For ITI KE MI (“New moon. Mouth. Feminine.”), composed in 1995 for the violist Barbara Mauer, Billone restrung and retuned the instrument, then notated with a mix of conventional staves, graphic cues, and color coding an alien litany – one in which the vocabulary is utterly, defiantly abstruse, yet the emotional course and its impact are instantly discernible, inescapable. The music pleads, yawps, growls, and sighs with a relatable voice.
None of which is meant to downplay a listener’s discernment of the technical feat involved – “[T]his new tuning forces the instrument to vibrate according to frequencies which never belonged to it, thus radically altering the capability of vibration of the soundboard and sound box. It constricts the instrument to a momentary aphonia and a consequent rebalancing,” Fusi writes in his own booklet essay – but rather to state that in spite of Billone’s alienating extravagances, the result is profoundly recognizable, human to the core.
If the impact of Equilibrio. Cerchio (2014) is less instant and visceral, that’s likely because its sound world is less expansive by intent, its tonal palette and gestural range more limited: a taut sequence of drones, slurs, pealing harmonics, and repeated actions. What results is less the sound of a lion’s roar, more the sensation of a tiger pacing relentlessly in a cage – its muscularity and freedom of motion constrained yet always sensed, a kind of bottled fury. As in its companion work, Fusi gives a performance of poise, potency, and profundity.
In sum: an astonishing, treasurable disc. Miss it at your peril.