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The magic pipe and the abandoned muse

Stefano believed that I would have stopped in Cegni for half a day, just the time of an interview and some recordings... I have stopped here for two weeks. After all the bright green painted valleys, the atmosphere of peace, the hospitality of friends I met and the unique music of these places, they challenge even the most apathetic person to refuse a prolonged stay
We are in Cegni and surroundings, in the province of Pavia, in the area known as the "Four Provinces" (Genoa, Pavia, Alessandria, Piacenza), where the cultural territory goes beyond affiliation administrations. This Appenine area has maintained an history linked to music itself.
The first opportunity for me to listen this music it is offered by Stefano Valla & Daniele Scurati, inseparable sound companions, who perform for the Cammino della Musica in the big blue kitchen of Stefano’s house. The impact is devastating: a strong, resolute, complete block of sound that pierces the soul.
They seem ten people playing but they are just two; pipe and accordion, this is the typical formation of the area where, according to Stefano, " people have never stopped playing." Stefano is a person with two big shoulders, on one of them he brings  seriousness and professionalism, on the other he has an overwhelming irony. His head is capable to wisely measure the two powers. His friends say he is a parties professional.
Stefano & Daniele are musicians and this is their job, they say they are "players".



"We are not and do not want to be the reconstruction of a recovery isolated from the social context in which we grew up," Stefano says: "We have grown in this area, where we have been listening the pipe since we were childs."

The strength of these two musicians and others of this area, is having been able to translate the behavior inherited from the old players for the current times, without temporal swings, but in an uninterrupted way without sacrificing innovation that represents the tradition continuation.

"The tradition is alive when it can evolve remaining preserved at the same time. We must know what it has been done in the past to afford innovation. According to me tradition is knowledge "
A proof of this thesis is what the old players of the area have done when, at the beginning of'900 they decided to replace the bagpipe (old companion of the pipe) with the accordion, " the new lover of the pipe”, adjusting and reforming the "traditional” repertoire. Thus, what is tradition? Or rather, when it is tradition? These are questions as much absurd as ineffective because it doesn’t make sense to fix space-time standards to a form of art and culture on the move.
Stefano tells me that he had a great artistic and humane relationship with his masters Ernesto Sala and Andrea Domenichetti, he is transmitting this values also to his students. He says, when his last teacher died, he realized he lost his reference points, and that the ball was passed to him. He remembers that the same teacher who lived in a village of a few people 1100 meters far away said: "This is local and European music" and now Stefano and Daniele say: "We play like 100 years ago players, but we are also the ones that today are turning to Europe playing this music. " And the music played by the Four Provinces musicians shall operate both in the ritual of a local wedding, than on the stage of an European theatre. “Playing in a qualitative deserving way. " The music of the Four Provinces requires a lot of study and dedication, above all, awareness.
Here, the parties are a “serious” matter and I have had the luck and opportunity to participate in a marriage.
Here, the parties are a “serious” matter and I have had, among others, the luck and opportunity to participate in a marriage. The newlywed Stefano and Serena tell me that It doesn’t happen very often to celebrate it like once, but sometimes it happens, and then the players go to pick up the bride at home and dedicate to her a song that tells about the detachment from family to go in the couple world. There are other music dedicated to various moments of the ritual, and it ends, as usual, with the final ball, which is open to the whole community and not only to the wedding attendants.
The stage of the parties is usually a table. It is the party organizer that must be sure it will hold up the weight of the players. The party consists of codes and rules that musicians, dancers and participants generally know and respect since long time. I remember that at a certain point of the dance during the wedding, someone pointed out to a player he has taken too long a mazurka making the dancers loosing the sense of dance. Stefano explains to me that not always where there is a dance there is a party: it depends on player’s skill, his intuition and above all his experience. It is the player that has the role of the priest of the parties, he must be able to satisfy his followers-dancers with the right musical prayers made of alessandrine, monferrine, valtz, mazurkas and polkas.It is not eccesive to declare that in these feasts there is something spiritual. Otherwise how could it be explained a physical resistance that allows musicians to play without stopping for hours and hours? Stefano talks about a kind of beneficial, healthy and pure trance, which gives to the time passing a relative meaning : "Sometimes we play for ten hours without even realizing it."
During these long hours that you don’t like to be finished, the melodic intertwining of the pipe and the accordion creates a hypnotic sound. They are definitely a winning pair, seductive, indivisible, unique and a symbol of a musical culture that has been able to model the time to find wise solutions and ingenious innovations.
Thanks to: Stefano Valla and Daniele Scurati, Massimo Perelli, Matteo Burrone, Renata Tommasella, Roberto Cariotti and Romana, Bernard Blanc and Philippe, Adriano Angiati and the newlywed, Anna, Loredana, Laura, Ettore and Carla, Cleto Marini, Helen, Giorgio Carraro, Martina Catella.
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