Name: Gabriele Mitelli
Nationality: Italian
Occupation: Musician, trumpet player, composer, performer
Current release: Gabriele Mitelli's three tsuru origami, a collaboration with John Edwards and Mark Sanders, is out via We Insist!

[Read our Mark Sanders interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Gabriele Mitelli and would like to know more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, and Facebook.

When did you first start getting interested in musical improvisation?  

Before I started playing, which was at the age of 19, I was a motocross racer, I did paragliding and extreme sports. What interested me was the adrenaline rush and the sense of loss of control, or rather, the thin line between feat and tragedy.

When my attention came to focus on sound, after some experiences with more mainstream jazz groups, I felt that there was an emotional potential in musical practice that could never explode into something that would somehow draw a line under my past.

But then … like a bolt of lightning … there was free music, improvisation. Here I felt again the fast and adrenaline flow of an extreme practice, which in the beginning was very much based on free jazz (with all the listening of the great musicians of the time), but which then quickly led me to encounter electronic music, performing arts, visual arts and made me consider the fact that everything, after all, had the same light, the same spirit and the same soul …just like drifting on a curve, jumping off a bridge, flying over mountains.

The importance of the 'how' totally destroyed the form of the 'what', so I could feel myself at any point in my evolution, considering the past, right or wrong, to be decisive for my art. This brought me closer to improvisation.

Which artists, approaches, albums or performances involving prominent use of improvisation captured your imagination in the beginning?

At first I was certainly fascinated by Don Cherry and consequently by all the musicians who gravitated around him. Then from there, again thanks to Cherry, Terry Riley, minimalism, serial and electronic music. In parallel, the fundamental meeting with Karlainz Stockhausen's son, who after a workshop offered me the opportunity to study in Cologne, in his father's house, where I was in cantatto with Karlainz's original scores and instrumentation.

[Read our Markus Stockhausen interview]

From there, all the way to Berio, Scelsi, all the way to Cage (just to name a few). Certainly I can't disregard all the punk and post-punk assimilated before approaching music as a medium, and thus CCCP, CSI, Joy Division … smells that are breathed within my language, where anything is possible.

Focusing on improvisation can be an incisive transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?

Let's say that improvisation, but more generally music, marked a point in my life between before and after.

The reason for the drastic change between sports and sound was a long period of panic attacks, related to the end of school, the drastic leaving of the family, and the beginning of work in a large factory producing aluminum. Well … music came into my story after a year of leading this life.

In a very short time, I left the factory, resumed my studies, met my Maestro Beppe Rusconi, and the panic attacks … poof … they were gone. And today, I am still here, with the sound in my hands.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to improvisation? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage?

To say improvisation is to say everything. That is precisely why I think we can assess the fact that it is a timeless and ageless practice.

Of course you can feel within it idioms. But I wouldn't make a problem of it, you can't fight with impulses when what we are looking for in what we create is truth, even if told in absurdity, fiction or fantasy. So yes, there are works where tradition and historical language are felt, but I collaborate with visual artists, people experimenting with new technologies, scientists.

I don't know, I'm here and I feel like I'm part of a free movement with no boundaries. Every day is different and the rigor I put in approaching the practice of improvisation is precisely to respect the drive and form that my language takes from the moment I open my eyes l the moment I close them. Hoping that the next day will be different from the day before.

Can you talk about a work, event or performance in your career that's particularly dear to you? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Considering music as an experience and not an outcome, I can only remember sharply and consciously the performances not to be repeated! Everything else is flux and from there it is difficult to extrapolate a precise feeling. So to be fair I will tell you why the last concert was special.

We were in Molhouse in France, me and Rob Mazurek, at the Météo festival. We hadn't seen each other for a few months and the desire to spend time together, sharing one of the most important things in our lives, was great. At the same time they were sad days because jamie branch had just passed away.

[Read our Rob Mazurek interview]
[Read our jamie branch interview]

All this implied extreme and highly unstable emotionality … so was our cry.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?

The identity "we are" seeking is a common identity. Those who somehow fit into it or are part of it deserve interest. What you do is irrelevant to how you do it. This propensity opens your head and makes your identity strong but at the same time able to be fluid. Evolve without excluding.

When you're improvising, does it actually feel like you're inventing something on the spot – or are you inventively re-arranging patterns from preparations, practise or previous performances?

When I improvise, I don't invent anything. It is a flow, without thought, where images and feelings flow that can be shared by everyone. But at that moment it has such force that it is new, because it is true and raw.

I do not prepare anything, I try to get as far away from myself and my recent past as possible. I feel, instead, that when the sound turns into something repurposed, accommodating (in the sense that having already experienced it, it puts me in a comfort zone), I immediately get out of the flow, thoughts enter and the discomfort of having missed that "train" comes in …

Which in my head is always the last one.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?

The relationship is very close. To appropriate a space and the feeling of those who inhabit it at that instant, to take to at your own traditions, customs and traditions and pour them onto a ground that does not belong to you like marbles on a floor, the weight of one's history, imprinted colors, peasant gestures in industrial chains, origins, my land ... to find one's own objects far from home, with eyes closed, in the noise.

The occupation of a physical and emotional space, the attempt to recreate one's intimacy and tell one's story through sound, noise, trying to find one's being in direct contact with people, walls and works, which determine its structure.