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Patrick Battstone & Antonella Chionna: The Voice of Robert Desnos

Geannine Reid By

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Patrick Battstone and Antonella Chionna have released a CD titled, The Voice of Robert Desnos. You do not need long to understand that there is something special in this duet. The exciting idea: to perform the poetry of Robert Desnos. Desnos' creative processes focused on achieving a state of self-abandon, dream-like spontaneity that allowed him to create his art while transcending the limitations of "reality." Desnos strived for a deeper vision of a sur-reality; one where the "movie screen" that we are all viewing suddenly melts and we are left staring at that which was behind, our misleading conception. Battstone expands, "Desnos was a master of going into his subconscious, through hypnotic trances and séances, to where he could both see and describe, that which was beyond our normal perception. In words, he described what artists like Kandinsky and Klee (as well as the surrealist painters of his time) described in paintings and what composers like Scriabin described in sounds." As listeners, we are given insight to a journey through the fantastic spontaneous music and interaction between Battstone and Chionna. This young and talented poet and vocalist adds a layer of intrigue, Chionna; melds with Battstone's piano to captivate the listener in a state of mind completely.

"If You Only Knew" opens the collection of poems with Battstone's arpeggiated figure, Chionna's spoken voice joins with sparkle and a heavy accent that hints to her Italian homeland, which adds to beauty and a continental flair. Battstone, in an expressive mood, fills the space around Chionna with emotive sounds and insistent rhythms, basking in the joy of sound and the meaning of the words and how they are emotionally delivered by Chionna. The two create arching phrases, breathing together and following each other's emotional colors; notes and words, tinged with the energy of artful creativity. Each second turns into the next as both examine abstraction of a deeper reality. Moody rumination, frustrations and longing bubble up, and musical passages come forth that might be a soundtrack to a surreal, madcap of the superficial reality of existence.

Certainly, it is a fitting opener to this creative project. Battstone's lush sounds seem to cradle Chionna's words, and her accent seems to make it lovelier—perhaps a play on the duality of existential. Every second of the duets music is a voyage of discovery, creating a profound and timeless beauty offered up in an exquisite state of mind. Battsone describes the process that lead to this creative CD, "It was only natural that improvised music and Desnos' poetry be fused. During the mid-80s, our musical circle captured the spirit of this idea, yet none of the fruits were ever realized into a recording. However, this idea haunted me for the next 30 years. Finally, commencing this work became an obsession. Who could do it? I found poets, yet none of them wanted to recite other's works. I observed people in bars and approached some. Theatre groups and operatic groups were also queried. Lastly, I started reciting a selection during recording sessions and performances. In March 2016, during a period of collaboration with Italian vocalist Antonella Chionna, I sent the recordings to her. On the same day, I receive a book of her poetry (I was unaware that she was a writer/ poetess) and suddenly the pieces fit. In September 2016, I spent time in Italy, and brought Antonella into a studio without any agenda. On the second track, we decided to try The Voice of Robert Desnos. We both looked at each other and knew what was next—A collection of Desnos' poetry. The second session was booked and all the texts were in hand. One take for each poem was all that we needed. The result is this CD."

Battstone and Chionna have created a lasting piece, not only to the mastery of Robert Desnos, but as a creative collaboration of proportional measure. The album is bold, and inventive. Certainly, worthy of the improvisational marker.

Track Listing: If You Only Knew; Halfway; I Have Dreamt of You so Much; Wifeless, Plump Buck Moonigan; The Voice of Robert Desnos; Les Yeux d’Yvonne George; Chionnese Frantico; Suicide by Night; Spaces Inside Sleep; How Beautiful She; Nightfall; Nature Boy.

Personnel: Pat Battstone: piano; Antonella Chionna: voice.

Title: The Voice of Robert Desnos | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced


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