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Antonio Arena - producer
Antonio Arena
 

An interview with the producer Antonio Arena.
 

When did you come across Terre Differenti for the first time?

The first contact, with Fabio Armani, founder and soul of Terre Differenti, was in 1997, during the mixing of the Advena Avis ensemble's album "Da terre lontane". Fabio was the leader of the band and came to mix the CD in my recording studio. I liked the Advena Avis project from the start: it was a mix of middle age and ethnic themes with sophisticated electronic sonorities. The style was something between Dead Can Dance and Loreena Mc Kennith. We worked for a month in incredible harmony and the CD we produced reflected this enthusiastic atmosphere.

After that, we lost sight of each other. I continued composing soundtrack music, and in the meantime set up the independent label Opensound with Silvio Piersanti and Augusto Arena. Fabio continued with his musical projects, expanding his interests and contacts with artists of different cultures and experiences until he established the multi ethnic ensemble Terre Differenti. With this band he produced the first world fusion album in the year 2000.

How did you come to produce "Cities of Dreams"?

When with OPENSOUND we decided to make a production music library, I realized that Fabio Armani could certainainly contribute. His music, naturally evokes an emotional involvement which is particularly well-suited to being linked to images. So I asked him if he had something we could use and Fabio proposed a few things he was composing with Terre Differenti. The music I listened to left me so enthusiast that I decided that we should produce the second "Terre Differenti" CD together.

Which elements of the work are you enthusiastic about most?

That will be easy to understand when you listen to the CD. Both music and lyrics have an incredible emotional intensity. The musicians involved in this project have been committed both artistically and technically, and it shows. The artistic references of the music reminds me a lot of my own passions, such as Peter Gabriel, King Crimson and Japan (progressive rock) or some contemporary jazz productions of the ECM label, such as Jan Garbarek or Ralph Towner's Oregon. For example, when I listened to the demo of "Dance for the Moon" I was struck by the voices of Yasemin Sannino and Houcine Ata and by the sax of Marco Conti. I soon spoke with my partners and they too accepted the project with the same enthusiasm..

How did you engineer the CD?

It wasn’t an easy job, due to the complexity of the musical material itself. First of all, we started by selecting the tracks to include in the CD. Then we developed the arrangements so as to best express both the lyrics and the wonderful potential of the musicians.

The pre production phase was very long and with a great attention for detail. Finally we entered the studio to start the recording sessions. The tracking of the electronics was completed in Fabio’s project studio. After that, we worked in our Open Studio. The over recordings and the mix required several months work, with some of the pieces having more than one hundred tracks. So it was no joke to complete!

We worked with a Pro Tools HD3 system that allowed us to manage all the complexity in the best possible way. Anyway, we soon decided to take all the time we needed to work without stress, allowing us to explore different mixing options and to decide for the final one only when we were completely persuaded.

How many musicians played during the sessions?

Lots: Four singers (five including Maria Pia Ionata, a soprano that sings in "Lost in her World"), a drummer, a percussionist, two bass players, two guitarists, a saxophone player, two violinists and of course Fabio at keyboards and piano. It was amazing to work with artists of different cultures, each with his own sensibility. We tried to make it easy for everyone , even working in "non standard" ways. For example, during the sessions with the Egyptian percussionist, Abdullah Mohamed, we let him play with the widest freedom of expression. In this way he could create, with his instruments and skill, the rhythm and the atmosphere of his native land. You can feel this mood in "God of Thunder" or in "Beyond the Dunes". It's been a great experience, both artistically and personally, to work with these wonderful musicians.

You talked about “feeling” established with the musicians. Tell us more.

Well, for example, it's been exciting to work with the drummer, Alessandro D'Aloia. He uses a drum set that includes, among the standard instruments, some percussions that he plays with added pedals. Other percussions are placed between the toms. This set gives a variety of colours and timbres that enriches the rhythmic patterns with amazing ethnic suggestions, such as in "Kam ma Kam" or in "Cities of Dreams". Another great experience has been the genesis of the vocals of "Splinters of Reality". In this song, Fabio and I "forced" Elisabetta Antonini (a singer which comes from a jazz background) to work with a different style, rhythmic and nervous, with a "lyric" break only on the phrase "...dreaming of being alive again...". Elisabetta has really been creative and... patient! and in the end she found a way of singing that perfectly fitted the lyrics.

The lyrics. You said something about their evocative strength. Tell us more...

The CD, in spite of a variety of styles and cultures, is really a concept album. This is a consequence of the poetry of the lyrics. The CD talks about dualism, essentially human, between dream and reality. There is a cohabitation, in every human being and in mankind in general, of material concreteness and oniric vision. “City of Dreams” is a symbolic place, which is both inside and outside us, it is the essence of our anxiety and of our hopes, and in the CD it is often connected to the desert. The desert is the original earth, ancestral "humus" from which the babelic stream of languages and cultures grows with the richness of human experience. This is why the intro and the end of the CD are composed of voices that speak different languages, from Urdu to Finnish, from Arabic to Chinese, from Spanish to Swahili. These voices blend together to become an indistinct whole from which sound takes form.

At the end, what should happen while listening to "Cities of Dreams"?

We hope that listening to the CD, you’ll imagine a journey through different lands, which could be suggestions of concrete realities but also of human feelings, known or unexplored. In the end, the uttermost sense of the journey is the journey itself, and not the destination.

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