The OrcheStrana of Domodossola
  The "Urkesh Beyond Urkesh" suite

    Enzo Sartori

OrcheStrana in action

     During the school year 2016/2017, as part of the workshops entrusted to each teacher, I created a small group that was dedicated to the writing of original music composed by the kids, linked to a theatrical performance of the school on Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy.
     Over time, the ensemble, initially made up of 11 elements (percussion, flutes, guitars, cello, clarinets, flutes, electric bass, keyboards), took for itself the name OrcheStrana, precisely to highlight this peculiarity: music was created by the kids without writing any note on paper. In fact, I wanted to keep an active and living approach to music in the students, between improvisation and composition, without falling into the dynamics of following a fixed score; too often in this case we slip involuntarily into a passive attitude in which thoughts like "I played the right note", or "I was wrong", rule.
     But art can give more to those who approach it. OrcheStrana has thus become a laboratory that has been able to welcome in rehearsals and performances, for example, disabled young people and foreigners, who have found a space to make music with peers starting from what they could give, instrumentally and humanly. We did not chose the "best ones". OrcheStrana closed its first year with two beautiful theatrical performances with live music.

The “music” project

     This year (2017/2018) an entire class asked to be part of OrcheStrana. An operation not easy to manage with a group of 24 students, precisely because of the open and creative dialogue on music that is being sought and created from time to time.
     We took as theme the panels and the content of the exhibition "The millennia for today", which were also evolving at the time, and we gave ourselves a clear but fundamental rule: everyone had to give his or her own contribution to the songs that we were going to write, if only a note, a dynamic, a small theme. The piece could only be concluded when everyone had added what they could give.
     The result of this journey is particularly moving. Listening to the suite, composed of 4 pieces, I can see the face of each kid: the guitar theme of Luca, Isabella's or Riccardo's themes, the sounds of the clarinet by Jason, Gaia's explosion. This setting has created a positive internal dynamic, and there have never been any problems of discipline or time management.
     In the end, thanks to the availability and semiprofessional equipment of one colleague, Antonio Manti, who teaches music education, the students could record the result of their own composition: it was an afternoon in June, when school was over and before the exams, in the same large Aula Magna where everything began with the first meeting in October. They were splendid: ordered, motivated, wearing their red uniform of the music course.

The suite “Urkesh beyond Urkesh”

     But what did these kids create?
     Describing music in words is difficult: you risk defining it, taking away its meanings and giving it a subjective vision. I will therefore try to be clear but open, with one premise: the verses of the poetry that opens the exhibition speak of a way back, of a desire to return home. I think this is what inspired the students, more or less consciously.
     The first piece, Two worlds, starts with a very "western" sound, with percussion, a catchy rhythmic theme and a "solo" of the electric bass. This is us, we are here and carefree. But here comes the theme of Isabella, a small fragment that fits in quietly, and yet knows how to turn the situation around. In a few moments we find ourselves in another environment, much more "oriental", with sinuous movements and a more feminine delicacy.
     The second piece, Explosion, brings a drama with it: from a musical fragment begins an impossible, distorted dialogue; a war, an annihilation that culminates with a great and dark explosion. For the boys this piece is very touching.
     From the silence that follows, however, we hear other noises slowly coming to life: footsteps, indistinct sounds that become distinct, albeit in different languages: "friendship", "peace", are recited in many languages from all continents (New life). A new, clean explosion is created, which tries to balance the horrible, previous one.
     The last piece, Towards home, begins with a rhythm of body percussion: the whole orchestra participates in this superimposition of rhythms, in which the two instruments heard at the beginning return: the electric bass and the drums. Western instruments by tradition, but that now play together with a new color, which seems to want to unite two different souls of the two worlds, and is seems to know how to do it. Edoardo's theme with Anthony on drums greets this return home, which, as in every story, has changed us a by making us grow.