Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Music in Second Life: A meditation in the hands of AldoManutio Abruzzo

Musician AldoManutio Abruzzo disagrees with me when I say that listening to music in Second Life is Not Possible in Real Life. Aldo, sowwwy, but when was the last time you were able to listen to (and be present at) a live music concert, while simultaneously holding one or more conversations with near and distant friends (in Real Life and/or at some far away point on the grid), without disturbing other listeners or the performer? I rest my case. :D

Fact is, I've been happily surprised with my own experience of music in Second Life. Not only have I discovered a number of new-to-me recorded talents via some wickedly good DJs, including thomTrance OToole and Alec Paragon, but I've also been introduced to several really superb artists through their live, streamed performances.

Granted, and this must be said... I love the thrill of zipping around in my RL car - way too fast, according to the California Highway Patrol which has ticketed me and sent me off to driving school for more than a couple pedal-to-the-metal infractions - while listening to my fave tracks at an exhilirating volume. Please don't hate me for this! I do keep my windows rolled up so as not to inflict my musical tastes on others.

But there is another kind of music that slows your heart rate, calms the mind, and leaves you refreshed. That would be the music of AldoManutio Abruzzo. Listening to his work is not unlike standing at the end of the beach after a storm, looking out over the ocean and wondering about the great questions of life.

Not too long ago I was one of the fortunate people who were present for AldoManutio's well-attended live performance to commemorate the inauguration of Princeton's new Alexander Beach sim - built by our very own Scope Cleaver . It wasn't the first time I've attended AldoManutio's concerts, and it certainly won't be my last, but something about this last one left me in such a peaceful and mellow state that I might as well have spent the hour in a yoga class.

But getting back to whether AldoManutio's music is NPIRL or not. If it isn't, then why is he so often the choice collaborator for some of the most admired content creators of things that are Not Possible in Real Life, weaving his soundscapes through their works with an aural needle and thread? I asked Aldo this and more.

Bettina Tizzy: Please describe your music, Aldo.

AldoManutio Abruzzo: I improvise my music on the spot. I don't really "hear" the music so much as strive to "listen" to it as I am playing. It isn't until after the fact - during editing - that I truly get to hear what happened during those moments of playing... a touch of Fripp here, a dash of Shankar there, followed by a little Rachmaninoff; or I might throw in an American folk spiritual.

I don't use pre-recorded loops or sequenced synthesized passages in my live performances. My live performances are just that: spontaneous compositions being created on the fly at that moment. I do sometimes improvise upon recognizable themes (Douglas Story was recently shocked to hear me doing variations upon "Greensleeves" but it is, in fact, a venerable lute song and numerous variations have been written .. .I just happened to do some new ones that night.). This is why I try to always record every performance ... I operate from the assumption that people have come to hear music they have never heard before and, unless I record it, will never hear again.

Bettina Tizzy: What was your musical training?

AldoManutio Abruzzo: I began musical studies on the trombone and studying classical guitar in high school. I taught myself to read lute tablature and, as an undergraduate at the University of Texas, began performing Renaissance and Baroque lute music on an original instrument with the Madrigal Singers (under the direction of Morris Beachy) and the Collegium Musicum. I also performed privately with a group of friends. My lute studies culminated with a Master Class with lutenist Paul O'Dette.

Upon hearing "Another Green World" and "Music for Airports" in the 1980's, I was strongly influenced by the work of both Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, but didn't make the move fully into electronic music until the mid-90's when I started working with computer-based synthesis projects. With the development of more affordable looping devices, I began to utilize looping techniques - especially in live performance situations - to develop the layered textured music that I perform here in SL. The Ebow was added to the tools that I use in 2004.

According to Douglas Story who collaborated with Aldo on the FlowerBall installation: "His music is ethereal, complex, otherworldly, deeply layered, and fascinating. He's up there in the Robert Fripp league... no kidding. However, he refuses to take requests at his concerts. I keep yelling for Smoke On The Water and Freebird, and he never plays either." Teleport directly from here

Bettina Tizzy: Where might people hear your music?

AldoManutio Abruzzo: The main installations that have been deemed as "permanent" are located on the Princeton University sim: Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield's "Flowerball,", the soundscape that is playing inside of Scope Cleaver's maginificent "Alexander Beach" build and the adjacent sculpture created by Juria Yoshikawa. All three soundscapes are more or less permanently available for listening. The previous installations done with Juria were designed to have a limited presence, but the music from those installations is available either by direct, free download from one of my websites or from the SECONDTune vendors. Almost all of my music is available in one form or another, one world or another.

Photograph of Alexander Beach by Harper Beresford

Moreover, people might hear my music almost anywhere... they have found my webstream and have been playing it on their properties. Not much I can do (or want to do) about it. There are some SECONDTunes vendor-kiosks scattered about that are selling MP3s of my performances from Second Life, so people can always grab one of those for a few hundred Lindens and listen anytime. Additionally, my music is available on the Cruxy players that can be used in-world. As a "performer", my music is normally heard in venues, but as of 1 November 2007, I am not scheduling any further "regular" performances in the clubs or venues. I will still be performing in Second Life, but they will be very specific, special appearances.

I find it interesting that several of the artists who have created the most lauded and very Not Possible IRL installations in Second Life, such as this marvel by Juria Yoshikawa found at the Princeton sim, have turned to AldoManutio to incorporate his soundscapes, especially when you consider that he often uses the sounds of nature, such as waves, or thunder.

Bettina Tizzy: Whom would you like to collaborate with?

AldoManutio Abruzzo: I regret not being able to accept the chance to work with Dancoyote Antonelli when the offer was recently made to work on a project with him. Frankly, he is one of the few visual artists with any vision and critical apparatus I have met in Second Life who are attempting to perform at the same level of quality that I am pursuing here. In general, I must say that I am less than sanguine about the quality of what is classified as "art" in Second Life. I can only hope that other visual artists are coming in-world who will raise the overall quality of work.

Bettina Tizzy: What is missing from the sound/music experience in Second Life, both from the musician's and the listener's standpoint?

AldoManutio Abruzzo: In all fairness, I can only address this question from my own perspective as a performer, since I have found it increasingly difficult to enjoy other performances in Second Life. Small audience capacity, stability, and lag are the three single biggest impediments to high quality performance here, as I see it. I could say that the cultivation of an audience that is appreciative of non-"traditional" art music is missing, but that's something that has be developed, one listener at a time, and I do have some hope of that happening as we see more and more traditional classical musicians appearing in here. I think people like Thom Dowd are to be applauded and supported for trying to bring less well-known work in-world.

The capacity to have multiple performers playing in small ensembles would be great. Several brave souls have attempted to perform in small ensembles, by using Voice Chat, but that isn't that promising ... it's bad enough using it for voice.

More venues such as the Alexander Hall on the Princeton sim and Circe Broom's RatePoint Concert Hall (teleport directly from here) are needed to provide venues that don't have pose-balls for dancing and the music can be taken seriously. While she does have comfy cushions that are scripted, Bibi Book's SkyCastle (teleport directly from here) is among my favorite venues for my more "spacey" performances, simply because she has kept the distractions to a minimum and she herself emphasizes the need to support live music (not as presented by DJs, but rather, performers). We need more of that support and attitude.


SJ said...

AldoManutio Abruzzo's music is relaxing.

Douglas Story said...

A great interview, and a good insight into the mind behind the beard. And I wasn't shocked that Aldo played some bits of "Greensleeves," I just commented that it's unusual to be able to sing along with his music!
I might also add that you mighta well not bother shouting requests for "Hot For Teacher." He won't play that, either.
I look forward to AA's next date...