Sandro Sciarratta’s (mostly) solo CD Pietra reflects the diverse interests that have been part of the Sicilian double bassist’s work since the 1980s. Moving from jazz in the 1970s to improvisation and electronic exploration in the following decades, Sciarratta followed an increasingly experimental route, the essential elements of which are documented in this set of ten pieces for prepared double bass, electronics, tape and object, composed between 1997 and 2013.
The recording was inspired by the rough, igneous rock—the “pietra” of the title—so common to the Sicilian landscape. And there is a parallel between the textured, irregular surfaces of the rock and the almost tactile quality of the sound Sciarratta derives from his instrument—supplemented, as it often is, by an array of miscellaneous objects. His is a profoundly physical approach to the bass, a wrestling against the resistance of the real as this latter is embodied in wood and steel. Sciarratta’s playing is rooted in a robust, muscular pizzicato and an arco style that foregrounds the scrape latent in the meeting of bow and string. On Zubbia Sciarratta draws deep, bell-like tones from the bass; in many of the other pieces, including one dedicated to John Cage, the preparations add a layer of rattling and grinding miscellany to the underlying sound, which is then enhanced and often thickened by the electronics and backing recordings. Pietra 6 features Sciarratta’s brother Luca on live electronics while Pietra 5—itself a heavily electronically manipulated track–includes his frequent duet partner Filippo Portera on reeds.