As we step into Post-húsið, the headquarters of Reykjavík-based music collective Post-dreifing, we see Diego Manatrizio gesturing over odd-looking objects: a toy xylophone, tiny piano, alarm clock, even a traffic cone—like a wizard conjuring a spell over a bubbling cauldron of magic potion with his trusty wand. Well, replace the wand with a drumstick and Diego is nothing short of a modern-day wizard, extracting magical sounds from ordinary objects. Tonight we are at ‘Allt er hljóðfæri’ or ‘Everything is an instrument’—one of the many improvisation nights Diego leads.
“Right now I am a full-time musician,” says Diego, who is perhaps better known by his stage name Flaaryr. Diego’s work knows little if any boundaries. “I never place myself in a particular genre,” he says. “But I think my music has elements of minimalism, rhythmic experimentation, a little bit of noise, a little bit of ambient, a little bit of math rock,” he continues, noting these are genres that were very influential for him growing up. “What defines it more is just loops and rhythmic experimentation.”
Finding music in unexpected places
“I make improvisations out of sounds that are not considered exactly musical instruments,” he says. One example is his “trash set”—an improvisation in which he takes objects from dumpsters and puts contact microphones on them. “I think the moment in which I decided to start using trash with contact mics was when I thought, ‘What if instead of modifying conventional musical instruments like a guitar, I just put all the focus on these random objects and the objects are the instruments themselves?’”
One of the objects with musical qualities that surprised Diego turned out to be a mirror. “A mirror doesn’t have much resonance. If you bang on it, not much will happen,” he says. “But if you put water on it and move your fingers, it makes a screeching sound that is really interesting. Depending on how much pressure you apply with your fingers, the pitch of that sound changes in a really surprisingly wide range.”
Guitar or flamingo?
In one of his upcoming shows at the RUSL sustainable design festival, Diego won’t play guitar at all. “In that set, I will only play with a mirror and a garden decoration that is a flamingo made of metal. It’s gonna be completely different from what I have ever played,” Diego shares. “The theme of this festival is about sustainability and reusing objects that are usually considered waste. I thought that it was interesting to make my set very close to the concept of the festival. It’s a good situation to see what happens if I don’t have a guitar and will have to rely on these objects that are very unpredictable.”
Intuitive music to the masses
In addition to prepping for live performances, Diego has been working on a new album, ‘Dagur Tónlistar Innsæisins’ or “A Day of Intuitive Music, which will be released in November.
“This is my first composition project in which I will not be the performer,” he explains. Starting in July, Diego plans to launch an open call for people willing to participate in the project.
“I will invite 24 people who don’t know how to play any instruments. Each of them will play one hour of improvisation, with a lot of instruments and random objects that I will give them and I will record them playing solo improvisations one by one. Out of those 24 hours of completely improvised music, I will make 24 short pieces only by cutting and rearranging them, without doing any sound processing or anything like that. So I will compose using improvisations as my source,” Diego shares.
Сhoose your own instrument
The idea of the project was born a year ago when Diego started to organise improvisation nights, just like the one we are at while speaking. “The concept is pretty straightforward,” he says, adding: “It’s just 100% open improvisation in a space full of instruments. And everyone, absolutely everyone is welcome to join and play any instrument they like. It doesn’t matter if you have never played an instrument before, or if you are a guitarist and you want to grab a trumpet, you are totally welcome to do it. There are no musical guidelines.”
“The bottom line of this project is to tell people that everyone is qualified enough to make music. Music can mean so many things and, in this case, there are no boxes that you have to tick,” he beams with a smile so sincere that you start to believe it is true. “You can have no training and still make amazing music.”
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