Robert Iolini is a composer who transcends the divisions between music, documentary and radio art, mixing investigative journalism, sound ecology, storyboarding and conventional notated composition - using songs, spoken word, field recording, improvisation and electroacoustic manipulation to make complex audio works that might equally be music, documentary or fiction. He works, initially, like a radio journalist: researching, collecting materials, conducting interviews.
Songs from Hurt
The bulk of Songs from Hurt have been constructed in this way, around the extraordinary testimonies of aboriginal teenagers, prisoners, shadow communities and witnesses to a world in which the interviewees are continually told that they are surplus to requirements. Then this raw data is organised, transformed and integrated into complex musical compositions, becoming itself musical in the process - its pitches no longer simply prosaic, its rhythms driving the structure of its setting while remaining intact - not looped or pressured into becoming servants to the overall organisation of an aesthetic fiction. The witnesses and sounds converse and conspire in Iolini's work, but never give way to one another. It is rare for conventional and electronic compositions to remain so respectful of voices and what they have to say, and this plain matter of fact-ness makes most rap sound like bluster, and most opera sound like history - to me, I hasten to add. The opening track stands outside the political intensity of the rest of the CD and its method is slightly different; it's more a meditation on its topic - and it was one part of a multimedia presentation - but it still works to bring the documentary and the musical worlds together, in its form as well as its topic.
Electroacoustic, Chamber Ensemble, Soundscapes & Work for Radio
One of the strangest CDs ever to come your way, this eccentric collection runs the gamut from political electro acoustic documentaries, to elegant classical chamber works, electronic manipulations, and post Magma histrionics. The pieces: Edwin Armstrong. Commissioned as a radio piece by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, this is a meditation on the life's work of Edwin Armstrong, who invented the frequency modulation (FM) system, which forms the basis of all radio, radar and television reception. Armstrong failed to receive royalties for his invention, and committed suicide. The piece weaves together transmission sounds, electronic bleeps and whoops, interference, and melancholic piano and synthesiser. Congo and Zimbabwe, Lingo Babel, Whyitiso Scored for piano, soprano sax, clarinet and acoustic bass, these four pieces define a new genre somewhere between chamber jazz, Erik Satie and ZNR. Inspiration comes from the polyrhythms of African Music, and in Whyitiso the music of Robert Wyatt. Some great piano work, too. City In Between Centered on the handing over of Hong Kong back to China, this piece was Commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Company. It's a musique concrete documentary which seeks to 'transform into music and sound the more subjective experiences and ambiguities experienced by Hong Kong people'. Based on field recordings, its an extraordinary document of a key historical event. There are instructions from angry officials, bizarre extracts from radio and television, sirens, crowds, and allsorts.. The piece was a prizewinner in the Soundscapes 2000 competition in Amsterdam in November 1999. Secrets and Breaking the Seal A homage to Mordachai Vanunu, and his exposure of some of Israel's atomic secrets, leading to his imprisonment. The words of Vanunu himself lead to a bizarre rock/classical opera, with repetitive kraut rock beats and contemporary classical singing. Anti-Apocalypse A piece about the obsession of the human race with apocalypse. Every heroic final gesture you could imagine is packed into 6 minutes of subterranean distorted guitar, wailing flute, doom laden poetry, snatched and fragmented vocalising, black magic chanting, and huge distant electronic crashes.