Fausto Romitelli’s fin du millénaire trilogy Professor Bad Trip: Lesson I, II & III (1998–2000) for amplified ensemble and electronics is arguably his most significant and complex work, as evident in its strikingly idiosyncratic and cogent consolidation, or in Romitelli’s terminology, metabolisation, of a wide assortment of contemporary influences that range from the spectres of the European avant-garde to popular music styles such as Psychedelic Rock. Moreover, such material aspects serve a deeper poetic purpose, as they underpin Romitelli’s awesome musical vision of a violent and hallucinatory world that is both fantastical, inspired by the disturbing works of Henri Michaux and Francis Bacon, and yet also, ostensibly, a critical response to post-modernity, late capitalism, and the institutionalisation of contemporary music. This article derives from recent research and sketch studies of the trilogy, and offers an in-depth analysis of Lesson I in which I offer the notion of syncretism as a means by which to explain Romitelli’s distinctive musical idiolect. Comparative analyses of the score and sketches help to illuminate this perspective, and more broadly reveal to us Romitelli’s writing process; from plan to sketch to score. The critical framework that this paper posits also leads to new questions that might prove fertile ground for future research and sketch studies, in particular, concerning the interaction between spectral and combinatorial thinking, the role of schematisation in the creation of musical form, and the prevalence of sonic imprints of biomorphic and musical references, such as the gestures and sounds of the electric guitar.
Nicholas Moroz, University of Oxford
Candidate for DPhil in Music (Composition)Faculty of MusicSt Hilda's CollegeUniversity of Oxford