On May 3 1972 the eponymous album “Banco del mutuo soccorso” was published from Ricordi Dischi, in Milan, on Long Playing vinyl, which was then called simply the “Salvadanaio” due to the shape of its cover.
The first track of the album was called “IN VOLO” and, in its verses recited by Francesco Di Giacomo and Vittorio Nocenzi, was evoked the character of Astolfo and his Hippogrifo, the flying horse, two central figures among the characters of Ludovico Ariosto’s masterpiece “L’Orlando furioso”, the masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance
So this year 2022, May 3rd, is 50 years since its publication, that is, the beginning of the history of the Mutual Aid Bank. We never liked anniversaries celebrated with flute and champagne too much, but we like to celebrate with concrete work the really important moments: that’s why we immediately found the opportunity to put on our cake of the fiftieth anniversary not a simple candle, but a real special cherry: a new album by Banco inspired and dedicated to Orlando. furious.
It’s a bit like going back to that space from where we took off so many years ago, with the desire to start again this story made up of music, ideas, diversity, visions and dreams. We would like to make it relive again with the same desire for amazement, for wonders to be sung, for stories to be glimpsed in that “beyond”, in that “in spite” which are our true life, made up of the utopia of ideas, hopes, surprises and wonders which, in spite of everything, life continues to offer us, if only we are careful to catch them among the lights and shadows of our days.
It all started with my son Michelangelo who came to me one morning and said: – Dad, what do you think if you and Francesco write a new album, inspired by “Orlando Furioso” by Ariosto? It would be like going back to the same place where you started so many years ago ... listen, I wrote this piece that could be Orlando’s declaration of love to Angelica, and she instead rejects it ...
Orlando, the most courageous of the emperor’s paladins, has just given up running to the aid of his comrades who are being attacked by the enemy, who is exterminating them, to save Angelica, the woman he loves, taken by the savages who are about to kill her...
And instead she rejects him, because she has fallen in love with a Saracen, Medoro, one of the enemies, a modest, unknown and worthless soldier, preferred to the strongest of the Emperor’s Paladins!
A love rejected, of course, but behind this story of the rejected lover there is much more: a great war between West and East, between Christians and Saracens, Muslims ...
And then many other love stories, this feeling is declined in all possible ways, which the human being has managed to grasp and make his own ...
Besides the “LOVE REJECTED”, just like the one of Orlando and Angelica, there is the “UNEXPECTED LOVE”, the one that sees Medoro as the object of Angelica’s love: he, so insignificant, is passionately loved by the most beautiful woman in the world!
There is FRATERNAL LOVE, just like the Astolfo’s one, who decides to risk his life to save the one of his friend Orlando, crazy for love: Astolfo, who decides to go all the way to the moon to recover Orlando’s mind and to bring him back to earth to heal him of his madness!
And here we cannot fail to say what a marvelous image is the Ariosto’s invention, that transforms the moon from a romantic symbol par excellence to a “dump” of dreams that humans have given up, of abandoned ideals ... The moon, where the minds of many men go to waste, becomes a great dump full of garbage, of waste, of human waivers...
Then there is the REFUSE OF LOVE, told by the war itself, which is, par excellence, the triumph of hate and the erasure of love...
There is the POSSESSIVE LOVE just like the one of the sorceress Alcina for Astolfo who, wanting to leave, is locked up by the sorceress in a hollow tree trunk and held prisoner there, considered therefore not a source of love but a real possession, when the beloved becomes “property”, something that is only “ours” and to which we leave no other meanings ... Or, again, FORBIDDEN LOVE, as like the one between Ruggero the saracen and the christian Bradamante, an impossible love, hindered till the end by Atlas the Wizard! (Ruggero and Bradamante are the Ariosto's Giulietta and Romeo).
Fairy inventions such as the flying horse and the ring of invisibility (500 years before J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the "Fellowship of the Ring" ... !!!). Sorceress, Wizards and so much more!
Once we decided to tell the story of Orlando furioso, before starting to write the music and the lyrics we had to face a series of fundamental questions: should we use the octaves of the original verses and set them to music?
And which, among the countless adventures, would we have chosen to set to music, having decided not to put the whole Orlando to music because, in our opinion, the original text was perhaps too broad and dispersive, with too many characters and too many adventurous events, at least for the contemporary taste.
But then, with what criteria we could choose which was the right episodes and which was not?
Could we judge Ariosto’s masterpiece as if we were judges of a contemporary TV talk show? Which adventures to send to the finals and which not?
And yet ANOTHER SERIES OF QUESTIONS: 1. In what era should we set our Orlando furioso?2.In which location? That of the Mediterranean, France and North Africa as in the original, or did the places have to be different?
3. If we did not use the original verses, what language would we have chosen? A contemporary language or perhaps a language of invention, which had similarities with the language of the 1500s used by Ariosto?
4. Should the original text be only a free reference, on which we could dare to use other inventions, or should we strictly adhere to the original lines and structure?
We finally realized that the answers to these questions had to be given from the beginning, otherwise the whole work would have failed. So: Ariosto himself to write his Orlando furioso, was freely inspired by the work of another poet who had written before him on the same subject, to the point of making the Orlando Furioso seem like a real sequel, as we would say today: I am obviously referring to the “Orlando inamorato” of the Boiardo.
So we took the courage to do the same, in the sense that if we felt the need to add some narrative circumstance, we could do it, as long as everything worked lyrically.
From here the step was short in thinking, in all honesty, that we could dare if the path we chose to follow was clear. So we chose the key episodes of the original story, considering central those episodes that served as essential links for a narrative that wanted and had to be different from the original.
The main question had become, for us, "what is the point of setting this masterpiece to music 500 years after its publication?" By “the point” we mean the artistic, emotional and creative meaning of taking license from the original and structuring a narrative that is, in broad therms, respectful, coherent and based on the essential contents of the original work.
Then we understood that Orlando's strength lay in its unsuspected modernity and contemporaneity: our age is still experiencing, to begin with, after 500 years, a confrontation / clash between the West and the Middle East!
The Mediterranean is furrowed by countless streams of men fleeing war that still bathe, in fratricidal blood, the beaches of the former mare nostrum!
It occurred to us that it would have been opportune to emphasize this content of contemporaneity: and here we thought to set our Orlando in a timeless time, neither in the past, nor in the present or in the future and as a backdrop, a Mediterranean completely drained of all its water.
A single source of fresh water, in the middle of a valley with red soil, is all that remains of the present sea (among other things, it seems to be a condition really occurred thousands of years ago according to scientists). This surviving source of drinking water is immediately surrounded by walls by the Guardians of the water, but this is also, at the same time, the destination of hundreds of caravans of men, women and children who, devoured by thirst, do not cross the former Mediterranean by boat, they head on foot towards the walls surrounding the source, in caravans of dispersed and desperate humanity.
It seemed to us an important opportunity to use the story of Orlando furioso as a response to terrorist violence, the choice of using art as a confrontation and poetry as an offer of pacification, seemed to us a path to be indicated as possible, or even better necessary, by rereading a poem whose author - Ariosto - was always, throughout his story, a balanced third party between the Christian and Saracen armies, never involved in the fratricidal war between the Middle East and the West in taking one side to the detriment of the other. Choosing to indicate poetry and music as a path of peace even to our contemporaries, it seemed to us an opportunity not to be missed, because it was a consistent approach with the way of thinking of the Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, always pacifist and anti-militarist!
THE STORYTELLING OF THE SONG
We have ideally dedicated this passage to the form of ”told” love, as this is the main object of Ariosto’s poem.
The first words of the song are the original verses, one of the most famous incipit of all European literature. Thus begins the "Orlando Furioso", written by Ludovico Ariosto in 1516, the masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance in the world.
“I sing of knights and ladies, of love and arms, of courtly chivalry, of courageous deeds…”
“Le donne, i cavalier, l’armi e gli amori, le *cortesie, l’audaci imprese io canto …”
*How beautiful is the Italian term “cortesie” (courtesies/courtly chivalry), to indicate the knightly rites of the Renaissance courts?
Ariosto informs the readers that he will speak about the love of ladies and knights, the customs and the common rituals in the noble courts of that time (le cortesie) and of the war stories, in the days when the Moros crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and reached France to ravage and attack those lands. There was a fierce fight between Christians and Arabs, as in the mythical battle of Poitier, sung by European minstrels among the most glorious deeds of the knights of Emperor Charlemagne.
It is one of the very few cases in which Nocenzi wrote music on words, having almost always happened in his long career the opposite: first the music and then the text. But the incipit of the Orlando furioso is a mythical page, it has a unique metric and phonetic beauty, and therefore the temptation to put it to music was indispensable … And then here is the melodic writing articulated in such a way that each note of the vocal melody contains a syllable of the original text.
In addition, musical writing, with its monodic trend, wanted to freely evoke those medieval cadences from which the whole saga of the European Troubadours and minstrels was born, of which Orlando furioso is the Baroque epilogue.
In the orchestration, among the timbres used, the choice of the initial wave form with which the theme is exposed and then taken up by the voice, wants to suggest an inner, emotional narration, well suggested by this sound timbre.
Furthermore, it is a sound already used in Eterna transiberiana, and its return creates the conditions to be able to speak, here and there, of “typical Banco’s sounds", or “typical Banco’s arrangements", as we can also say for the cadences harmonics in countermelody of the two electric guitars that take the place of ideal cellos, or of the acoustic guitar solo by Nico Di Gia, to underline the varied potential of this Banco’s line-up that makes use of two different and complementary guitars.