Francesco Cavaliere in conversation with Studio Rizoma

In the new chapter of the Gancio Cielo saga, Francesco Cavaliere takes the reader/listener along a journey of exploration of his galaxy through a sound performance based on the artist’s book Gancio Cielo: DNA Clepsydra. Inspired by medieval bestiaries and cryptobotanics, Pokémon gamebooks, magical realism, and 70s sci-fi, Gancio Cielo: DNA Clepsydra was published in 2022 by NERO. To introduce you into this world, with the author’s permission, we publish a very short excerpt below. We apologise for the missing English translation: the text currently only exists in the Italian version.

“Eccoci! Il nostro primo incontro: sono gli Helicosuamp! Gli ornamenti principali dei loro indumenti sono delle piume smaltate, che assumono sfumature diverse a seconda della temperatura del suolo. Ricoprono le spalle e il ventre, e arrivano fino al busto e all’acuirsi dei gomiti. Sono effettivamente dei piumaggi singolari. Le striature riflettono gli schemi e le crepe del paesaggio, dispiegandone gli ornamenti come su una carta carbone: sono photo-ologrammati copianti.

Gomito arcuato per pietra solfato! Polso virato che sposta il suo fiato! Si muovono all’unisono come catene DNA, un passaparola continuo. Pare che lo facciano per nascondere i dettagli tassonomici del carico di pietre che stanno muovendo. Mimiche facciali e dita incrociate sono messaggi, come parole sussurrate all’orecchio. Sono proprio delle danze stellate! Lato destro sinistro, su vertice quattro! Sincopato carpiato, su spalla via naso! Questo muoversi su catene helicoidali è la loro principale attività. Viste dall’alto, sono dei disegni serpentiformi splendidi.

Guardateli quegli scivoli ad acqua… Sì, quei cobra gommati da lancio! Gli Helicosuamp ci fanno slittare sopra le pietre di rincorsa, per poi spostarsi nella seconda area archeocosmica. Ma dai! É incredibile, no? Ma cosa fanno lassù in cima? Dai, seguitemi!”

Francesco Cavaliere, presentation of the book Gancio Cielo: DNA Clepsydra, Chiesa di San Giovanni Decollato, Palermo (2023).

Studio Rizoma: The first two chapters of Gancio Cielo are developed in aural form only, while the third, DNA: Clepsydra, is a physical object, a book. Can you tell us how this translation process came about and, if so, what difficulties did you encounter in managing the relationship between orality and writing?

Francesco Cavaliere: In truth, the first two chapters are also physical objects; two LPs with a text and an English translation. But I understand what you mean. It is one thing to manage a text for reading aloud; it is another to write a book. The mode, however, did not change; I worked exactly the same way. Even the lyrics for the records were written without thinking about reading aloud. Only later, I adapted the story to the reading. I lightened parts and eliminated whole descriptive sections. The ‘book form’ allowed me to maintain full discursiveness. Here are many parts previously cut out that are now intact.

The main difficulty was maintaining the consequentiality of the events. Connecting them, finding the function of some isolated passages in an overall logic. Working with Stella Succi and Mattia Capelletti for this was crucial.

ST: I find it very interesting that despite the use of made-up words, reading and listening to these stories, one does not struggle, at least as far as I am concerned, to give a visual form to the situations you describe. How do you make these fictional worlds that arise from your imagination visible to the reader or listener? Is there a particular effect you want to create on the viewer?

FC: There are a lot of made-up names in the text, names of things, plants, objects, and geographical areas… but there are not too many words to subject to The Accademia della Crusca. As much as this is a constantly developing imaginative flow, I tried to organise the unfolding of the discourse so that it could be visualised well. Everything had to make sense, at least to me. Not surprisingly, the main chapters of Gancio Cielo: DNA Clepsydra are sort of guides, something you can read and imagine with your eyes open. With eyes closed, if someone reads it to us. I would like to see a sense of the specific materials with which these worlds are designed and constructed, the viscosity of some elements, and the temperature of others.

ST: As a reader and listener, I found myself within an open narrative that led me to maintain an active role throughout the fruition. Let me explain: in dealing with this imaginary and unfamiliar world, I tried several times to make it more familiar by resorting to my personal experience and associating elements of the book with elements that are part of my own worlds of reference.

FC: It’s not something I do intentionally, but Gancio Cielo does it! It connects to the reader’s dream, it is a lasso for the cloud that escapes. I don’t think about it, but I realise that some aspects of my writing, the simpler, more childlike ones, are like active openings for imagining and remembering while reading.

ST: What are the existing and non-existing worlds that you, on the other hand, were inspired by?

FC: I have no idea, honestly. Even if there were any, I prefer not to identify them. I like to think of it as a psychological puzzle, an underwater puzzle composed of places, objects, animals, and things encountered over time.

ST: Now, I would like to ask you a question about the, let’s say, the more technical part of your work. Listening to Gancio Cielo for the first time, I imagined a catalogue of sounds that you draw on to sonically describe a situation. How do you work with sounds, how do you create them, and whether you actually have a particular method of cataloguing them?

FC: I have already answered this question, probably always in a boring way, by saying, “yes, I have a huge cataloguing of sounds that I use to sonify my worlds.” But who doesn’t have libraries full of sounds today? It seems to me a usual mode in organised electronic music. Perhaps the most creative things are the titles and their labyrinthine organisation system. It is terrible to end up in them! Especially if you are looking for something specific. I can lose hours in them, but there it is. So when I decided to number them differently, I did worse than better.

I often put the title of the reference story, but it constantly changes. For example, Gancio Cielo 2 has folders titled “Fluac”, “Alabaster abacus”, “Guam”, etc. The sounds within it have a title and number if they are all under the same bell. Like “ice plane alternating and ending slow 1”, “ice plane alternating and ending slow 2”, and so on.

ST: The text is accompanied by Viola Leddi’s extraordinary illustrations, which are clearly a novelty present only in this latest print version. Since we are talking about objects that do not exist in the real world, sprung from your imagination, how did you work with the illustrator? Were there any instructions or guidelines before the creation of the drawings?

FC: Yes, this is definitely something new. I am happy with the result, his drawings are crazy, like pencil metabolisms! We talked a lot via email, and we saw each other when possible. Initially, she started freely imagining, reading and drawing many are done so. Then I sent her sketches, things done on the spur of the moment, drawings made while writing the stories. There she started in some cases from that same material. I remember one day sending her an email with an attachment of my own little dictionary of stones, so to give her suggestions, the stony texture of some beings, the colours…

ST: What’s going to happen next? Would you like to reveal something about the future of Gancio Cielo?

FC: I would like to continue the saga. I have a new chapter in mind, something to do with a specific area, a new realm. I think it’s assimilable to Gancio Cielo. Actually everything is assimilated to Gancio Cielo.

The event, curated by Mattia Capelletti, was produced by Cripta747 as part of The Listeners, an informal network founded in Turin in 2022 consisting of Cripta747, Almare and Metamorfosi Notturne. Developed in collaboration with Nero Editions, Associazione Dionysus, Fondazione Studio Rizoma and #wallofsounds Festival in Palermo, the project is realised with the support of the Ministry of Culture.