Musical recordings are most often self-contained microcosms, with everything that a listener needs to understand the material in question contained on a single disc or playlist. For those looking for greater information, detail and context, liner notes and booklets are included, but while these are undoubtedly helpful, they are not often required to listen to a particular piece of music.
What happens, however, when the music one is listening to is extracted from a larger artistic production, of which music is only a portion of the whole? Consider, for example, Wagner’s idea of “Gesamtkunstwerk” or Total Art Work, in which all the senses are engaged in the consumption of a work of art. While one can listen to Wagner’s music away from the stage, it is questionable whether he would be pleased with the thought of tearing his Total Art Work limb from limb into its constituent parts.
It is this reviewer’s conundrum that such a situation has arisen here, with La Squadra di Genova’s Frati uccelli, a small, five-track release that originally accompanied Nino Laisné’s visual and sound installation of the same name at the Saorge Monastery in France. This monastery was previously home to Franciscan monks and Frati uccelli attempts to revive their memory through the monastery’s physical space and these polyphonic vocal works.
The music itself is a blend of Genovese and early Baroque polyphony, playfully interpreted by La Squadra di Genova. Crafted specifically for the Frati uccelli exhibit, these works are adaptations of texts by historical figures including Luca Marenzio and Giovanni Legrenzi – both of whom were notable composers – as well as two Anonymous period compositions, all of which provide delightful forays into early Italian musical styles.