A great variety of musical repertoires from the Mediterranean have made their way to us, thanks to the sophisticated, uninterrupted oral transmission of expressions and artistic practices that have been memorised and shared by generations of artists. Through a process of collective composition, the artists put their own musical heritage into play along with the heritage of others, in a moment of creation.

From Malta, Fabrizio Cassol explains how to mobilise all of the force of oral transmission in a process of collective musical writing, conceived of as the construction of a common musical form in which actual music notation is absent, but memorisation reigns supreme. The approach also leaves more space for individual expression, and for the possibility of receiving inspiration that comes from the moment and is imprinted by the specific context of a given instance of playing.

Fabrizio Cassol invites you to:
-Compose without using music notation or a musical score, and by memorising orally-transmitted forms and motifs.
-Develop your skills at sharing your musical ideas orally with others in an international, collective context.
-Develop your plasticity and artistic reactivity to musical proposals that come from immaterial heritages being shared by others in an intercultural context.

Writing in improvisation, and orality in composition

This concept gives rise to a certain number of questions that may also be found in the process of any composer or improviser—even if the fine line separating these two has yet to be demonstrated.

However, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were also considered great improvisers; and there is much to suggest that they used this spontaneity freely when they created the many masterpieces that have become a part of our collective heritage. The same is true about John Coltrane, who had a reputation for shaping his solos with nearly obsessive meticulousness. And what about the Indian masters who, since their distant beginnings, have passed along their most precious knowledge with astounding accuracy? Or African griots, who memorise an infinite number of stories and ancestral songs and then reinvent them, with delight, to suit the listeners.

Shouldn’t orality be considered rather as a form of writing—admittedly, an immaterial one, but still erudite? And isn’t a musical score the crystallization of spontaneous streams that flow forth from a multitude of constantly renewed present moments?

Whether to represent or to put into the present: Isn’t that the true challenge for Medinea and our young artists? A space where new and old, and where here and somewhere else, are but one and the same.

Over the course of the sessions, these questions make up the essence of our approach; and each of the musicians must meet them head on. As the musicians are confronted by their many differences, they already intuit that each encounter with “the other from somewhere else” is actually an encounter with themselves.

This sharing propels them; and through its powerful and regenerative force, they build their future, which will hopefully be both liveable and sustainable.

Orality is perhaps simply a vast world of secrets, an accumulation of personal and collective memories that are patiently shaped. And while this knowledge once emanated from homogeneous social groups, today it is reborn, independently of style and era, as a limitless potential of healing energy.

It is our driving force; it unites soul, body and mind, and gives us the desire to forge ahead.

This new module, recorded in Malta as part of the Medinea session co-organised with ARC Research and Consultancy and Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, gives some of the Medinea artists a chance to express their feelings and share their experiences in a unique process of collective creation. This unique method of composition is meticulously structured, without having recourse to a written score. Through the immateriality of orality, they weave their ideas and shape a unique universe with multiple memories. Their music is listened to in the same way as one reads epic tales from all over the Mediterranean: it is always touching, poetic and visionary.

Yvette Buhagiar met with Medinea musicians to share her very personal story, which is rooted in Għana, a long tradition of musical poetry that is typical of the island of Malta. As a storyteller, she has dared, courageously, to help perpetuate knowledge that has been possessed solely by men since time immemorial. She explains how the Maltese language articulates words and ideas, and always finds a current meaning even though these words and ideas depend on simple hypnotic and eternal refrains.

Fabrizio Cassol