Wednesday, November 8, 2023

New Commission: Page One of the score "Ettore" for Oboe da caccia.


The commission of "Ettore" by Olivetti S.p.A. is a nod to the Oboe da caccia's rich history. As a company, Olivetti has long stood for innovation, design, and the harmonious blend of functionality and aesthetics, principles that are mirrored in the design and sound of the Oboe da caccia itself. The score is a liaison between the past and the present, encapsulating the timeless allure of the Oboe da caccia and projecting it into modern musical dialogue.

The title "Ettore" is a tribute to Ettore Sottsass, a visionary architect and designer, whose work with Olivetti was groundbreaking. Sottsass was known for his vibrant and unconventional approach, qualities that have inspired the score's structure. Each segment within "Ettore" can be imagined as a reflection of Sottsass’s own design phases—ranging from the rigorous to the revolutionary.

Sottsass’s association with Olivetti yielded iconic design work, including the Valentine typewriter, which stood out for its bold red color and was seen as a symbol of Italian design in the 1960s. His ability to marry function with avant-garde aesthetics is akin to the role of the Oboe da caccia in Baroque music—both serve practical roles while exuding an air of the extraordinary.

"Ettore" encapsulates the ethos of Sottsass. The score will be more than a musical composition; it is a homage to a man whose legacy is defined by his ability to transcend the mundane, much like the Oboe da caccia transcends its traditional boundaries through its arresting sonority. Each note penned  carries the weight of history and the freshness of innovation.

Commissioning "Ettore" symbolizes Olivetti's ongoing commitment to celebrating art and innovation. In bringing together the past and the present, the score for Oboe da caccia is not just an ode to Sottsass but also to the enduring spirit of creativity that Olivetti has always championed.

About Sottsass...

Ettore Sottsass, an Italian architect and designer, is perhaps best known as the founder and driving force behind the Memphis Group, which played a pivotal role in the postmodern design movement of the 1980s. The Memphis Group emerged as a dynamic, iconoclastic force in the world of design, known for its vibrant colors, bold patterns, and playful approach to form and structure, which starkly contrasted with the rationalist and functionalist designs that preceded it.

The birth of the Memphis Group can be traced back to 1980 when Sottsass organized a meeting with a group of young architects and designers on the 11th of December. It was during this meeting, reputedly named after the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" playing in the background, that the foundation was laid for what would become a revolutionary design collective.

Sottsass, as the leader of Memphis, encouraged designers to push boundaries and create objects and furniture that were expressive, experimental, and exuberant. He believed in breaking the rules of the ‘good taste’ of the day, and his leadership fostered an environment where the members of the group could produce work that was postmodern in ethos and celebrated for its avant-garde, kitsch, and outrageous aesthetics.

The designs produced by the Memphis Group under Sottsass's guidance were characterized by unconventional materials, asymmetrical shapes, and a collage of patterns. Laminates were a favorite material, often used in bright, contrasting colors and patterns that would be considered clashing by conventional standards. The pieces they created weren't just objects of functional use; they were a statement against the status quo and became symbols of cultural and social commentary.

As a leader, Sottsass imbued the Memphis movement with a spirit of collaboration, openness, and non-hierarchical engagement. He steered the collective with a vision that design should be sensual and stimulating, pushing against the minimalism and utilitarianism that dominated design language in the mid-20th century.

Under his guidance, Memphis became a cultural phenomenon, extending its influence beyond furniture and products to graphics, textiles, and even into aspects of interior design.

The impact of Sottsass and the Memphis Group on the world of design was profound. They inspired a generation of designers to think more broadly about the role of design in society, and to challenge the norms that dictated form, function, and aesthetic value. Sottsass's leadership was not about creating a style; it was about fostering a new approach to design—an approach that celebrated individuality, cultural complexity, and a playful engagement with the object.

Sottsass eventually left Memphis in the late 1980s, but the movement continued for several years thereafter. His work as the founder and dynamic leader of the Memphis Group cemented his legacy as one of the most influential figures in late 20th-century design, a legacy that continues to inform and inspire the field to this day.

The score structure of "Ettore" diverges from traditional stave notation, utilizing a tablature system that is as radical as it is precise. Tablature, often used for stringed instruments to indicate finger placement rather than pitch, is here ingeniously adapted for the Oboe da caccia, a woodwind instrument with a storied past.

This novel approach to notation does more than just prescribe the notes to be played; it delves into the very timbre and articulation specific to the Oboe da caccia. Each symbol, each line of the tablature in "Ettore," is carefully crafted to draw out the instrument's haunting and resonant voice—a voice that harks back to its hunting horn origins.

Understanding the notational intricacies of "Ettore" requires an intimate knowledge of the Oboe da caccia itself. Unlike the standard oboe, the Oboe da caccia possesses a curved tube and a brass bell, characteristics that lend it a unique sound palette. 

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