The neoclassical darkwave collective known as Camerata Mediolanense was conceived within the exquisite confines if Milan, Italy in 1994, founded by the harpsichordist/musicologist Elena Previdi. An intriguing adventure in sound, the sonic tapestries presented by Camerata Mediolanense are absolutely thrilling to behold. Vertute, Honor, Bellezza is the title of their fourth masterwork, unearthed worldwide through Prophecy Productions. The magical compositions found within will surely set the imagination in flight, tingling the senses of all whom encounter their stunning reveries. Here is a recent interview we conducted with Camerata Mediolanense to delve within the mysteries and dynamics of their wondrous compositions. Our journey into the world of Camerata Mediolanense shall now commence…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Camerata Mediolanense, and how long the band has been in existence.
Today in Camerata Mediolanense many different people play: in our new record nineteen musicians took part. The nucleus of the ensemble is formed by four people, who are part of the band from the origin or few time after it: Elena (keyboards), 3vor (voice, various instruments), Manuel (percussion), and Marco (drums, percussion). Around us, Luminiza, Desiree Corapi, Giancarlo Vighi and others are precious current collaborators. We met many years ago, teenagers into the scene of gothic, experimental and post-punk music followers of Milan. Our town was the origin of the name: “Mediolanense” comes from “Mediolanum”, the ancient name of Milan. The first part of the name,“Camerata”, is taken from ancient music history, and means something like “group of people doing chamber music.” At that time Elena was a student of classical music at the Conservatory of Milan, so she chose a name with clear classical references, even if the band was oriented in a popular context.
Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there?
In Milan the music scene of darkwave-gothic music is survived during the years and it’s still alive with some clubs and a handful of people who organize concerts and parties. For example the festival “In Folk Noctis” will take place the next 23 November here in Milan at a new club, named the “Theatre”, that in a couple of years has become the most important of the town. The festival is arrived at the third edition and, while the past two editions mainly hosted European bands (among the others Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and Rome), this time the organizers chose to have only Italian bands, representative of the current Italian musical stage: Ataraxia, Argine and Camerata Mediolanense, and some younger bands, like Tears of Othila.
Is there any story or concept behind the title Vertute, Honor, Bellezza?
Yes, the title is taken from Francesco Petrarca’s poetry (fourteenth century). All the record is done on Petrarca’s poetries taken from his “Canzoniere” and, for the general title, we chose the first three words of a tercet that altogether sounds:
“Vertute, Honor, Bellezza, atto gentile, / dolci parole ai be’ rami m’àn giunto / ove soavemente il cor s’invesca”.
“Virtue, Honour, Beauty, gentle ways / sweet words brought me among the branches / where the heart is so gently caught”.
Our choice has been done because the effect of these three words is like a sculpture, summarizing efficiently the concept of the record.
Select two songs from Vertute, Honor, Bellezza and what inspired the lyrics.
The lyrics of the song titled “Vergine bella” are the first stanza of the last poetry of “Canzoniere”. This text is very famous in Italian cultural history. Basically it is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, done when the poet was feeling to be near to his last days; but, for its beauty, it lived for centuries of its own life. The subject is a contemplation of the Virgin Mary, queen of heaven, from the opposed point of view of a little human being, conscious to be flattened at the ground. She is astonishing in her brightness, so much that also the Sun is dazzled by her. On Petrarca’s words, our music grew spontaneously and easily, seeming to be born with them. It has got the shape of a simple melodic line, given to a soprano voice, that follows the inner rhythm and intonation of the ancient language. The melody is dressed with an accompaniment made by harp and cello, becoming more intense when the speech comes to the final verses.
The second track selected is very different from the previous, because we chose for it an impetuous musical set, with percussion, male vocals and male choir. It is “Canzone all’Italia”, based on the words of another well-known Petrarca’s poetry, that means “Song to Italy”. The poet talks to the beautiful Italy, who is raped by many foreign conquerors, while Italian people, fighting one against the other, don’t care for the situation and don’t realize the defacement that they create by themselves. The lyrics are referred to the Italian situation of the years 1340-1350, but they seem perfectly suited to the Italian situation of nowadays. So, nothing’s changed here in seven hundred years.
Who did the cover art for Vertute, Honor, Bellezza and how much input did you have on it?
The painting of the CD cover is a work by Saturno Buttò, a painter who lives in Venice. Between we and him there is big esteem from many years. The Petrarca project has been conceived by us taking care of Saturno’s future involvement. So, not only he has done the cover of the CD, but also the visuals for all the other features: twelve pictures (one for each of the twelve tracks) for the booklet of the CD; one painting for the cover of the CD Single “99 Altri Perfecti”, that was published some months before the CD; another painting for the cover of the CD Single “Vergine Bella”, that has been published to end the project into a luxury artbook, published by Prophecy in limited edition. The artbook contains all this material, drawings and paintings, printed in big size, so you can contemplate, fliping through the pages, Saturno Buttò’s huge and gorgeous work.
What could one expect from a live Camerata Mediolanense show?
During the many years we haven’t produced any new record, our live shows have been the reason for which Camerata Mediolanense continued to be followed. Every year we have been invited in some place of Europe, so playing not many times, but significant ones. The reason is probably the particular set of our live shows. On one side there is a massive wall of percussion sound, on the other, contrasting, side there is the ethereal and purely melodic singing. The combination of these elements produces a distinguishing alchemy.
Has Camerata Mediolanense ever performed here in the States or plan to do so in future days?
We really would like to play in the States, but it has never happened. And, until now, we are sure to have been unknown in your country. We hope that, in the next future and thanks to the new enterprise of this record, this will be possible.
What made you decide to sign with Prophecy Productions?
We met Prophecy many years ago, as we took part to a compilation made by them. Of course, during the twenty years of Camerata Mediolanense’s existence, we took part in dozens of compilations, almost always dealing with correct and nice people. In the occasion of Prophecy’s, we particularly appreciated the way they led the matter and their correctness. So, when we decided to move to a label, leaving the self-production, we though to them. Their following interest and artistic proposal persuaded us.
If Camerata Mediolanense could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
A difficult question. We take it for fun and answer Joy Division, a band that nobody of us had the opportunity to see live. Even if their musical style had nothing in common with our one, it’s undeniable that Ian Curtis’ band has been one of the main sources for our musical development, in our youth.
What was the most difficult part that went into the recording process of Vertute, Honor, Bellezza?
The studio recording of this CD has been particularly complex. From our point of view, the most difficult part probably has been to do the choirs, that in this record are present on many tracks, often having an uneasy structure, sometimes in counterpoint. From the point of view of the sound engineer, surely the percussion has been the most difficult part, because Camerata Mediolanense’s way of drumming is completely different from the usual rock way, and this astonishes the technicians.
When you look back on the earlier Camerata Mediolanense recordings, what do you think of them now?
We carefully listened to those three records in the last times, because Prophecy reprinted all of them in new editions. The first one, “Musica Reservata”, is surely a debut album of young people, but still it deserves nice feelings in many points. Recorded in a poor studio many miles far from Milan, it has been re-mastered some years ago, conquering some goals against its bad original recording quality. Any way, the sound of Elena’s harpsichord in that recording was particularly nice, and the voice of Luminiza still is really touching. It’s also appreciable the warmth of the analog recording, for example the reverbs are nice. But the sounds of the percussion are really bad, this is undeniable. The second record, “Campo di Marte”, still stands out as Camerata Mediolanense’s best work. Nothing in it displeases us, also today. It seems a miracle that it was recorded and mixed in five days, all in direct drive. But, contrary to the previous record, the studio was a very good one. The third record, “Madrigali”, has been widely spread and it was particularly appreciated by the public, with very good critics too; but it has got a mix between analog and digital recording, with the result that it sounds a bit cold and, today, it seems old to us, we feel the instinct to record it again, to do it in a different way.
Are you involved with any other bands outside of Camerata Mediolanense?
At the present time, the only one is 3vor, who has got his own project named NG (ex Northgate) started more or less when Camerata Mediolanense started. It developed from noise-experimental music to the current form of ambient-psychedelic music with the last “Dance of the Avantgardes” CD.
What’s up next for Camerata Mediolanense?
We are working to new tracks and our intention is to avoid an excessive distance between this record and the next one, even if we know this will be difficult, as we are very selective with our products.
Any final words of wisdom?
We wish to your public a new and exciting experience with , hoping to see you in person in your country maybe in the future. For the moment, you can taste our new and – for the moment – unique video on youtube, titled “Canzone alla Vergine” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdhpDovQ_2E). This song is published into the CD single “Vergine Bella”, and it is available only into the artbook. The video is entirely produced by Luminiza, who sings on Elena’s grand piano. It has been done in Portugal and in Venice, and in some frames you can see Saturno Buttò in his atelier, too.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
The pleasure was our one!
(Interview by Ken Morton)