Imagine having to compose for an unknown instrument which nobody knows how to play, which nobody has ever heard, and for which there is no repertoire. This apparently intolerable situation was Pierluigi Billone’s chosen starting point for his composition Mani. De Leonardis, for four shock absorbers and glass (2004). Under these circumstances the exploration of the acoustic possibilities, the means of their production, and the manual exploration of the instrument are an integral part of the compositional process. The composer slips into the role of an explorer who comes upon a space devoid of all expectations and traditions.
Pierluigi Billone sees composition, in this sense, as seeking out the undiscovered, turning a "relationship – which can begin from scratch – between composer, object, and sound" into a work. Art is thus – to Billone and to us as his audience – a non-discursive form of knowledge which language cannot keep up with, a forum for a unique and enriching experience: "A composition in the emphatic sense aims to be a place where that which is manifest unfolds its multivalencies and alters the stability of the already known." At the same time, a work conceived in this way becomes "a place which remains open and which can be inhabited and explored by others according to their own parameters."
This is not to argue in favour of improvisation: the tonal material is predetermined with eminent precision; the composer’s path through the undiscovered country is not negotiable. But the manner in which he goes forth betrays a special sensibility. He does not cut a wide swath, but rather follows the paths already present in the resonant acoustic space. Sceptical about both the intrusions of language and instrumental rationality, for which a phenomenon
always only stands in for an "other", Pierluigi Billone evokes the aura of aesthetic events and epiphanic moments in his works: the music is not a rationalisation, it is a revelation.
The result is mesmerisingly intense, even when – indeed, particularly when - the composer limits his resources. His substantial piece for two bass clarinets 1+1=1 (2006) – the title alludes to Andrej Tarkovskij‘s film "Nostalghia" – integrates instruments, performers and hall in a multidimensional happening which on the one hand, Billone says, encourages "lasting, unbalanced, asymmetrical", i.e. non-synthetising listening, and on the other hand demands attention to even the most minute detail. In multiple transitions between air-noise and tone, between instrumental sounds, voice, and language (spoken, sung, murmured) a fascinating soundscape of great suggestive power unfolds, inviting us to find our own focal point. Pierluigi Billone’s music makes the listener, too, into an explorer.