The musical footprint | Carlo Muscat

Inspired by key historical episodes, a group of international jazz musicians, with Maltese musicans among them, will collaborate in a multi-disciplinary project which will culminate in a live performance at St James Cavalier and an accompanying photography exhibition. We speak to musician Carlo Muscat about ‘The Sound Catalogues’.

Carlo Muscat.
Carlo Muscat.

What inspired you to create music around this concept in particular? Why did you go for these particular historical episodes?

This concept developed in a very natural manner through a process which involved a constant search for inspiration. Settling for this particular idea was not exactly a conscious decision - it started off simply as a creativity exercise which was fueled by researching certain events which I considered engaging. Various readings, especially witness reports, shed light on the emotions involved within these events, which in turn presented a variety of ideas that I was able to work with. A number of events were taken into consideration throughout the process, however, the ones that personally struck me the most were selected to be included in the final set.

How did the particular musicians participating within this project come together? What about the photographers and any other participants?

The group started to come together through a collaboration during the 2012 Malta Jazz Festival, under the artistic direction of guitarist Sandro Zerafa. A second performance with pianist Joe Debono, double-bassist Mátyás Szandai and drummer Lionel Boccara took place during the 2013 Malta Fringe Festival.

Photographer Elisa von Brockdorff was selected to participate for the distinct and flexible style that is showcased in a variety of her works. I believed that her approach to photography, and portraiture in particular, would strongly befit the concept behind the whole project.

Would you say that the project itself has an intrinsic 'Maltese' element, or do you think it's a wholly international affair?

I would certainly consider it more of an international affair; to start with, the group is composed of artists of four different nationalities. In addition, the concept does not revolve around any typical Maltese elements either. However, the success of the project would demonstrate the capability of local artists in coming together with established international musicians. It also exposes the significant opportunities that are being provided to local artists in recent years.

Do you view the project as being predominantly an 'anthropological' exercise, or would you say that it remains a musical showcase at the end of the day?

The project was conceived, and continued to evolve, as a purely musical and creative endeavour. That being said, one of the main challenges throughout the process was to connect the feelings embedded in each episode, which the audience would be able to identify, with a style of music which is not the most common. Hence, it was important for me to consider certain social and cultural aspects when researching and composing - this is where the more 'anthropoligical' exercise came into play.

What kind of results do you think the project will ultimately yield, given it comes with an element of audience participation?

By engaging the public in the various stages of the project, this will help them feel more connected to the work being carried out and provide a better understanding of the process involved. The idea is to feature a public photography contest leading to the selection of the cover art. This offers the public an opportunity to artistically connect with the project's progress and realisation. It promotes diversity in interpretation and strengthens cross-disciplinarity.

Finally, the public will be given the possibility of experiencing the artistic product through a local live performance, which will be the culmination of the whole project. We are confident that participation will create even further interest in the music as an art form.

Would you say that jazz is particularly conducive to a project such as this? If so, why?

I am confident that these kinds of projects can be pursued utilising other genres, however, to me jazz represents intense freedom of expression (both in composition and performance) which is invaluable when considering aspects of artistry and creativity.

The 'The Sound Catalogues' concept provides opportunities to expand upon the first volume; it encourages other musicians and sound artists, from a variety of genres, to come up with their own collection for communicating other inspirational themes. As an example, another volume could be a collection of classical compositions that derives inspiration from the most influential figures in history, while yet another could be a collection of percussive pieces aimed at interpreting the works of the great visual artists from the 20th century; the possibilities are vast.

The Sound Catalogues is supported by the Malta Arts Fund.