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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, 1966

Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (NC) was from 1966 onwards one of the pioneering outfits in new music. Like their brethren the MEV and AMM, they were the first collectives to improvise new music and to incorporate live electronics and/or extended techniques into their music.

The very good news is that their first, self-titled album from 1966 is in print again (Schema 944). It was originally released on Italian RCA Victor, then repackaged as Il Gruppo, the Private Sea of Dreams for RCA in the US and Canada in 1967. For some reason, happily, my local public library had a copy and I brought it home and was mightily impressed, though puzzled by its very newness. This was and is cutting avant improvisation and in 1967 it struck me as uncanny. Hearing it again now with all that came after it sounds almost "normal" to me, which is only to say that the musics that followed, even the avant improv music of today owe a great deal to these primary outfits.

The original lineup was made up of some impressive musical creators, many of whom went on to have long and successful careers in the new music as composers and/or improvisors--Ennio Morricone is no doubt the best known of the lot for his many innovative movie soundtracks, but Frederic Rzewski, Franco Evangelisti, Roland Kayn, have all been important figures outside of Il Gruppo as well. The other key initial members heard here are Mario Bertoncini, John Heineman, Jerry Rosen, and Ivan Vandor.

Other than Roland Kayn on Hammond Organ, the instruments are purely acoustic and via extended techniques nonetheless create exotic avant universes of sound. Eight improvisations grace the first album; each creates a sonic world unto itself, whether it be a matter of four players playing inside and outside a prepared piano, an eight-member chamber ensemble, a "Cantata" of four vocal extensions, and what-have-you.

This album was and remains a game changer. Along with those first MEV and AMM sides it brought new music improvisation to the fore and set the pace for much that followed. All avant gardists will find this one indispensable, but it is a provocative listen all will benefit from, I would hope.

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