The Milanese ensemble Camerata Mediolanense was one of the most interesting musical discovered I made this year, so we at Darkview did not want to pass up the opportunity to learn a bit more about them. Elena Previdi takes us deep into their unique blend of baroque and darkwave.
Where does your interest in baroque music stem from?
It is correct to say that Baroque music has a prevailing influence on us, starting with our name, “Camerata”, which is directly connected with the Baroque ensembles; however, of course we are not only interested in the “Baroque” musical period, i.e. the years 1600-1750 but in the music of the past in general, from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century.
Basically I think that this is due to my personal training in ancient music. Even if I have attended Milan’s darkwave music “society” since I was teenager, at the same time I studied at the Conservatory of Milan, my home town, and I grew up mixing the two interests, the one for the ancient/cultural arts and the other for the contemporary/popular current. And even if at first I studied piano, when got my degree in Composition my interests shifted immediately to the techniques of counterpoint. While later graduating in Harpsichord I had the opportunity to study with miss Marina Mauriello, an experience that deepened my knowledge of the Baroque styles. The other members of the Camerata share with me this interest, everyone with his/her personal attitude, where some tend to appreciate the listening experience while others would rather practice.
What do you find so compelling about this music as opposed to for instance the more early medieval music that acts like Qntal use as inspiration?
Speaking in general, we study ancient music in order to draw inspiration from it; we do so within a compositional activity context that is, through and through, a personal-pondered-and thoughtful experience. However in a couple of occasions we have employed Medieval melodies by re-arranging them to fit into our style. In few words we have done “covers”, as Dead Can Dance or Ordo Equitum Solis did occasionaly many years ago. On the contrary, after them, many new bands were born and they based all their artistic activity exclusively on the use of Medieval melodies, and from a musicological point of view in this case it would be correct to talk about “cover-bands” tout-court: ensembles like Qntal, Estampie, In Extremo do so with modalities that differ depending on the target of the audience they aim to (darkwave, pop, metal...); they choose a Medieval melody and tailor it into a contemporary rhythmic and harmonic cladding. Handling music material in this way is a practice that has ancient roots: for example, during the Renaissance a huge part of published music consisted in the elaboration of earlier pieces, especially dances. Recently I have been dealing exactly with this topic in an article which was published in the Spanish journal “Herejia y Belleza”, n° 2 (2013), after attending the 2nd Congress on “Art, Literature and Urban Gothic Culture” at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid few months ago.
Seeing you live must also be quite an experience? Any chance we get to see you in Belgium soon?
You will decide for yourself whether this is really true or not, once you have had the chance to watch to a concert of Camerata Mediolanense. Of course, we hope to perform in Belgium soon, as unfortunately we have never had such an opportunity so far. The live dimension is particularly important for us. As always in the past, in preparation for it and while we are in it, we have made huge efforts but in exchange the reward has often been an extraordinary feedback from our public.
How did the darkwave and electronic elements find their way into your classical style or was it the other way around?
Speaking about me, I have always played the keyboards, however in the past my approach has been the one of a pianist/harpsichordist. Meanwhile, 3vor has been the element connecting my rational instinct with the world of noise and non specific sounds. In the last few years, my personal approach has changed since I started using the computer more and more frequently, also during the compositional process. As for “Vertute, Honor, Bellezza” the result is a new space for electronics and an easier way for us to act and to experiment in regards to the sound quality.
Are the classical parts reworkings of existing compositions from the Renaissance era or do you try to create pastiches of similar works?
Where we have chosen to employ an ancient tune, we have re-worked it by creating a new version in our style, as if it was a cover, like I said in my answer n° 2. However, this is an exception: usually we don’t actually use ancient music as such, as the vast majority of our production is a brand-new creation of ourselves, with copyright Elena Previdi/Camerata Mediolanense. Rather, what we have here is something else: when I write music, I am able to use ancient compositional techniques, for instance the counterpoint and the polyphony. As you can imagine these features are rare nowadays, as only few people, outside the world of classical music, know how to use similar techniques. I believe this is the reason why Camerata Mediolanense’s sound has this “Renaissance-Baroque” flavour.
You all come from a very different background. How did you find one another?
We were friends within the Milan’s gothic-darkwave scene of the late 80’s and the of the beginning of the 90’s. We share a strong, common denominator: the passion for New-Wave and Post-Punk music. For example, Manuel and 3vor have been big collectors of 80‘s and 90‘s Gothic music vinyls. Many years before becoming a member of Camerata Mediolanense, Marco was the drummer of a band named Sturm Und Drang and we were among their followers.
Are you primarily interested in the classical works from Italy or will you venture beyond those borders in the future?
With “Vertute, Honor, Bellezza” our attention is pointed to the poetry of Francesco Petrarca, one of the founders of the Italian language, who was born in 1304 and died in 1374. Petrarca has been the most set-in-music poet of all our history, thousands of times in fact, by composers all over the world, from the Renaissance until the first half of the 20th century. His poetry is not only full of beauty and very musical, but it is also meaningful beyond the flow of time. So today we have created an album based completely on Petrarca’s texts and this has stressed our passion for the classical Italian art; but this is not at all our programm for the future: there are no limits to our interests, that is for sure.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
We would like to suggest to watch our video “Canzone alla Vergine” on YouTube. This is the very first time that Camerata Mediolanense has made a video and this experience has been possible thanks to one of our oldest collaborators, the soprano Luminiza, who commissioned it and produced it between Venice and the Portugal (Sintra and Lisboa).