sounds caused by melting ice.
The concert is written for a surround sound system with four speakers, like when you’re at the movies and you hear 360° sounds all around you. I wanted to use this technical and compositional feature in order to immerse the audience in a tridimensional macro-listening experience.
With Inner Out I also want to give the audience an immediate impact. I’m very happy that the concert has also been appreciated by people who are not too much into experimental music. This mirrors my own personal research to find a bridge between research and pop music.

J: Is it just a single experimentation or are you going on exploring material, places and its densities and sounds?

N: I’m going to continue exploring this way. I’m very attracted by organic sounds. I’m researching new sound textures achievable with the ice, and I’m also working with different melting process and with different density liquids, not just water.
For what concerns space (I’m glad you mentioned it), that is also certainly very important to my music. For example, in the “The Sound Of Dome”, a quadriphonic composition about the Florence Cathedral which I wrote a few months ago, I captured and used the real reverb of the place with the help of sound sound engineer Edoardo Fracassi. It’s like taking a sonic picture of a place, it’s a very interesting technique.

J: How is your career now and how has it evolved from what you have built during your first studies?

N: My career is constantly evolving, and I’m happy about it. I love the fact that my own artistic approach is day by day more and more defined. I love deeply personal approaches in both art and music, therefore I always try to deliver a very personal perspective in my practice as a musician.

J: Are you able to combine ‘necessary work’ to your interests?

N: I have always been able to find a balance between the two so far, sometimes it can be easier, sometimes harder. However, having worked as a Sound Designer and Music Composer for advertising and unconventional communication (e.g. 3D video mapping) has also made me more aware and capable of certain techniques or approaches.

J: Here on DC I talk about the connections between the life of fashion, art, music, sociology. How do you do your research? What would you never give up?

N: First of all I listen to a huge amount of music, and I’m very curious about visual and performative art. I see the art world as an intertextual world, therefore I love to draw inspiration from different practices. Another great source of inspiration is the reality. I once read a Laurie Anderson interview on Digicult, where she underlined how important the perspective of the “outsider” is. The artist should be a story teller but also an “outsider” in order to describe the reality.
I have recently developed a practice that allows me to explore new places, or even the place where I live, as a sort of outsider. I go for a walk and listen the acoustic environment via my headphones connected to the portable recorder. Listening to the reality via headphones puts a medium between my perception and what is happening around me. This allows me to put myself in the position of an outsider.

J: What’s your interest in fashion or an experience you had with the fashion world?

N: I’m interested in what is fashionable in music today. I think it’s important for a musician to be aware of which sound, recording techniques, genres sub – genres are fashionable. The use of a particular drum kick, sample or instruments or composition technique tells something about your music, about you. Everything is a choice.

J: Which are the artists you have discovered latest and where, and which ones have never disappointed you?

N: One of the latest artists I’ve discovered is the Canadian singer Tagaq. She has an incredible voice and she use a particular throat technique typical of inuit people. Another great one is Colin Stetson, an incredible saxophonist. His music is made up mostly by saxophones sounds and mixed in a stunning way. He’s extraordinarily unique. One more great artist is Holly Herndon. I’m completely in love with the way she uses voices and technologies in music.
I have known them thanks to Emanuele Porcinai, who is in turn a very interesting musician based in Florence. In a few months we will hear about him.
Then I like also very much the work of Lorenzo Senni, an Italian musician. I love both his musical project, “Stargate” and “Lorenzo Senni”. I’m very attracted by the way he mixes accessible and research music. Finally one of the most inspiring artist to me is Robert Normandeau, a Canadian acousmatic music composer, who developed a compositional approach called “Cinéma pour l’oreille”.

J: Can’t avoid this one: please give us three track titles: one for the way to work in the morning, one for the way back on a friday or an other day of the week presuming a good evening and one for sex after brunch.

N: Not sure about the awakening power, but a great way to start the day is listen to Chorus by Holly Herndon; on the way back on friday, I would love to listen to High Above A Grey Green Sea by Colin Stetson. This song relaxes me, and it’s a perfect break before a great night. And for the sex after brunch I suggest Sinaa, a very intense track by Tagaq. This one speaks sex.

J: An art-tip of a city that you love ?

N: No doubt, the Lousiana Museum in Fredensborgm near Copenhagen. It’s a beautiful place, the perfect balance between art, nature and architecture. It’s on a hill, on the sea, in front of Sweden. It’s magical, both in winter or summer. And there is a breathtaking room with a sculpture by Giacometti. I really love that one.

J: Future projects?

N: Beyond the research on organic sounds and narrative structures I will go on with a work where my voice is the only musical instrument.

J: Current readings, printed or/and online?

N: Right now I’m reading Solfège De L’Objet Sonore, a book by Pierre Schaeffer, french pioneer of concrete and electroacoustic music. It’s a sort of sounds catalogue, it’s very inspiring.

J: For the readers who want to experience Inner Out please give us the next dates

N: I will play the 4th May in Avellino for the Premio nazionale delle Arti Claudio Abbado, the 7th June in Bologna at Imago Festival, and from the 3rd till the 9th July at the Expo 2015 in Milan.

Thanks a lot Nicola! it’s been a great pleasure for me and I hope to be able soon to enjoy Inner Out live and your further projects.


juliana de nicola. Senior Fashion and Art Editor
Juliana is an italian-austrian artist and designer. After academical art-studies and fashion Ba she started working as a free-lance in fashion business covering different roles to feed her curiosity, while her personal projects are growing out of her mouth and ears restless. She was born in Vienna in the past century, loves her savage dogs, lives now in Florence, and travels every time she can.


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