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 Etta Scollo

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Language and music, the poetic word and the composed sound: for Etta Scollo, the two have been making ever-new blossoming partnerships ever since she took up poems by her compatriot Rosa Balisteri in 2005 with "Canta Ro". Never before, however, has the Sicilian molded language in such a comprehensive way, from so many different sources, into a sonorous form as in her new work: on "Il passo interiore" she accompanies man on his inner journey - a journey with texts from half a millennium, which possess philosophical, spiritual and evermore humanistic traits.

In the age of mobility, where one can get from A to B like never before, the greatest fascination for Etta Scollo remains a movement that has been present in all eras and that one does not see: the inner step, "il passo interiore”.  "It is the journey of the inner monologue, the individual, a quite subjective touch of reality for each and everyone," she explains. "This is actually the most important journey of a person to which the journey of communicating to the outside and of course the geographical journeys in the world take place. It gives me the impression that reality often changes from deep emotional states to something quite rational and ordinary.  And again and again I feel the need to collect everything in a single image.”  How can this inner search with all its contradictions be musically portrayed and coherently combined?  Only with a view over centuries, only with the union of quite different genres and places.  Scollo strikes a wide arc from mystical lyrics to political speech, from a love poem to contemporary witness interviews.

Such a large-scale endeavor could end in a haphazard collage, but Etta Scollo's trick is that she combines the contrasting forms of text with a sound that has often accompanied her on recent albums. A sound whose essence is the color of Baroque and Renaissance. "This sound keeps coming back when I compose," she says, "and I feel some freedom in it. In this music dwells the idea of singing narration, it is like a free, beautiful game. And I also see connections to the minstrel singer and to the improvisation of modern jazz.”  In the heart of her apartment, together with the sound engineer Kay Wäcke, she created textures full of introspective warmth, with the accordion by Cathrin Pfeifer and the cello by Susanne Paul, percussive extras on a deep drum on boxes and honey cans from the hands of her longtime friend Patrice Heral. Choral sequences with Cécile Kempenaers, Matthias Jahrmärkte and Tom Heiß as well as the string magician on Guitarra Portuguesa and Mandolin by Hinrich Dageför were added. A "gift" she calls this fantastic ensemble, which gave the stations of the inner journey a common breath.

This breath draws in the beginning, in the play "T'alzasti", from the introspection: Scollo's close friend, the Spanish poet Miguel Angel Cuevas, was inspired for this by the mystic Johannes vom Kreuz. He tells how man frees himself from a multi-layered crust, a heavy burden - a slow, gradual rise of the melody reflects this. That gives the strength, the impulse for the further flight. On it we hear of the intimate bittersweetness of life and love, Carmelo Assenza has formulated it in an ancient language, but universally valid, sonically anchored in Sicilian folklore. There is talk of the inner emigration, always present in human history and exemplified by the example of the Hungarian composer Ligeti, whose isolated work, whose path to enlightened art describes them in a deliberately eavesdropping waltz with fiery piano dubs by Ferdinand von Seebach.  And there is the opposite, the external, forced journey, the migration of the 21st century, about which the former mayor of Lampedusa spoke in a flaming appeal to Europe five years ago. Etta Scollo has dressed her words unaltered in a suite of folklore colors: "Today, when we talk almost cynically about refugees, this speech has almost become a gesture of poetry, of a timeless humanity," she says.

It is a humanity that also pervades through the other pieces of "Il passo interiore": In a moving trilogy about the miners, Etta Scollo has molded to shocking gems, the interviews of a widow, her daughter and a survivor of the mine accident from Paolo di Stefano's book "La catastròfa". How "the everyday gestures of love, in spite of everything, outshine the misfortune”, and she has captured them in a virtually intimate musical tone.  And finally, the fate of the Holocaust survivor Shlomo Venezia amongst the background noise of an increasingly racist-tinged Italy: here Scollo summarizes the exhausted lament from the verses of Sebastiano Burgaretta in a striking musical Lamentatio, introduced by the dark color of Tara Bouman's clarinet.

"All of these stories have seemingly come together around me," says Etta Scollo, “I’m simply a tool for them with my voice." A voice that portrays, in her final piece, the versification of Miguel Angel Cuevas. That travels from the take off of the beginning and after all the stories now returns to dust, to the earth.  “To me, my voice has always had something to do with the earth, I never thought it was beautiful. I always had to practice a lot to get it soft. The way I sing songs comes out of pain.”  It is through this pain, through moments of necessity, that make the inner journey on her new album, it’s how Etta Scollo is able to establish her intensive relationship between music and language.  With "Il passo interiore" she has created something that, she believes, is indispensable for the future of humanity: "The word must return to a genuine human interest - such as the music has, not an impulsive, violent one. This is the only hope for me, that we can find ourselves and become humane again."


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