Friday, February 25, 2005


So i'm leaving for London tomorrow, probably going to be spending a few days there, approximately until thursday. Which means all the updates i've been promising lately will have to wait another week. Hope to manage to wrote a couple of quick updates while i'm away. My absence over the last week can also be explained perfectly: sometimes life catches up with you, and you go out and have fun.
On tuesday i went with Fred and his parents to see Steve Reich and his ensemble perform in Monfalcone's theatre. Yes, another one of those london-paris-madrid-monfalcone-tokyo tours. The program comprised Drumming, Part One for 4 pairs of tuned bongos, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ and the celebrated Music for Eighteen Musicians.
Before the show, Paul and Joanna treated us to kebab at the stall close to monfalcone piazza. They were so kind, we even shared a second kebab with fred to try out the chicken & turkey variety.

Joanna: "Pity about the bread! In poland they use real arab bread."
Fred: "Yes, but they also use pork..."

Every time i go to a kebab stall, i feel tempted to ask for a mix of both offerings, lamb&veal and chicken&turkey. But i'm always afraid of somehow offending the storekeeper's sensibilites. After all, correct kebab stall behaviour was one of the few topics we never covered in Islamic Art course. Surprisingly.
I'm always afraid something like this happens: I ask for a mix, and the guy goes to the kitchens and says to his colleague:

Worker 1: "Do you know what that infidel pig out there asked me? He wants me to mix the kebab meats! What an offence to our millennial culture!"
Worker 2: "The All-Seeing One will deal with his evildoings when the day comes. In the meantime, fill his kebab with rat's meat."
Worker 1: "You mean more of it?"

After kebab, we set off to a bar where they serve Tetley's on the tap, but were saddened to find it closed. We ended up in a bar close to the theatre, where the only thing on tap was Paulaner, which wasn't too bad after all. Paul and Joanna picked up the tab again, bless their souls.

The concert was of course very, very, very, very good. Fantastic. Etcetera. It's hard to describe, really.
Drumming, for example. When i'd first heard the piece, i must admit getting put off after less than a couple of minutes and skipping to the next track. Seeing it performed live revealed its whole sense to me. Just the sheer concentration of four percussionists working on rhythm, tone and echo for over fifteen minutes is something that leaves you speechless. The best was yet to come.
Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ i had never heard before, and ended up being the piece i'd liked more from the entire show. Subtle interplay of vocals and organ, marimbas and vibraphone dictating nervous staccatos. One of the most beautiful things i've seen and heard in my life, and i've been through quite a few. The organ player in particular seemed to fill up with energy throughout the execution, energy that she would release coming down on the organ as if during respiration exercises at every chord change. The music so simple yet so obviously impossible to play without years of specific training.

Music for Eighteen Musicians lasted slightly over 50 minutes, as Fred told me on the way out. He had stopwatched it. A captivating piece that had me on my toes throughout, occasionally found myself tapping the tempo away with my fingers, luckily i wasn't the only one. Almost everyone in the theatre probably did it too at some point (and felt ashamed upon realizing they had been doing it). However, the mind does tend to wander every now and then, happened to me twice as a matter of fact. Still a beautiful piece, of course. I'm just a philistine after all.
At the end i counted the musicians: Eighteen all right, even though only in some moments of the piece they were actually all playing together. Anyway, they were rather well distributed: eight women, eight men and two clarinet players.

A fantastic night all in all, and what a better way to celebrate Fred's birthday! Of course we had had a private get-together with a few cose friends the previous night, which culminated with a snowfight and the ceremonial throwing of over twenty beer bottles into the recycling bin.

Yesterday was also good. In the afternoon, i was informed over icq that my former islamic art teacher, Prof. Curatola, who until last august supervised the provisional iraqi (occupying) government's artistic reconstruction program, was going to be having a conference in Udine later that day. I literally jumped onto the first bus and made my way to the hall where this would be going on. The conference turned out to be the presentation of a book by a colleague, Prof. Fales of the Ancient Oriental Art course, dealing with the entity of the infamous looting, sacking and pillaging that occurred shortly after baghdad's "liberation" two years ago. Two hours of anecdotes, pictures, stories, detailed quantities of works of art lost against ones still safely in their place (10-15000 lost pieces out of a 500000 -yes, that's half a million - collection). It would take too long to write about this topic now, although i'll keep all the information i gathered at this event strongly in my head and in my heart. When i get back from london, i'll have to get that book, and hopefully in spring prof. Curatola will be organizing a photographic exposition daling with his adventures in Iraq. As some of you already know, this is one of the people i most admire in the world, and having once recieved his compliments for an exam well done is still one of the high points of my life.

Seeing these great men, Steve Reich and Giovanni Curatola, talk and perform over the last couple of days really made me feel glad i'm living in such a time that allows us all to make their acquaintance. I'm proud to be a contemporary of these amazing people, and can only hope to someday do them justice by accomplishing things even just one tenth as beautiful and important.

Ok, that's it. Gotta go guzzle slovene beer with fred. Later, all.