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Experimentum Mundi [Jul. 2nd, 2014|10:27 pm]
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On her recent visit, helenraven, leafing through the newspapers on the kitchen table, stopped, did a double-take, checked the top of the page and said "This is a newspaper from 1995." This was true; slowly but surely I am working my way through the backlog. There's always something that makes it worthwhile - a Nancy Banks-Smith television review, Doonesbury (or sometimes a David Shenton strip) - and if mostly that's something quite small, well, mostly it doesn't take up much of my time.

Once in a while, though, there's something worth lingering over.

On Friday, July 7th 1995, the Guardian carried an article by Ian McDiarmid, artistic director of London's Almeida Theatre, about a piece which was about to be staged as part of an 'opera' season: Giorgio Battistelli's Experimentum Mundi, "an extraordinary scoring of work in progress, a scenic concerto for master artisans, percussion and the spoken word". The Guardian article isn't online, but here is the Independent's review, and another, more music-centred, review and better still, here is a taste of the thing itself (there is an Experimentum Mundi website, which links to a different and apparently more complete YouTube video, but one which I found inaudible):

What the video doesn't show is the part taken by Ian McDiarmid in that Almeida production. It was his task to read extracts from Diderot's Dictionnaire raisonné des arts et des métiers relating to the crafts being exercised by the orchestra. His article describes his visit to Albano, the village which is the home of the orchestra, to rehearse, and how he felt after the run-through: "A sudden wave of depression engulfs me. I am just not making anything. Not even progress. Surrounded by hand-made shoes, delicious pasta and a small wall, I am alone with a tired larynx and a crumpled script." Battistelli reassures him that 'we are all makig different kinds of magic', but he is more consoled by the meal that inevitably follows the music (Italy has a reputation to maintain). But I love that image: "surrounded by hand-made shoes, delicious pasta and a small wall..."