Interview with A Cavaliere

Francesco Cavaliere’s recent musical works put him into a category of his own. His two most recent works, Gancio Cielo 1+2, blast out of nowhere to envelop the listener in a foreign storied world of chimera creatures, exotic percussion, and interstellar shifting keyboard melodies. He performed in September with the legendary David Behrman at BOZAR and KRAAK’s Sonic Arts Revisited. We sat down together at the Brussels premier of Cirque du Soleils’ Totem, to uncover where his music comes from and to articulate what sets it apart from modern and past experimental musics.
09 January 2018 | AG 10.1

The basis for Cavaliere’s music is derived from the prowess of his imagination, which at a young age was stimulated by a gift, given to him by his grandma. “At a very young age, my grandmother, who was a music teacher, gave to me a record player. And as I was an only-child, I would sit in my room alone, and have con- versations with the record player and it’s music. I communicated with it.” 

This magical practice, begun at a young age, spilled out into the rest of his world as he began inventing words and communicating with others to explain his fantasy world. He was diagnosed with a mild form of dyslexia, qualified by modern medicine as a learning disability, that makes one jumble language backwards and forwards. Francesco believes the combination of all these ingredients has led to the originality and uniqueness of his musical language, and his major work so far: Gancio Cielo. “The best way to understand Gancio Cielo, is that I am inventing this world of characters... interacting in a 3D way... It’s not just telling a story... the iguana is a main character; he uses his tongue to shoot stones and crystals at other planets. I became really good at making these sound effects... to explain these imaginations... and through this embellishing of the interactive world it became not a radio play, but a 3D audio game that everyone can react and play with... Like when I was a kid and was learning to interact with myself in the games I created. You want to teach people to react to sounds and characters that are inside the story.” 

It seems, that a lot of what creates The Cavaliere, is the liberated use of his past childhood experiences and the embracing of his famiglia. I asked him further to describe a creative experience that he could for certain tie-in with his musical world and language; An event that may have led him onto the path where he finds himself now. “My friends and I would wander around my village, Volterra (an old Etruscan town buried with artifacts and history) near mental hospitals, near a garbage dump that was full of alabaster. We would sets things on fire and transform into devils and vandals. We would get entranced by these actions... there was a gardener there, whose name was Nanov. He made crazy graffiti drawings using the buckle of his belt. He would invent a world of images and words, a writing that was some sort of self-invented Sanskrit! You can find his art by searching his name on the computer.” 

It seems, that a lot of what creates The Cavaliere, is the liberated use of his past childhood experiences and the embracing of his famiglia. I asked him further to describe a creative experience that he could for certain tie-in with his musical world and language; An event that may have led him onto the path where he finds himself now. “My friends and I would wander around my village, Volterra (an old Etruscan town buried with artifacts and history) near mental hospitals, near a garbage dump that was full of alabaster. We would sets things on fire and transform into devils and vandals. We would get entranced by these actions... there was a gardener there, whose name was Nanov. He made crazy graffiti drawings using the buckle of his belt. He would invent a world of images and words, a writing that was some sort of self-invented Sanskrit! You can find his art by searching his name on the computer.” 

So, it is beginning to be clear that The Cavaliere wants to invent storied-games, and for him and the listener, to interact with them. But not all his influences are his personal world and games. He mentions the intense influence of Monteverdi’s 4th Madrigal as well as the Anime sci-fi flick Black Magic M-66; author Tomasso Landolif, actor and writer Carmelo Bene, and the paintings by 14th century Italian naturalist Lorenzetti. With all these influences we can start to see the juxtaposition of past and future being aligned with The Cavaliere’s wish of what is to come. What we are looking at here is not necessarily the classic artistic adventure of combing future and past methodologies. The Cavaliere’s music is coming from too deep a personal place for it to be compared with other more obviously referential works, done by more idle hands. I asked him further how he can distinguish his work from just pure science fiction: “Greek Mythology. Here we are talking about gods that have special leather sandals that help them become invisible. This is not science fiction; this isn’t fantasy, its mythology. My music is much closer to inventing mythology. I am not relating this to a parallel world, like often in science fiction; I am react- ing to my own world. I showed to you this book of a collection of fairytales from Southern Italy. It’s magic realism of Italy. What villagers believe... When you talk about everything, magic realism is normal, a normal situation that when the details are brought out, it becomes supernatural.” 

All of Francesco’s selected mem- ories and experiences are strikingly exact evidence of what has guided him to create now, his own musical genre of interactive fiction. “My music comes close to multi-player games, like Trinity (a PC game that is not dissimilar from a novel that interacts with you). Trinity is a game that you could interact with in a fictional way. You could ask the computer a question, and the game would change. The computer talks back to you! I am fascinated with this... ” 

As magical realism is used as a manual to distinguish between pure science fiction and mythology, we can begin to integrate the fantastic world of computer games’ and their interactive fantasy world to see slightly clear, the New World of Francesco Cavaliere’s Gancio Cielo. A very important element to this work is the decision to use his home language of Italian and how this allowed him to further become him- self within his invented world. “I felt that not enough people were using the Italian language in experimental music. Being far away from there (Berlin) I began to feel I could do it. I could feel more free to speak Italian in my music not being there.” It seems The Cavaliere would be using the tool of being away from one’s country, to further elaborate the uniqueness of his own relationship to Italian, and from there to learn to miss his home country in a positive way, through the act of creation. 

On Saturday, the 16th of September, Francesco will unveil his new piece entitled Il Coro delle Interperie. A small choral group comprised of elderly people (between the ages of 60-70) will be attempting to enlarge their vocal repertoire, by using their mouths to simulate their memories of bad weather sounds. Francesco chose 60 to 70 year- old singers because of the possibility, of the peculiarity, of their memory of bad weather. “I hope that this perfor- mance will add to the respective singers repertoire, that I can interact with their repertoire!” 

In order to remain consistent with the distinguishing of The Cavaliere, I asked him about his connection to the Sonic Arts movement: “I believe this piece stands on its own and doesn’t need to be connected to the Sonic Arts Union. This movement is really cool, but I feel my music is not connected to how people feel about the Sonic Arts Union, rather its possible that there is some personal connection between us. I respect their work but I want to go out on my own. It’s easy for people to make connections to us now. Me as an artist I want to stand out on my own now.”