Back in the day, episode 2
Leafing through the photographic archive of Splendid Sicily. The Splendid Sicily celebration of Sicilia nostalgia in all its form
Giuseppe Severimi, luthier
“The Art of Lutherie operates the transformation of matter into sound”
We are in Randazzo, medieval Sicily, a stone’s throw from Etna, with the lava stone that dominates the agricultural and architectural landscape.
This is the realm of the luthier Giuseppe Severini.
Beware of the bell. This is my wife we often do some concerts together, she is better than me.
According to Pythagoras and Plato, the cosmos has a harmony that was called the Harmony of the Spheres.
That is, a particular property of the universe was meant which, through the movements of the celestial spheres, produced a musical scale.
The Earth has no sound because it is at the center of everything and is still. This is the sound of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the fixed stars.
If we go back we can feel the basic scale familiar to us.
This thought remained until the Middle Ages. All medieval musical instruments followed this scale.
Even very poor instruments like this box, with 10 gut strings, made it possible to study the entire Gregorian repertoire.
Until just before the year 1000 we only have Gregorian chant.
Then the Arabs arrive who discover the lute in Persia and this instrument also wants to represent cosmic harmony.
The case is decorated as if to recall the starry sky.
Earth, water, air and fire.
The most beautiful testimonies of those instruments are depicted in the Palatine chapel in Palermo.
Unfortunately there are no written musical testimonies left here in Sicily but only the representation of these beautiful instruments in the frescoes of the Palatine chapel.
We are in the 11th century and in Spain they invent the organistrum and traces of it remain in many churches.
And finally here is the hurdy-gurdy, I built it with Etna chestnut.
Let’s see if I can make you hear the sound of the aeolian harp, that is, it is the wind that makes it sound, but first I have to create a current of air.
When I was eighteen I wanted to repair guitars and mandolins that I played myself.
Then I thought “maybe it’s better that I go to a luthier to have him repaired”.
And I got hooked: I liked playing, I liked wood!
And I combined the two.
I moved to Sicily because I was teaching Italian and they moved me here to Randazzo.
I saw this house and fell in love and bought it.
In 1997 I made a choice between music and teaching: and I chose music.
Now, after so many years, artists, museums, conservatories know me … and they ask me to create them.
I had a lot of satisfaction but perhaps the greatest was reconstructing the instruments depicted in the cathedral of Cefalù and in the Palatine chapel in Palermo.
Maybe the most important momento of my work is when I go to choose the wood.
For example this is a cedar and I wanted to keep the shape of the wood.
This is a baroque guitar made with lots of glued woods.
At the moment I am making this 13th century violin while this is an instrument of the palatine chapel in cypress, and it will be an instrument played in a bow, like oriental instruments.
My wife does music therapy, she is a pianist, she takes care of helping children with psycho-motor problems, music sometimes reaches where medicine cannot.
It is all an inspiration, the Alcantara river I say.
Once I found a red willow trunk, I left it there for three years, then cut it and took it home.
These are not instruments but they are two musician angels in walnut, from the end of the Renaissance, and they were probably inside a private chapel ”
We spent a beautiful day on the slopes of Etna, in the company of maestro Giuseppe Severini.
Giuseppe on Sicilian Artisan Foundation: please, go
The creative people of Trinacria
Sicilian Artisan Foundation (S.A.F.) is a project to sustain the Sicilian creativity, over all to support the artisans and artists.
The objective of S.A.F is both to safeguard the traditions and ancient crafts of the people of Sicily, and to sustain economically the Artisans and the Artists, both the real ethno-anthropologists of the country.
The writers transcribing down through memory to the pen; artisans use their hands and flair.
Both use their hearts.
Author: Giovanni Vallone, Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily
Translation: Giovanna Battaglia, Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily
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