We introduced different times Bologna-based quartet Earthset (Luigi Varanese, Costantino Mazzoccoli, Emanuele Orsini and Ezio Romano). Two years after their latest EP Popism, they are touring with a new live show focused on the sonorization of silent film “The Mechanical Man” of André Deed. We had a talk with them about the world of sonorization. Check it below.

Let’s start with the concept of sonorization. How did you approach this world?

The interest in sonorization and the audiovisual world is something which evolved over the time within the band. Ever since we started writing as Earthset, there has been a natural tension towards writing for images, both sound and lyrics; we could define it as an impressionist approach, which characterizes us from the beginning of this journey and can be grasped above all in the instrumental digressions within the songs and instrumental tracks.

Then there were some first approaches to soundtracks with the project “Cantiere 2 Agosto”, the documentary movie on the Bologna massacre produced in 2017 by the press office of the Regional Legislative Assembly of Emilia Romagna, and our music was used for this purpose. In 2018, we have the chance the opportunity to join the “Soundtracks” project of the Modena Music Center which was presented, curated by Corrado Nuccini (Giardini di Mirò), more specifically dedicated to the sonorization of silent movies from the early 1900s. And we found which there was a real personal interest for this world. 

Especially, Ezio (vocals / guitar) saw some sonorization int he past and was fascinated by this kind of show and he had a certain desire to make something similar sooner or later. The same. Emanuele (drums), who also deals with sound design and soundtracks with a parallel project, had a strong interest in the Soundtracks project. For others of us, there was perhaps no direct involvement, but certainly the curiosity to approach an interdisciplinary project and we were very motivated everyone to do this experience. All this went far beyond our expectations and gave us a lot in terms of learning and opportunities. “The Mechanical Man” project was born from this situation.

You are touring right now with the sonorization of “The Mechanical Man”. How did you work on this?

The sonorization of “The Mechanical Man” was assigned to us during the project of “Soundtracks 2018”. We were particularly lucky because we had a whole film available instead of a simple fragment. During the course we worked in collaboration with Luca Maria Baldini, who played the first part, and we were assisted by two high profile tutors: Nicola Manzan and Tiziano Bianchi.

We worked with Nicola, who followed us to the recording studio and gave us the right tips where there was something to fix. From a music point of view we have adopted a double approach: on the one hand we have tried to give a coherence to the score by elaborating a main “theme”; on the other, we established the harmonic frame in which we want to move and we played by improvising on the images trying to follow the film. From these first sessions the sound textures were born and we finally added improvement watching the film with the audio recorded by us and pointing out what could go well with the different frames or what to we could change.

After the course experience, we decided to set up a series of live dates to present this project. Since it is not possible for logistic reasons to do it with Luca, we have also added sound to the first part, so the project was ready for the tour. But when there’s the chance, we are pleased to repeat the show with Luca, as happened on the dates of Milan, Modena and the Soundscreen Film Festival of Ravenna.

At the beginning we didn’t know what to expect, what the answer could be about such a particular project and we don’t hide that there was a certain skepticism, also because the tour is entirely organized by us. A great help came from the Cineteca di Bologna, author of the restoration of the film, which approved our project by authorizing the performances and becoming partners in the initiative. We started from Milan on January 23, 2019 and since then we haven’t stopped yet, always adding new dates, often on stages that we never thought we could reach.

In the upcoming months the tour will also see us going abroad for three dates: Marseille, Lausanne and Grenoble. The latter is a date that we care the most, because the festival that will host us, in the past, proposed the sonorization of very important Italian groups and that in this path have been examples and “masters” for us: Giardini Di Mirò in 2016 , Massimo Volume in 2017 and Julie’s Haircut in 2018. The fact we will play there for 2019’s edition, it makes a certain effect … so we could shyly say which it is going well.

What are the most complicated aspect related to this kind of work and instead, what is the most stimulating aspect?

For sure, the most difficult thing is not to fall into banality. The images of the silent movies have their own charm that is independent of the musical score, so it is possible to add a sound simply by working with atmosphere, noises and repetition, possibly even improvising randomly. You still get something effective, but this laziness doesn’t belong to us. Another danger is that of being didactic, slavishly following the images, making the musical part a simple comment to the film.

What we said so far has its counterpart in what, for us, is the most stimulating aspect: there are no strict rules and there is space for great expressive freedom, especially if you work well with film, as well as sound and harmonic research .

The sonorization was the chance to approach a world that we didn’t know so much, the one of contemporary classical music. The study of the different possible harmonic solutions and the sound research developed in that field, have been very important for our work. Eveno for what concerns to the effects sector and the noise part of the band, this work has left us a lot.

Would you like to continue this path and experience, or will it remain something isolated? Do you have plans about it?

We sincerely hope there will be a follow-up to all this. It is a world that fascinates us, amuses us and, as mentioned, has offered us a great opportunity for artistic growth. We feel that we still have to say and to discover, so it won’t be an isolated episode. At the moment there are no other planned projects, we are focused on “The Mechanical Man” … then, who knows.

Ritual question. Which records of this year did you like most?

We have different tastes, so each member of the band will share his favorite music.

Luigi: Angel Olsen – All Mirrors; Costantino: 0 – Low Roar; Emanuele : I can’t even speak English – Husky Loops, Ghosteen – Nick Cave, Ezio: Vespers for a new Dark age – Missy Mazzoli.