Cantus, a composition to raise awareness on the importance of water

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Back in December 2017, I have been asked by an Italian instrumental piano and cello Duo Alma (Alberto Delama and Ruhama Santorsa) to write a composition inspired by water as they will perform in a concert themed on the importance of water. This concert will be held in May 2018 in Zevio, a small city near Verona where Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid has been released by local chemical factories. This has polluted the groundwater in large areas of Padova, Vicenza and Verona. The access to clean water for thousands of people has been compromised and population in this area has an increasing presence of these substances in blood and tissues. This can cause long-term health problems including fatal illnesses like cancer.

This was the first time somebody asked me to compose a piece for a real-world issue and I have gladly accepted the challenge. Personally, I have always been interested in environmental and social issues and believe that arts can contribute a lot to increase awareness of complex topics. Hence I decided to compose a meaningful piece that will convey a strong statement on the importance of water. I really wanted that the message will be clearly understood by the audience.

To achieve this I structured the piece in three parts that someway describe the process of water pollution. The beginning evokes pleasant sustained harmonies (based also on the natural harmonic series) with flowing irregular rhythms. This situation will gradually change and become harsh, shrill and anarchic.
The programmatic intention behind the piece is to underline that if we as human beings don’t realise the beauty and importance of water, with our own hands we will alter and transform it until the whole environment will turn into a wasteland that will eventually drive the planet to death. I like to think that this metaphor will be sonically rendered in the concert hall: this will become for a short period of time the ecosystem where the consequences of an imaginary time-lapsed pollution will aurally take place and affect its inhabitants (the public).

To be more clear about the intentions of the composition I have also included at the beginning of the piece a short fact about water that will be read by the players:

To produce 150 grams of beef burger 2325 litres of water are needed. These equal to roughly 52 showers of 5 minutes each.

This terrifying statistic was taken by the Water Footprint Network and shocked me when I first heard it. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on the audience as well.

The piece is now being carefully rehearsed by Ruhama and Alberto and I look forward hearing it in May.

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