Alessandra Novaga: electric guitar
Rapidly rising as one of the most renowned female guitarists in the experimental field – a fame enhanced by an ongoing collaboration with Elliott Sharp – Alessandra Novaga decided to ask five composers to provide graphic scores with the aim of recording this album. According to the press release her hopes were even exceeded, letting us hypothesize that she was stimulated in the “right” way by the results of the commissions.
After a number of focused listens, I studied Novaga’s opinions and performances on the web quite a bit before typing impressions. Barring a few inevitable contradictions, what emerges is the portrait of an artist who possibly recognizes the relation between gesture and sonic property as more crucial than the actual constitution of a compositional environment. Indeed, none of the donors to this project is blessed with inventive talents comparable to those of Sharp (or John Zorn, for that matter). Which – in absence of a visual aspect – reduces the effectiveness of La Chambre Des Jeux Sonores of several degrees.
Specifically, and perhaps a little brutally: the best track on offer is “Untitled, January”, an austere semi-static drone piece by Francesco Gagliardi, who’s not a true composer in the strictest acceptation (as per the recipient’s very words). Jack-of-all-trades Sandro Mussida’s “In Memoria” sounds like a nice, inoffensive miniature replica of an obviously non-existent Hans Reichel/Charlemagne Palestine collaborative fragment (with sincere apologies on my behalf for swearing to the gods). Aside from selected short sections, nothing in the works authored by Vittorio Zago, Travis Just and Paula Matthusen managed to evoke anything that wasn’t heard – much earlier – by the genre’s bona fide pioneers. A modest timbral appeal and a definite lack of authentically startling incidents certainly do not help.
Novaga is a good instrumentalist and fanciful improviser, genuinely concerned with the development of her interests. Then again, anyone who pushes a quartet of 13-year old kids to tackle Fred Frith in a school play deserves unconditional kudos. However, the exact extent of her quest is not adequately communicated by this disc. She declares to be influenced by “anything that suggests a new idea”, but should examine the possibility of writing her own material rather than translating other people’s notions. That would really assess where she stands, creatively speaking.