The following article is three different things at the same time. Number one: the prosecution of an interview I made to Lucia Nicolai (Editorial Manager of Qoob) published in Digimag 28 (http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=973). Number two: in-depth examination to understand the author/user that was firstly valorized by this experimental television, that is Giorgio Sancristoforo, better known as Tobor Experiment.
So, it is an interview to Giorgio, gifted of an unquestionable talent and an extremely interesting person. He’s from Milan , age class ’74, occupied since years in that multiplicity of professions that tend more and more to converge the musical ambit into the moving images one, an example of contemporary man that wrote on his curriculum the phrase/manifesto “I’m a fast learner”.
Number three: it is the discover, through a chat/interview with its author, of “Tech Stuff. Video manual of electronic music”, a book and DVD produced by Isbn Edizioni, innovative and interesting publishing house located in Milan, young rib of “Il Saggiatore” group, directed by Massimo Coppola and Giacomo Papi (out in Italian bookshops, but bilingual project, Italian and English, for 14). The DVD collects ten documentaries, serial ones, of 4-5 minutes each (the total duration is 52′ ) that retrace in a didactic way the history of electronic music.
Theremin and Moog are talked, but there’s also the history and inventors of crazy products created by Sherman and JoMox. There are cultural institutions where electronic music was born, the RAI Institute of Phonology, and where its future was built, the Ircam of Paris. But there’s also a funny trip into the vinyl history, and then Generative Music and Musical Synthesis to the conclusion put into famous Pan Sonic hands. The extras of this interesting DVD (free on Qoob site!!) are tasty as the documentary, for they include a curious software developed by Giorgio Sancristoforo named “Generator X1” to learn the basics of the synthesis but also a long interview ( 40′ ) to Karlheinz Stockhausen, guru of the electronic music, recently dead, whose interview is an important document that retraces through his real voice the entire career of one of the most important experimental composers of the 20 th century. The book dig out technical particulars of arguments talked into documentaries to a deep level, enlarging the circle of examined arguments.
So, it is an interesting editorial product that could open the way (strongly hope so) to all that creative artists that hardly find a public or market in our country, often dominated by “import” products or conformed to the conformist (and anachronistic) line directed by the cultural pages of our national newspapers, always out of the time we’re living and distant by the people who live in it.
Alessio Galbiati: Tech Stuff is the first editorial product developed by Qoob. What kind of challenge bringing electronic music history on television has been?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: It’s been a wonderful challenge, interesting and stimulating. Most of all because bringing on MTV “didactic” material seemed an impossible test. MTV creates good programs and it is also socially employed, but never produced something educational. Qoob was the perfect platform, an experimental channel that accepts everything. We obviously had to do it with an ironic and light cut, where I could joke sometime, while with some institutions and people I have been more respectful. Anyway at the end we got an ideal form, something thought for the Net, for people who have quite a short time. But if I could, I’d create something that lasts 2 hours and more!
Alessio Galbiati: This is actually the sensation while watching it. The impression is a short format imposed by the producers, to give birth to a product perfectly integrated with the snack culture
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Well, it’s the right way. They have data about TV and they know how long is their public attention, it’s not so stupid to calculate it. I’m from the publicity sector so thirty seconds are enough for me. You can imagine five minutes. I’m into working with short material!
Alessio Galbiati: What did you do in publicity world?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Editing. I’ve been sound designer and worked with Giancarlo Giannini and Eva Herzigova. I realized the sound for her last short movie now on Sky. Now, I’m back in publicity again, it’s like a drug tunnel for me, and it’s not so easy to escape from it, because the pay is ok. Short work but good money. For example, now I have to realize the music for Alfa (he laughs). I’d like to point out though that I’m not a jingle musician, but rather a sound engineer.
Alessio Galbiati: I got this while I searched some information about you Going back, you talked about editing
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Yes, I progressively detached from audio world to specialize more and more on video. Therefore I got into editing, that is something I’ve been doing for years. I’ve been editor for big Italian and international production houses. I worked with Vittorio Sacco, the man of the pasta spots, Fabrizio Mari, Luca Lucini I definitely formed in the image area and then studied photography, as I wanted to be director.
Alessio Galbiati: And then it’s over, because there’s no more senses left
Giorgio Sancristoforo: In the kitchen, I only prepare sushi, which you don’t like. Anyway, I followed the path I found necessary, because in the publicity, media, broadcasting world, the more you’re able to do, the more you work. The more you know about technology, the better is for you! I worked both in audio and video because I was in an amazing cinema post-production (audio section) studio. The studio was made by Skywalker Sound (one of the most famous factory specialized in audio effects, sound editing and new audio format, part of the Lucas Digital of LucasFilm by George Lucas) with THX technologies, Dolby, two millions dollar mixers in one word “esoteric”. There, I trained on tough subjects learning sufficient information to do that alone, with poor technology, a path I strongly believed in and I haven’t been alone. Satellite channels are creating short formats composed by five-minutes pills with five thousands euro budgets. Moreover I adore documentaries and I regularly eat History Channel
Alessio Galbiati: Moreover, and here’s my formal role talking, your art name is “Tobor Experiment” is there “Tobor the Great” involved, the incredible science-fiction movie of 1954 directed by Lee Sholem?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Yes, it is involved together with “The Quatermass Experiment” (cinematographic US sci-fi series of 1953, out in six episodes).
Alessio Galbiati: So Tobor is the mega robot in the movie, isn’t it?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: That nothing is, but the anagram of Robot
Alessio Galbiati: That was clear but why is this name?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: First of all, I’m a science fiction lover. I’m that kind of guy that saw “Star Wars” at the age of five in 1977 and had been astonished by science fiction. I watch everything of the genre, the more it’s low quality the more I love it. I do not enjoy all those special effects of nowadays. As cinematographer, I rather like wires and puppets than stop motion, super duper technologies or effects. The secondary reason is I was searching for a new name, because finding the right name it’s a mess (he laughs). It’s so hard, you must use Assyro-Babylonian name to find something original.
Alessio Galbiati: And pronounceable, because the majority of names are definitely impossible!!
Giorgio Sancristoforo: That name was born for my experimental music stuff. You do know I program software the first objective was educate, because I created some plug-ins for my SAE students (SAE Institute of Milan), where I taught “Analogical Synthesis” and “MIDI” for 3-4 years, and then I had the exigency to create software to realize my music. Real experimental music, in the sense that the machines that create the sound must be innovative or at least created by the artist, to create innovative paradigms. It’s not so easy, but I try
Alessio Galbiati: You already talked about that, particularly about your software “Gleetchlab”, on DigiMag pages in an interview of Fabio Franchino appeared on number 11 of February 2006 url: http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=304 )
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I started experimental music from it, music that I distribute with software. It is a free distribution because I used free software; therefore you’re pushed in doing music. Because you think: “if I do it, someone else will prosecute this work”. It is part of a free distribution system, even if not Open Source that anyway I support and share because not everyone has money to spend for software. I’m pretty chilled by piracy, and I’m talking about software not music, because nowadays music business lives thanks to live and not sold CD. But software cannot play live. The only solution is freeware, so that people can get a concept of legality.
Alessio Galbiati: This is particularly accentuated in Italy, where it’s freak paying something from the net.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: In fact in US, and not only there, it’s not this way.
Alessio Galbiati: Going back to your art name and “Tobor the Great”, I think it is interesting and suggestive, in the light of what you said, the fact that the child protagonist of the movie is in telepathic contact with the robot. It is a sort of irrational relation between man and machine, which somehow comes out from your works do I exaggerate?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: After all, I have a funny approach to technology, an approach that is getting more and more human thanks to this childish behavior and ingenuity as well. That is the one the child in the film has. It is almost incredible that philosophically everything stands in this idea, but that’s the truth. This amusing approach has always been part of me, an infinite desire of knowledge. I’ve always dismantled things to see what was inside, like dryers or shavers. A recreational attitude that made me enjoy more than with traditional toys. I think technology can alienate, most of all in this époque, unless you become a manipulator. If you manipulate technology, rather than being manipulated, than you can collocate it in its correct dimension.
Alessio Galbiati: We’re clearly talking about instrumental technology, aren’t we? Technology as an instrument to realize ideas. Going back to Tech Stuff, but staying nearby what you were saying, I was astonished by Herman Gillis and Jürgen Micaelis, creator of Sherman and Jomox. Who are they? Are they ultra-technologic men that set their machines by ear? I mean, when you talk about alienation and reality detachment or, enlarging the question, if I think about Ircam images, I got the sensation of a technology research alienated by the external world, as Ircam is built under the ground, with incredible rooms lightened only by artificial light
Giorgio Sancristoforo: There’s a room in Ircam who’s absolutely marvelous, whom ceiling is the sidewalk of Place Igor Stravinskij and it has a splendid natural light. But you’re right; it’s underground and a little bit claustrophobic. All the people I met for Tech Stuff have something in common; they’re all inventors that use technology to follow a dream to create something that will finally be appreciated by musicians, that musicians will fall in love with. Robert Moog wasn’t a musician, but his sensitivity, his gift for electronic brought him to create musical instruments that musicians completely loved. He obviously created them with the help of musicians. It is the constant between Theremin, Pan Sonic, Robert Moog and Herman Gillis
Alessio Galbiati: Stradivari
Giorgio Sancristoforo: It is exactly the same concept. Inventors are numerous. Leo Fender, Laurens Hammond, Freidrich Trautwein, who built the Trautonium, instrument with whom Hitchcock “Birds” soundtrack was realized. Pierre Schaffer himself used mag tape in an innovative way.
In fact, book and DVD are not a “History of Electronic Music”, but a hand lens on inventor-artists, that are men that create technology to create art, instruments to make instruments.
I didn’t find any type of alienation actually. I rather found an amusing relation toward technology.
Alessio Galbiati: We can say you realized a documentary and book on your world, putting yourself into it. You realized software to create generative music called Gleetchlab, inside Tech Stuff you put a little gift called Generator X1 just to let people know the basis of musical synthesis and you had the possibility to know people part of this world we can say you searched for your world. You met Pan Sonic because they represent, first of all for yourself, a reference in your coordinates to understand electro music.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I find them adequate to my idea of electro music, because I think electro music should be genuine, made by those who create their own instruments, Merzbow, Max/MSP, Varese that dreamt about music that could not be realized in that époque, but that would have one day. This type of artists is definitely the most fascinating. I absolutely do not put myself into that category, I’m just imitating.
Alessio Galbiati: So, what’s Tech Stuff?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: A tribute for young people to the generation that made the history of electro music. I remember that, when I bought “OHM: The Early Gurus Of Electronic Music” or the legendary compilation “An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music”, I said: “Americans are interested in Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, Morton Subotnick but there’s no trace of RAI (and its phonology studio in Milan, Corso Sempione 27)”. It was the third laboratory in the entire world! We have an enormous patrimony of electronic music that young generations do not know. We can’t be quiet, we can’t forget! There are retired people that come back to RAI only to digitally store the tapes, to save them because no one cares and this is totally absurd!
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: Isn’t there someone abroad who thinks about this patrimony?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: No because, you know, it’s a national thing; it’s a State patrimony that the Italian institutions, the public and the critic completely ignore. We have a tremendous difficulty in going back on a so complex period such as the experimental music in Italy
Alessio Galbiati: Would you like to put your hands on it?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: No, I couldn’t. If someone says: “here’s a tape of Maderna, you can do whatever you want”, I couldn’t do one thing. I put my hands on all that material spreading it to a younger public. My message has been: “guys there’s not only Kraftwerk, we had Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian that created amazing electronic music during the 50’s!” And it wasn’t something different by Pan Sonic or Oval, Bernard Parmegiani or John Cage work. John Cage and Henri Pousseur have been going to RAI studios to record. It was the most exceptional European studio for its instruments (the other two were the French Groupe de recherches de musique concrete and the German Westdeustcher Rundfunk). I saw all the three. I actually recorded a hour of movie, if it was for me, I would have put it all online you don’t have any idea of what and how they store everything.
Alessio Galbiati: In fact there’s people in white gown in your video
Giorgio Sancristoforo: They’re all dressed in that way, they’ve an evident deference toward the instruments they’re surrounded from. I saw some brand new four tracks two-inch Studer recorder identical to those used by The Beatles for Strawberry Fields. And it actually worked! We have an electro music history that is unfair not to recognize, because we’re astonished in front of German and English, but they were nobody in the 50’s compared to us! We had everything: basis, people and technology.
Alessio Galbiati: It seems like you’re telling the Italian cinema history
Giorgio Sancristoforo: When they ended shooting Sandkan to buy Magnum P.I., bye bye Italian cinema! I’m sorry, I exaggerate but this is a theme that drives me mad.
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: I think the same as you, I’d say you broke an open door could you say something about Karlheinz Stockhausen interview, one of the most yummy content of the entire project.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: In reality the interview was commissioned. It was the only content I couldn’t realize by myself because I was in the United States . Obviously it was the first person I thought when I was told about special contents for the DVD
Alessio Galbiati: Morever, just in time: you recorded the interview on August the 8 th 2007 and the Maestro died on December the 5 th
Giorgio Sancristoforo: We’ve been totally disappointed.
Alessio Galbiati: Was it his last interview?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Probably he retraced his entire career in an hour interview, with incredibly complex and interesting reflections.
Alessio Galbiati: Going back to Tech Stuff, what has not been involved? Except from the duration of each episode, what would you have liked to do?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: You have to imagine that I faced technical questions that I found on my path for the first time, because it was my first TV program, questions that I haven’t calculated. For example, I rely on a little house production.
Alessio Galbiati: The Box Films
Giorgio Sancristoforo: We take care to call Kraftwerk or Chemical Brothers to have different point of view of musicians too. I started from inventors and I wanted to arrive to musicians, but I heard Chemical Brothers do not move if you don’t give them at least six thousands euro; and this is an obstacle. What would I have liked to do? Well, I would have liked to go to Princeton University , interview some important name such as John Chowing or Morton Subotnick. Critics said I should have interviewed Autechre if I could, I would have put everything, an interview to Oval, but I couldn’t.
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: Will Tech Stuff have a sequel? I read an interview where you state you created a box.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I think deepen electro music should be interesting for me, but not for the buyer. Anyway I’d still have lots of things to say, but I’m a little scared that I’d repeat something.
Alessio Galbiati: Most of all when the first one has been so beautiful
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Yes, you’re a little scared of not being so good. Most of all for Isbn I wouldn’t propose a volume two. I’d like to write an hacker Tech Stuff, from 50’s up to know. But that would be an expensive project, because
Alessio Galbiati: because you should go to US
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Exactly. Anyway this is something that somehow converge in my brain, music, technology and hackers I mean, I’d like to. Probably something will come out someday, not too far. I’d like to keep on writing, this opportunity to unite the TV media and the book is marvelous. The opportunity to write for Isbn is out of the world, I wouldn’t ever have thought about it.
Alessio Galbiati: I thought about titling this interview: “Tobor Experiment: Qoob’s favorite son”, but I changed my opinion while knowing you, even if I do not have any idea on how I will call the article now.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I’d say no as well, as Qoob users will kill me They made a parody out of me! At the beginning, they hated me
Alessio Galbiati: This is another debate to have As you get off the group, they kill you, but that’s ok. Retracing your history with Qoob, you uploaded two videos: a Star Wars parody (Episode 3.991) and the other one is a video on experimental music (biological Behavior).
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Yes, the second one is all mine, it is related to that kind of production I was talking before, while the Star Wars one was a short movie I did with some friends of mine for a series of absurd coincidences in 2005 during a “Notte Bianca” at Triennial Palace I uploaded the files without even know what Qoob exactly was and they were so enthusiastic that they decided to put the short movie on air.
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: Let’s say you did it with cognition
Giorgio Sancristoforo: No, seriously, I did it on my own. In 2005 I didn’t know Qoob and I didn’t think about working on a TV at all. It was something definitely well done and in that exact period Qoob arrived and I said: “I upload it and then we see”. It seemed a good opportunity to me and it would have been stupid not to try.
Alessio Galbiati: Then Qoob contacted you
Giorgio Sancristoforo: And they said I should have proposed an idea. I talked with Matteo Bonifazio, a director who works for MTV.
Alessio Galbiati: And suddenly you sent them the project
Giorgio Sancristoforo: No. The thing is at that time I had enough of editing spots and in May-June 2007 I talked with Bonifazio about my idea, that was nothing but bringing on video my teacher activity. They enjoyed the project and realized a pilot. But the pilot wasn’t good enough as usual, even if the speaker was Claudio Capone (one of the most famous Italian DOUBLER ). Anyway after a couple of adjustment the project came to life.
Alessio Galbiati: Who was the speaker in the series?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Lesh of the comic duo “Miki&Lesh”, part of the “Cavalli Marci”, his real name is Alessandro Bianchi. We called Daniel Richards for the English edition, a good speaker that works in the publicity world. We tried to imitate the BBC style, re-writing the texts together, to approach the model as much as we could. I think we did a good job.
Alessio Galbiati: How do you judge Qoob, most of all in potential terms? Don’t you think its location on the terrestrial digital and on the Net limits its potentials?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I think that this new technology incorporated in every LCD screen will give Qoob a great opportunity, because up to now its limit was the fact that no one had the DDT while it was born. This new televisions will give it the possibility to exploit its strongest characteristic, that is not the Net, but the enormous public the TV has to offer. Well, the Internet arrives on TV.
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: I think that this is a big lie. Only some products can achieve TV, the technical quality must be high, and a high technical quality presumes a discreet production investment. A good computer costs, as well as software and cameras and so on
Giorgio Sancristoforo: I think it’s ok, because it’s ok to reward talents. Not only “glory” of being on TV, but real money. I’ve been the first on the list and I think this is a genial method to make television.
Alessio Galbiati: Ok, maybe here our ideas are different. Let’s try to end this long conversation resuming the principal characteristics of Tech Stuff on your own. As in a sort of process, before the court of readers deliberates, have you got something to state?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: Well, Tech Stuff is, in its video part, a glance on electronic music saw by inventors point of view, that I consider between the most important, as Stockhausen said, incredible thing because at the time I thought about something that I heard him say
Alessio Galbiati: that he’s dead
Giorgio Sancristoforo: (he laughs) Stockhausen said the nowadays music is related with technology that produced it, so I wanted to give a tribute to those about to creat technology. A technology that turns into instrument, which is something more than a writer pen
Alessio Galbiati: It is the arm using the pen.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: And the arm is turning into the brain, I mean, a second brain. It’s the most interesting thing, because technology will give us incredible computers. At Ircam of Paris I was told they have computers, when musicians start to play, who learn the music and make the counterpoint, and I was shocked. Computers will be part of the composition, not only as reproduction machines.
Img courtesy by Qoob/Tech Stuff
Alessio Galbiati: What about the book?
Giorgio Sancristoforo: The book is an in-depth; it’s everything I couldn’t say. How the Theremin works or the best tracks that contain the Moog
Alessio Galbiati: The book is progressive to complexity; it uses the didactic and funny part of videos to get to
Giorgio Sancristoforo: To the esotericism of Stockhausen discourses. In my opinion, the good thing about Tech Stuff is that it’s a little thing that contains tons of materials of high level, gave by Maestro Stockhausen.
Alessio Galbiati: As in the video appear the word “sussidiario” that means, in Italian, “school book used by last three years of primary school, with the basic notion of all the subjects”, why not use it as school volume for the first years in a music school? As a point to start deepen the theme.
Giorgio Sancristoforo: As I said before, everything was born by my own personal teacher experience, an attempt to give a pleasurable form to technical questions. I don’t think machines are cold; machines are the product of the men work and you see coldness only because you do not understand what’s in front of you.