The Squid's Ear Magazine

Armaroli, Sergio (w/ Fritz Hauser): Prismo (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

The quartet of Sergio Armaroli (vibraphone), Martina Brodbeck (cello), Francesca Gemmo (piano), and Fritz Hauser (drums & percussion), also heard in free improvisational duos and trios, perform Armaroli's "Structuring the Silence", aiming to extend the performers' improvisational freedom using time and space through broad compositional instructions.

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product information:

UPC: 752156102229

Label: ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd
Catalog ID: ezz-thetics 1022
Squidco Product Code: 29815

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at "Il Pollaio" Studio; Recording by Piergiorgio Miotto, Ronco Biellese (Biella) on April 27-28, 2019; CD-master by Peter Pfister; Cover photo by Hans Stockhausen; graphic concept by fuhrer vienna; Liner notes by Andy Hamilton; Recording produced by Sergio Armaroli; Associate producer: Christian C. Dalucas, Executive producer: Werner X. Uehlinger.


Sergio Armaroli-vibraphone

Martina Brodbeck-cello

Francesca Gemmo-piano

Fritz Hauser-drums, percussion

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Percussionist Fritz Hauser, a member of the quartet on this recording, has long been fascinated by silence: "Developing sounds out of silence, fading into silence, stopping a cymbal crescendo to let the silence explode into space," he explains. The composition they perform, Sergio Armaroli's Structuring The Silence Extended (2019), is an essay in Cageian themes. It follows Armaroli's 2017 release Structuring The Silence, in which he was partnered by Fritz Hauser. Armaroli explains that "I intended to broaden the improvisation experience by incorporating a typically Cagean conception of time and space...for Cage silence is the world, what we do not control".

Music is a sounding, vibrating phenomenon, patterns of intentionally-produced sound that begin and end in silence. If architecture is the articulation of space, then music is the articulation of silence. "Articulation" is not just enclosure - it means both "expresses" and "breaks up". It also suggests that the space, or silence, is not pre-existing, but created. In these artistic senses, space and silence are not an observer-neutral Newtonian plenum, but human creations. (Kant's understanding of space as mind-dependent, and Einstein's understanding of observer-relativity, may be less alien to the artistic picture.) Silence frames the musical performance, but also occurs within it, as a result of music's humanly physical status. Music-making traditionally involves blowing, plucking, stroking, vocalising and other actions, which produce non-continuous sound and therefore silences.

According to the modern philosopher of silence, John Cage, total silence does not exist - any more than a total vacuum does. Cage's concern with silence was stimulated by his visit to Harvard University's echo-free anechoic chamber. Its walls, ceiling and floor, lined with sound-absorbent material, minimised reflection and insulated the room from external noise. In the room one hears only direct sound, with no reverberation - an unsettling and disorienting experience. Cage heard a high sound, and a low one - the engineer explained afterwards that these were his nervous system, and his blood circulation.

For Cage, all sound, including silence, is music; he concluded that he was creating music unintentionally and continuously. Hence 4' 33", in which form became emptiness, emptiness became form. It is not really a silent piece, as it features contingent ambient sound. At the première, Cage recalled, "You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out."

Cage's philosophical claims need contextualising. On a liberal, postmodern definition, any sound can be music. But the definition is parasitic on the existence of traditional music - an art of tones, of relatively fixed and enduring pitched sounds. As with conceptual and readymade visual art, we couldn't respond to Cage's 4' 33", if we had not experienced traditional music- making. Aesthetic responses to non-musical sound are parasitic on aesthetic responses to tonal sound - and arguably, 4' 33" is soundart rather than music.

Armaroli's Structuring The Silence addresses Cageian themes while making connections with more traditional music-making - in particular, through the art of improvisation which the American maverick professed to reject. Armaroli argues that Cage discovered its value late in his career, through collaboration with improvisers like Fritz Hauser, for whom he wrote one of his Number Pieces. The score for Structuring The Silence develops Cage's technique in those Pieces, in which "time is conceived as a possible container of musical form." In the Number pieces, Cage's focus is on duration rather than rhythm, and this is another factor that makes his work soundart rather than music - though the boundary between these categories is always contestable. And I'd reiterate that Armaroli's work has more affinities with traditional music-making - the performances on this recording are clearly tonal and rhythmic.

Armaroli was born in Italy in 1972, and lives in Milan. He is a painter, poet and "percussionist concrète", who's worked with Sylvano Bussotti, Alvin Curran, Walter Prati and Elliott Sharp. Hauser, born in 1953 in Basel, composes for solo percussion, percussion ensembles, chamber orchestra and choir. He's created sound installations and music for films, and works with architects and choreographers. For this recording, the Armaroli-Hauser partnership becomes Quartet Prismo, with Francesca Gemmo, Italian pianist and composer, and Martina Brodbeck, principal cellist of the basel-sinfonietta. Here, Armaroli plays vibraphone, and Hauser percussion.

Armaroli's score is conceptual, containing instructions such as: "Choose nine sounds (or groups of nine sounds) in the order: 9 + 9 + 9...with fixed characteristics (amplitude, tempo, overtone structure, duration, etc.) and nine elements: gestures, intention, words and other suggestion(s) etc." Durations and dynamics are free: "The sounds to be made are long and short or very short. Instruments can play alone, duo or trio." Four instruments are specified: drums, cello, piano and vibraphone.

A score such as this invites the question: When does interpretation become improvisation? Conceptual and graphic scores undermine the distinction, and this seems especially true for Structuring The Silence. Influenced by Cage's ideas of duration, silence and non-intention, the quartet's exploratory quest and fragile balance results in music that perhaps sounds improvised - but they convey the rightness and certainty of the most persuasive composition. Gemmo's quicksilver and delicate piano figurations, Armaroli's sonorous vibraphone, Brodbeck's classical and jazzy cello and Hauser's protean, sometimes explosive percussion make for a soundworld that is tantalisingly liminal. If pressed on whether a performance "sounds improvised", often I'd ask, "It depends what you mean by improvisation and composition - because improvisation is itself a method of composition, in the sense of putting things together in an aesthetically pleasing way". These sensitive performances bear out that important uncertainty."-Andy Hamilton, 2019

Artist Biographies

"Sergio Armaroli is a composer, percussionist, vibraphonist, teacher and total artist. His actions resonate through various artistic and musical fields, that of jazz being, perhaps, his most practised. He declares himself to be a painter, concrete percussionist, fragmentary poet and sound artist as well as founding his work "within the language of jazz and improvisation" as an "extension of the concept of art"."

-Sergio Armaroli Website (

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"Martina Brodbeck was born in Basel and studied violoncello at the Musikakademie Basel under Thomas Demenga. After an additional course at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag under Michael Müller, she obtained the concert diploma with distinction at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Biel/Bern under Conradin Brotbek. She followed the master classes of Peter Buck, Reinhard Latzko, Jaap ter Linden and Pieter Wispelway

Martina Brodbeck is a member of the Basel-Sinfonietta and solo violoncellist with the Aargauer Kammerorchester. She is particularly active in the field of contemporary music and plays with chamber music ensembles in Europe, Asia and the United States. She has made radio and CD recordings."

-The NEC (

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"Francesca Gemmo is a pianist, composer and teacher.

She graduated in Piano at the "FE Dall'Abaco" Conservatory in Verona, her city of origin, and in Composition at the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan; in the same Conservatory he subsequently obtained the II level Academic Diploma for teaching Piano.

She has obtained significant prizes and awards in national piano competitions and her repertoire ranges from Baroque to contemporary music.

Her concert activity has led her to play in prestigious halls in Italy and abroad (Sale Apollinee in Venice, Center Le Phenix in Friborg, Konzerthaus in Weimar, Mudima Foundation in Milan, Museo del Novecento in Milan, Arsenale Theater in Milan , Seismic Area).

The attention to paths of experimentation and improvisation has favored her collaboration with authoritative artists such as Sergio Armaroli, Alvin Curran, Brunhild Meyer-Ferrari, Steve Piccolo, Walter Prati, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Elliott Sharp, Fritz Hauser.

As a composer she has to her credit several performances by important soloists and ensembles such as Irvine Arditti, Luca Avanzi, Sergio Scappini, Divertimento Ensemble, Trio Matisse; moreover, works have been commissioned from authoritative instrumentalists such as guitarist Magnus Andersson and saxophonist Daniel Kientzy."

-Francesca Gemmo Website (

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"Fritz Hauser , born 1953 in Basel / Switzerland develops solo programs for drums and percussion, he brings the world to the performance. Compositions for percussion ensembles and soloists, chamber orchestra, choir. Sound installations (including Therme Vals , Architecture Museum Basel , Castel Burio Italy, Kunsthaus train , Fondation van Gogh in Arles, University of Zurich, radio plays, music for films and readings. Interdisciplinary Working with the lighting designer Brigitte Dubach, director Barbara Frey, the architect Boa Baumannand the choreographer Kinsun Chan, Joachim Schloemer, Heddy Maalem and Anna Huber. In the field of percussion playing and working with percussion soloists and ensembles around the world: Kroumata , Steven Schick , Keiko Abe , Synergy Percussion , Michael Askill , Speak Percussion , Bob Becker , Nexus, EnsembleXII , we spoke . Numerous CDs as a soloist and with various ensembles. Fritz Hauser's cultural award in 2012 the city of Basel and culture prize winner Music Basel-Country in 1996. In the summer of 2018 was Hauser "composer-in-residence" at the Lucerne Festival in 2018."

-Fritz Hauser Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Quartetto Cinque 3:39

2. Trio Due 5:03

3. Trio Uno 3:39

4. Duo Sette 1:40

5. Duo Cinque 2:10

6. Duo Due 3:28

7. Quartetto Quattro 2:03

8. Structuring The Silence Extended 30:13

9. Duo Quattro 3:41

10. Duo Quattro 4:38

11. Quartetto Sei 7:54

Related Categories of Interest:

Hat Art
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Saxophone & Drummer / Percussionist Duos
Duo Recordings

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ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd.

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