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  • Antonio Forte

A Musical Offering

A short poem about waves or phantasms:


Dear Kind Reader,

Today I turn thirty-four years old. In the English language the verb to turn is used: as if one turns and rolls over, perhaps off the couch, falling to the floor, jostled awake by the sudden yet not-so-drastic change in altitude, the impact of which being attenuated, slightly cushioned by a blue shag carpet. Or to turn into a parking lot whilst driving an automobile. Or as a tadpole turns into a frog. In Italian the verb avere, "to have," is used. As in, io ho trentaquattro anni oggi, literally "I have thirty-four years today." Other things one "has:" a terrible cold, friends, a bad back, a flight to catch, an itchy toe, unpaid parking tickets, an idea, etc. In thinking about these verbs, and the intriguing yet mundane peculiarities of grammar across different languages, I cannot help but remark upon the sense of having these years: do I truly have these years?--at this point, I have the memories of what events and experiences transpired. And I have the music that I created during them.

Linguistics and rhetorical musings aside, I have been creating music for a number of years now (I began piano lessons at age 4), and at this point I have spent more time alive making music than not making it. And recording music has been a practice of mine for almost two decades. It is something that has evolved into an almost daily practice, as one might practice yoga, or practice medicine, or have a studio practice as a visual artist. As one can imagine, a quotidian practice of this nature brings with it a certain amount of accumulation. As I continue to practice music-making (that is, the compositional process: writing and performing that which is original to me), I document it. Some of it need not be shared with others, but some of it does warrant an audience. And so it has been accumulating itself in archival form on my Bandcamp site. This site has allowed me to upload my recordings, thoughtfully and intentionally curated as "albums," and in a tangibly visual fashion that for me is reminiscent of sorting through CD's and vinyl at physical record shops in the years before iTunes or Spotify. The album covers and titles play an important role. But I'm not sure if that title is apt for how they are conceived: not to discredit what an album entails, and the connotations/denotations of an industry-standard term, but I have never truly thought of these recordings as products or commodities in a commercial sense.

So by way of apologia (from the Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense"): they are an archive; a documentation of a healthy, active studio practice. They are like small collections of poems, or series of paintings, or photo-essays. They exist with or without an intended audience, but I am grateful for the platform and opportunity to share them with others. To me they are like Polaroid snapshots, capturing moments in time. Some tell stories, some do not. Some are concrete and recognizable forms, others abstract, abstruse, or even downright ephemeral and misleading.

Thirty-three was a pivotal age/year. Three has always been my favorite number, and significant in many ways. So about this time last year I wrote a short computer program in MAX/MSP that would divide my thirty-third year into a thousand parts, and give me a unique decimal (i.e. 33.something...) for each day of that calendar year, rounded to six decimal points. Without giving myself a goal of a thousand recordings (let's be realistic), I set out simply to compose/record several things on a weekly basis and title them all decimals based on their placement of a thousand different points of that year. As the year wore on, and the recordings accumulated, they started to coalesce, conglomerate, or otherwise curate themselves into their own groups based on sonic or aesthetic characteristics.

Over the course of this next age-calendar year (from age thirty-four to age thirty-five), I will cease to record new material (but probably not) and continue to curate and mix/master what has been accumulated, releasing these sonic entities as they reach their completion. And so, today I am releasing (like one releases a flock of doves, or gets released from prison, or like a fish in a catch-and-release program--back into the wild [sic]) a couple of musical offerings.

The first is a short EP, entitled elettrofonico_ep. The title is an Italian neologism of mine that might be translated as "electrophonic," and constitutes a brief summary of my explorations of electronic music, using primarily a modular synthesizer as the only instrument (no keyboards were used or harmed in its making). The first and last pieces, 1_pesante (Italian for "heavy") and 4_turbido (Italian for "turbid") are reminiscent of, and inspired by, electronic dance music like House and Techno. The middle pieces, 2_la forma senza forma (Italian: "the formless form" or "the form without form") and 3_ῥέω (Ancient Greek for "to flow," pronounced rhéō, a root of the English word rhythm), represent a direct contrast to the repetitive, cyclic, periodic, and abstractly melodic nature of first and last pieces, and explore a more Taoist approach to electronic music synthesis. While composing this music I had been reading Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching and Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven. The album cover is original digital artwork I created using the Grapher application (built into every Mac computer), exploring the visual implications of the graphs of several different mathematical functions simultaneously.

The second is a full-length album entitled some poems about waves or phantasms. It celebrates my undying love and affinity for the ocean. And they are just that: poetic utterances revolving around the ocean or ghostly things, or both. In addition to being an ode to the sea, these pieces represent the continued inner reflections I have upon the state of our environment and the climate crisis; and if future generations will have the same experiences as I have had living near the ocean. There is also a short triptych towards the end, topology of waves. The album artwork is a gelatin silver print I made whilst studying photography as an undergraduate. Like the previous album, these pieces are all electronically-derived via modular synthesis. It is all just waves, really. Both are best listened to on headphones, in the car, or over a good set of stereo speakers.

You can listen to and purchase these albums and more on my Bandcamp archive here:

Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening.

Stay tuned for more.

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