a common space for harmonic overtones
|Demetrio Stratos was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 22 April 1945. In 1962, he moved to Italy, where he enrolled in the Architecture Faculty at the Politecnico di Milano. In 1967, he joined the "Ribelli" as keyboard player; he soon adandoned this to dedicate his activities to voice research. He started to experiment on vocal phenomena. In 1972, he founded the group Area, together with Giulio Capiozzo on drums: the original line-up included Victor Eduard Busnello, Giulio Capiozzo, Yan Patrick Erard Djivas, Patrizio Fariselli, Demetrio Stratos and Gianpaolo Tofam. Later, Busnello left the group and Djivas joined Premiata Forneria Marconi, and his place was taken by Ares Tavolazzi. He recorded with the group and together with Gianni Sassi, for his research work on the Cramps.Records label.|
In 1973, he took part in the eight Biennale in Paris. In 1974, he toured festivals in France, Portugal, Switzerland and Cuba. In Cuba he was invited by the Ministry of Culture to meet a delegation of musicians from Mongolia and to participate in discussion on vocal methods in the Far East. Stratos gradually became more and more deeply involved in the mysterious world of sounds, rewriting and extending ap immense work on the importance of the voice in Eastern and Middle-Eastern civilizations. In Milan, he worked together with GianniEmilio Simonetti and Juan Hidalgo and Walter Marchetti, founders of the group Zaj, and in the context of the Fluxus experience, he became involved with John Cage’s music. In 1974, he recorded Cage’s "Mesostics" in a version for a solo voice and subsequently performed it at numerous festivals in front of large audiences of young peple. In 1976, he spoke at several seminars held at the Istituto di Glottologia at the University of Padua, and in Padua, worked together with the Centro di Foniatria, on research into limits of language. Stratos underlined the link between language and the psyche and highlighted their connection with the sounds made by the vocal chords, which he considered as musical instruments. In 1978, his international fame grew when he took part in concerts given at the Roundabout Tbeatre in New York. This was the time of "Event" with Merce Cunningham and the Dance Company performed under the artistic direction of Jasper Johns, Cage’s musical contribution, with Andy Warhol’s costume designs. His research into the field of phonetic and experimental poetry led to his freeing his voice every naturalistic restraint, restoring its depth and dimension. The result of this van be heard in the two recordings of his compositions "Metrodora" and "Cantare la Voce" where what sounds like an instrument is in fact his voice. Daniel Charles has described him as the person who decimated monody by the demultiplication of the acoustic spectrum: he achieved a diplophony which is triplophonic, even quadrophonic. His vocalisation became microorchestrations (voiceinstrument) without any technological amplification. He died in June 1979 at the New York Memorial Hospital. He was admitted the evening before a concert held on his behalf at the Milan Area. Over 100 musicians played in front of an audience of 100,000.
Demetrio Stratos’ life is surrounded by an aura of legend. He was born in 1945 in Egypt by Greek parents, studied in Cyprus, moved to Italy, founded Area, one of the most daring bands in Italian history. In the late seventies, he left the band to focus on vocal research and trained his voice to produce sounds that few people have ever been able to produce. And, as all heroes destined to obsess us forever, he died young and unexpectedly just as his remarkable and unique talent was gaining recognition.
The 70s in Italy were all about experimentation. The smoke was still clearing from the revolutionary explosion of 1968, where universities and factories were occupied, student and worker’s demonstrations filled the streets, and people believed that radical social change was at the door.
If 1968 was about dreams and ideology, the ’70s were about practicing alternatives: creating social and political utopias, fighting the revolution (often with violent means), breaking all safe conventions in relationships, and experimenting with our bodies. Such radical experimentation was exciting and dangerous like jumping from a plane without parachute; it required absolute commitment, discipline, and a good dose of recklessness. People learned a great deal, failed, gave up, hurt themselves and others, and sometimes died.
Vocal gimmicks aside, Stratos’ mission was to free vocal expression from the slavery of language and pretty melodies. From the observation of his daughter Anastassia, he concluded that humans have enormous expressive potentials that are progressive reduced during verbal development to just a few socially appropriate functions such as language and harmonic singing.
For Demetrio Stratos, the exploration of vocal potentials was a tool of psychological and political liberation: he literally wanted individuals and social groups to find their own voice.
At the time of his death, rumors circulated that his illness was caused by his secret and dangerous vocal practices. People wanted to believe that Demetrio Stratos had died for daring too much and wandering outside the limits of human possibilities: a modern Icarus, punished for flying too close to the Sun.
Maurizio Nannucci at Ubuweb has posted samples of Demetrio Stratos recording from his 1978 album Cantare la voce (To sing the voice). These recordings demonstrate Stratos’ daring and fascinating exploration of the expressive potentials of the human voice.
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