Contemporary Italian composer Emanuele Casale is currently one of my favorite composers. His music often makes me just stop to bask in amazement of its brutal elegance, subtle timbres, and wild inventiveness. I can’t get enough of it.
In 11, a piece for large chamber ensemble, Casale gives form to the piece in rapidly shifting panels of music that may share characteristics with previous panels while simultaneously diverging in other parameters. In this way the music mutates suddenly and yet coherently. It leaves you absolutely unable to guess what’s going to happen, but when it does it just feels right because of the way he preserves fragments of musical language between panels. Even within a panel nothing is restated exactly the same way more than once, but because he makes the motivic material so clear, these variations only enhance one’s understanding of how the music is constructed.
Casale knows how to make music groove! I don’t know much other contemporary classical music that makes rhythm this consistently interesting. The nearly perpetual syncopations make the entrances of different voices in 11 super fresh. There are melodic lines, like the one around 6’05”, that become unbelievably hip from the swing they get from internal syncopations. I love the times when the beat is never given to you but is instead just felt by instruments entering so precisely off the beat and the subdivisions of the lines that follow said entrances. Some of the lockstep, syncopated lines multiple subdivisions feel strangely reminiscent in character to the lines in the closing section of Andriessen’s De Staat despite being pretty radically different aesthetically from each other.
The orchestration in this piece is pretty exceptional too. The electronic sounds are integrated extraordinarily cleanly into the music. He lets the sounds intermingle with the acoustic sounds so naturally that the two combine seamlessly. The colors he uses to use with both the instruments themselves and his instrument groupings are awesome and really make the music teem with vitality. More importantly, Casale never beats you over the head with the electronic sounds which makes their effect much more graceful. This finesse in execution is truly remarkable in my opinion. While there are times I wish he explored sparser textures in 11 like he does so beautifully in 9 (though perhaps in the first half of the piece he does), he does reel it in at times to engage (and not overwhelm) the listener.
I really want to get my hands on some of his scores because I have a feeling they would be pretty amazing to see. Casale seems to me to be one the most important creative forces in classical music currently, especially in Italy. He uses language of syncopated rhythm, phrasing of similar gesture but asymmetrical length, and form that owes much to the extremely forward looking writing of Donatoni, but is not boxed in by it. Instead, he simply uses these as vehicles to arrive at his own unique voice. This combination of influence and innovation makes his music incredibly engaging and exciting to hear. Now if only he would upload the first half of the piece somewhere…
Enjoy the music!