Pietro Grossi

Battimenti

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File this one under experimental music and emphasize the first word, because in the end it sounds much more like a scientific experiment than a music composition. Realized between 1964 and 1966 and circulated among peers (it had a strong influence on Italian composer Albert Mayr), Battimenti finally received a proper (partial) release in 2003. Pietro Grossi was very meticulous in his exploration of the possibilities of electronic music. For this piece, he set out to catalog the beats appearing when frequencies juxtapose. Systematically combining two to ten frequencies by increments of one Hz between 395 and 405 Hz (giving 11 frequencies), the piece progresses mathematically, 30 seconds at a time. Only the sets for two, three, four, and five frequencies have survived the long hibernation (for a total of 53 minutes of music), but they are enough to measure the seriousness in Grossi's approach and, one must admit, the understated charm of the piece. The temptation to put Grossi in the same bed as the American minimalists is strong, but in fact, on the count of this piece he was more of a methodologist. Every half-minute, a new set of frequencies rings, implacably, whether you are still listening or not. Of course, this acoustic phenomenon is a lot less impressive today than it was back in the mid-'60s, but if you haven't had a chance to be exposed to true analog beats, Battimenti is the best textbook you can find.

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