On his blog, Lucio Capece describes the motivation/process behind his composition “Zero plus zero”: “After several years of relating with pitched sounds as residual material they called my interest in a new way. I began to find interest in the hidden pitches in the noises and the noises hidden in the combination of pitched sounds.” This approach seems to guide Lucio’s release Zero Plus Zero, which contains an excerpt of the titular composition, on the Potlatch label.
And Capece, a veteran improviser/composer who has worked with the likes of Radu Malfatti, Kevin Drumm, Axel Dörner, and Toshimaru Nakamura, seems to realize that his insight transcends music. On the album’s cover is a diagram of two quantum channels, each with transmission capacity zero, which when combined form a channel with nonzero capacity. Here, Capece, if not directly, is invoking one of the most perplexing and popular statements in abstract mathematics, the Banach-Tarski Paradox. The proposition claims that one can deform a sphere of radius one into two separate spheres both with radii one. That is to say, it is possible to double mass, purely by rearranging particles, creating two out of one. Crucial to this statement is the existence of “sets with measure zero,” i.e., objects with no mass. Obviously, this result is highly counter-intuitive, and relies on the ever controversial (and popular) axiom of choice, but its baffling conclusion is fascinating, as well as somewhat instructive in understanding how pitches interact.
Therefore, one could think of noise and drone as negative, null space, zeroes, and the way musicians present these non-entities varies from artist to artist: as vacuous sounds (The New Blockaders), as carriers for the musician’s self (Prurient), as basic particles. Capece favors the latter, adding these zeroes together and deforming conventional sonic material to generate the new pitches out of the vacuum. On Zero Plus Zero, he does this with an ensemble of instruments (struti box, soprano saxophone, double-plugged equalizer, tuned backyard, ring modulator, etc.), creating drones aesthetically reminiscent of Eliane Radigue’s. In the series “Inside the outside,” for example, Capece clashes the tones of his reeded instruments with sine tones and his struti to form these new pitches in the liminal space.
All of this may sound rather simple, and in a sense it is. We’ve seen this phenomenon demonstrated in many forms, ranging from the tiring clangor of Rhys Chatham’s “Guitar Trio” (and its countless iterations) to the more subtle string interactions of, say, Nikos Veliotis’ “Aceghd.” In many ways, Capece’s process is the fundamental aspect of drone music. But there’s a charm to Capece’s formalism and to how he executes it with such an array of unconventional instruments. Zero Plus Zero is like a case study in why drone-based electro-acoustic music can be so enchanting, both in its actual content and in Capece’s conceptualization.