Thuistezien 169 — 06.02.2021

Alessandro Bosetti
Musical Material

Alessandro Bosetti sits at a desk behind a laptop with a microphone in front of him. He is one of the two featured artists for the event ‘Musical Material #02: Music and Language’ that took place in 2016 – one of several installments of an event series co-hosted by West and Rewire. Bosetti greets the audience as they take their seats. He begins talking, and for a brief moment it looks as if he is about to embark on an academic lecture. But the impression is immediately shattered as he starts triggering recordings of his own speaking voice heard through the hall’s P.A. system, which invades into the realm of his ‘real life’ ‘real time’ conversation.

This is just the first of many situational twists that Bosetti creates in his performance. As a composer and sound artist he is fascinated with the grey zone between spoken language and music, making his work impossible to categorise in terms of a genre or creative discipline. His performance moves between elements of sound poetry, electronic music – often reminiscent of Musique Concrète and also of Christian Marclay’s avant-garde ‘turntablism’, theatre, spoken word, and radio art – at times reminiscent of the surreal 1950s radio-comedy of The Goon Show. Much of the recorded material he uses is sourced from the field recordings he collects during his travels in a constant, borderless and research-minded exploration of music, sound and speech. Some of the experiences and stories from his travels also are hinted upon in the fragmented tales he starts telling in his real-time recitations as part of his performance.

The chameleon-like Bosseti proves impressively virtuosic in his ability to single-handedly bring about such a complex world with quite limited means. Arguably his training as a jazz saxophonist aids him in performing his intricate works, which utilise precomposed elements brought alive through improvisational elements, and which include also automatic-writing-esque story-telling moments that are often conjured up on the spot. But the essence of the work lies more in an exploration of how information transforms in the audience’s mind as we try and categorise what we are witnessing: For a moment we might think of Bosseti as a storyteller, but a subtle shift will suddenly make us think that instead he is a monotone singer – stylistically similar to someone like Lou Reed for example – but soon that conception also is turned over on its head as we are drawn into a world of abstract electronic sounds comprising of snippets of sampled vocal sounds…

The trick is that much of this mind-bending happens in our heads. Our imagination, our assumption-making, and his gentle use of suggestion is all that is needed for his stripped-down performance to travel us to so many different headspaces. He subtly convinces us from moment to moment that he is functioning in various shapeshifting contexts, illustrating to us how narrow the lines can be in our heads that separate our conception of what constitutes speech, singing, music, narrative, storytelling, humour, nonsense and more. It is as if anything can transform into anything else. Or as if anything that we thought we understood and had a grasp on can suddenly collapse and slip away from us in an instant.

Text: James Alexandropoulos - McEwan