“Harmony is the first quality of beauty” – Interview with Alio Die

interview previously published in 2007 in Apostazja Magazine
author: stark

This is the interview I made several years ago for Apostazja Magazine. Stefano Musso, undoubtely one of ambient legends. For many years his music is very important for me and although I don’t consider all of his albums as “masterpieces”, most of them are filled with the highest quality ambient, sometimes mixed with ethnic or medieval sounds. Always bringing an extraordinary, unique mood.

Hello Stefano. I’d like to ask you how did your musical adventure start?

In the late 80 I started my experiments with sounds , at that times I was fascinated with new wave,electronic music and industrial, but when I started play music I was looking to find my personal style. My idea was to translate some meditative feeling I had in connection with nature in a new ritual approach, so my effort was started looking for a personal language to translate these impressions into music. Apart my equipment was quite simple (a Dat rec. ,a four-tracks tape recorder, a multieffect, a mixer and a sampler). After a while some of my first sound experiments become interesting and I recorded my first two tapes (now on the cd Sit Tibi Terra Levis/ Introspective).

What does this name, ‘Alio Die’, mean?

Looking for a name for my sound-project I’ve found in a book ‘Alio Die’ and I’ve choose it as for the sound of the words as for the positive meaning. It means ‘to another day’ in old latin language and was used like a greeting to a better time.

Do you have any musical education or are you self-taught person?

At the beginnings I hadn’t any musical training, my musical education was just listening to many music first and then practice with samples and field recordings.

You’ve released more than 30 albums so far. Do you create music with the same enthusiasm as almost 20 years ago? Or is it more kind of routine today?

Yes sure, the way I create my music is a bit changed, but the enthusiasm is still alive, as making music is first of all personal needs, it is free, it is the point of less effort, it is not connected with sellings or money, so it is more and more related to my research and intentions to make real my audio world. For sure here and there it’s important to renovate something in the process starting with new instruments or new recordings techniques… To dare something new without lost the gold line.

If you’d have to choose only one of all your releases which you are most proud of, which album could it be and why?

Usually it is the last album I’ve recorded, as I’m still ‘into’ that. But taking more distance and looking to my solo albums I realised that till now I can say after my first “Under an Holy Ritual”, it is “Password for Entheogenic Exp.” one of my favorites for a while. It is as for the quality of the sounds, as for the contained inspiration.

Do you listen sometimes to your own music?

Yes sure, as my first necessity in making music is a kind of self-therapy; to listen to the sounds while I compose music is a part of the creative process. So there are two different listening mood : first is when I create the music. Then my attention must be very accurate in balance with tunes, effects, mixing etc. At the same time I’m also receptive to the feeling that the music induces to find the better result, so the sensibility measure and develope the potential inspiration of the track. This phase can continue for several weeks sometimes and the process is not ending with the sleep time or if the speakers are off.. The second listening mood is when the music is already mastered or realised… In this case it is more a relaxed pleasure and I find interesting to listen to my music after years the cds were printed. I like to discover again mostly of my music is still fresh and active after almost twenty years it was done.

Alio Die is known from many collaborations. What features of your potential collaborateurs are important for you when you make a decision to work or not to work with them?

The decision to collaborate with another artist usually starts from each other esteem and the idea to combine reciprocal musical qualities that characterize the personal styles. I like to collaborate with unknown musicians, sometimes friends as well as professional musicians. By the way, I’m looking for concentrate more with solo projects in the future.

Which collaboration was the most educational for you so far?

I think any collaboration I did teach something as well… By the way, the collaborations are deeper when there is a real meeting with the other friend musician – I mean working in the same room instead just by post exchanging basic tracks and ideas, although I did some very good collaboration in this way too… I’ve deeply loved the music by Robert Rich and it was an important step
for me to work together, I had for sure lot of inspiration understanding a bit the way Robert build up a track and the cure he give to each effects and editing. At that time my technique was a lot
more simple and primitive. By the way the encounter over ‘Fissures’ was successful. Also the collaboration with Amelia Cuni gave me inspirations about tuning and indian’s music tradition of Dhrupad. A lot of collaborations was a perfect meeting and good occasion to expand experiences and different points of view about sound experiments: Jack or Jive with her inspired japanese vocals, Antonio Testa with his shamanic approach, Saffron Wood and Zeit for our inspired acoustic sessions recorded into the nature, Raffaele Serra with his mantric-electronics music, Nick Parkin etc..

Although your music is not really “dark”, Alio Die is quite popular among dark ambient fans. Doesn’t it bother you when someone is putting you next to all that “dark” or “evil” projects?

No, it’s not a problem, but I don’t think my music have so much ‘evil’ qualities, although it can be very dark sometimes.

What’s your opinion about that music?

Personally I can be a bit bored with some ‘evil’ concepts that lot of projects today put on cover after a while. Ok, mostly times it is just to give a kind of aestetic image to the music… but on the other side I like different dark ambient music as well.

Ambient is often built from the same elements as New Age music (organic samples, electronica). In your opinion where lies that thin line which separates for example your works from the ones we can buy in every supermarket for a few cents?

I think this line is not so thin like it seems, in fact new age music -apart some occasionally exception- is usually cheap stuff also in the message and contents, some of the ingredients can be the same but the result it is more commercial and not so interesting to me. I think the biggest difference is about the sensibility and the creativity of the composers, the ones into ambient music are not so interested to become famous or get so much money. It’s true that after a while also in ambient music we can find a crisis of creativity, especially as some musicians are becoming a kind of cliché for new groups… Personally to avoid this I like experiments with sounds and using more and more acoustic instruments and I try always to change a bit the methods I use to record my music.

Don’t you think it is kind of paradox that your music, so closely connected with nature is created with such a big help of a computer – the symbol of XXI century civilization?

Not at all, but on some way it can seem. Only my first albums were recorded without a computer, apart the fact that also a sampler is a computer itself… I use it for multitrack recording and mixing, by the way we are in the age of electronics so it would be very anacronistic to refuse it when can be used in a very creative way. It could be safer for humans to use it in this and other pacific ways instead to conquest by wars, exploit hardly the enviroment or to explore other planets.

I’d like to ask you about the process of creating your music. Or more specifically – to what degree it is improvisation?

The process include improvisation in the plays sessions with acoustic instruments and objects, but then the sounds are mixed in an accurate way and not so much things are leaved out to the case.. .The intuition guide some random elements like synchronisation between layers and filters for example. I start usually experiments with tunings by acoustic recording and field recordings, and then I treat the sounds in my studio. I also like to sample in a creative way, I mean trasforming the original source into something different…

Why have you decided to start your own label Hic Sunt Leones?

I ‘ve founded Hic Sunt Leones in 1991 for produce my music. I started with my first cd ‘Under an Holy Ritual’ (re-realased by Projekt few months later…) The translation of the Hic Sunt Leones name is ‘Here there are the Lions’, a writing that was wrote on ancient maps for indicate the limit of unknown sea places, where it was supposed there was the monsters. HSL purpose was to go through these symbolic limits and mark out paths of knowledge by new musical proposals.  For this reason the HSL catalogue is little various in styles, but I think there is always a connection between the different productions.

What are the criteria that have to be fulfilled when you are making a decision of signing a project for your label?

My intention was to release interesting music not only in the ambient area. The decision to sign a project had follow different of my interest in music and the occasion to meet musician that had not yet released his music on cd. In fact I released first cds of musicians that later become more famous like Ora, Andrew Chalk, Oophoi, Opium, Walter Maioli(you can find his music also in the film’Gladiator’ ), Runes Order, Amelia Cuni…

What emotions should Alio Die music bring to the listener?

Well, the sensibility to the music is always personal, but who is already initiated to this kind of sounds will answer in a similar way to Alio Die’s music. For example I found similar impression from different reviews of my albums. I like when my music induce an hypnotic effect that change the perception of time and space, opening a door from where the mind can flow away.. .it is a state similar to that is between sleep and waking up, but you are here at all -the flight of real image-. I like the flight goes into mystery of nature, through the magic of life and into the darkness of inconscious. I look for a music that have a relaxing effect, but it can be also obscure as well. I also like to imagine to a prenatal(before born) feeling, a dimension where the connection with nature (mother) is a total interconnection and the in-out impulses are liquids. I also like to find a music that it is evocative, with an ancient/ medieval feeling, an ascensional way to infinite.

Alio Die works stimulate my imagination very strongly. Maybe it will sound a little pretentious, but I have an impression that when I listen to your CD’s at night, my dreams are more intensive… Does your dreams inspire you in any way during creating music?

Well, when I’m recording music for lot of hours a day, mixing and listening a lot to it, it happens that I dream the music all night long and I still found in me when I wake up, it is a nice experience and it can contribute to become more sensible to the creation.

What is your ideal of beauty?

I think the beauty it is not only an aesthetic choose, but it is also something about the observer’s point of view. It must be himself the beauty if he wants to see the beauty. In this Plotino’s way I see the beauty like a transformation’s point of view into an illumination state. The definition of beauty must be preceded by a properly knowledge of self and by knowing the distinction between subject and object – then the beauty can appear itself without any duality with the opposite. The beauty first of all it is the right attitude. The good wisdom is to imitate nature. For me the ideal of beauty is related with nature and with the inner spirit of life, and the harmony is the first quality of beauty.

I know that you like traditional music from many parts of the Earth. Is there any particular region of the world which music is especially interesting or inspiring for you?

Yes, I’ve found a lot of inspiration into traditional music from lot of parts… I like eastern music from India, Iran, Vietnam, Bali..and also Mali, Madagascar, Finland… I like a lot also music from the past like Celtic or medieval music.. I research a lot into traditional music looking for the feeling of some styles and tunings, but without the purpose to make especially a kind of traditional music.. .For example playng in the properly way instruments like sitar, sarangi or rebab needs a long training that can take lot of years… I practice sometimes very long with acoustical instruments in the last years, but my attempt is to play them in a personal way and integrate them into my music language.

What can we expect from Alio Die in the nearest future?

A new cd by Five Thousand Spirits is just out on Faria label (Russia) with beautiful packaging with cards. Later this year the cd Eleusian Lullaby will be out on Projekt. It’s a collaboration with the singer Martina Galvagni. It will be my fourth cd on this label and will be released in december 2007. I’ve ready two new albums for the ‘Castle Sonorisation Series’ that will be out later on Hic Sunt Leones, probably into a 6 panel digipack.

Thank you Stefano for your time. Last words are yours.

Thank you very much for your interest, apart words in the translation I’m very happy the Music is an international message that arrive to comunicate directly to the heart and soul over languages and space.

ALIO DIE official website

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