CARLA BOZULICH / FRANCESCO GUERRI
Teatro Comandini, Cesena, Italy 13th October, 2012 (part of the Màntica festival)
One thing you can say for certain about Carla Bozulich is that she sings and plays (guitar) from the heart.
She’s not one of those artists who are content to go through the motions or to give a carefully rehearsed performance.
There’s a certain affectation about this heightened self expressiveness but, fortunately, the honesty of her brand of punk poetry cuts through any pretentious arty-fartiness.
She thrives on spontaneity and distrusts the limitations and ‘straight’ framework of verse-chorus-verse songs.
She uses words as a way into the subconscious self and improvisation as a way of bypassing formulas.
Her modus operandi is primal and cathartic – she wants to shred the deadness of empty gestures, to tap into thoughts without rationalising them first, to be open to the freedom of impulsive ideas, to give voice to her demons.
This show with Italian cellist Francesco Guerri gives an insight into a creative process that depends heavily on trial and error. Rhymes or reasons are optional extras so we are left to make what we will of the title of the one hour performance – ‘Witching Witching Witching’ – and the following lines of freeform verse in the programme:
tree in the night a bright bug lit the leaves
peaked it was woman it was paper it was
branded on her
Carla Bozulich doesn’t speak any Italian and introduces songs in mostly incoherent English – lost in some linguistic middle ground.
At one point she says : “There is a man on the bus. You say ‘what man on the bus?’. I say ‘don’t complain when this man burns down your city” . “It’s hard to translate”, she concedes, which is putting it mildly. Hard to comprehend more like! The moral we are meant to take from this is : ‘Be nice to the man on the bus’.
“Most of the songs are written especially for this show”, Bozulich says at one point then later contradicts herself by saying that they haven’t actually prepared much in advance. As someone who prefers the existential thrill of being in the moment I wouldn’t imagine forward planning is among her priorities. Papers are scattered on the floor but if they contain lyrics they are not placed where they can be read and are probably there as a reminder of earlier brainstorming.
“I’m a little nervous tonight”, she admits but she doesn’t say this in any apologetic way – she just wants us to know something about where her mind is.
The small theatre venue is dimly lit and, for once, the instruction not take photos or videos is adhered to. The audience mainly sit and sprawl on cushions – on the same level as the artists. Two times, Bozulich wanders among the audience half singing, half ranting.
Francesco Guerri works on the cello in a very frenzied and physical manner – often dispensing with the bow to make playing literally a hands on experience. His day job is as a music therapist in a hospital in Bologna and his approach to the instrument gives some insight into the healing potential of music as a means of expression beyond words. This is undoubtedly one of the factors that drew these two artists together.
In one interview (with Ondarock) Bozulich said “Music is the only way to be non existent”. You get a sense that any performance by her is one of someone getting lost in the invisible fire of the spirit.
Some of it works – most of it doesn’t – “we didn’t charge extra for the mistakes”, she says at one point.