Resident archivist Jack Dangers looks at Italian composer Enore Zaffiri and his 1973 album ‘Progetto Q81’
Enore Zaffiri was born in 1928 and is one of Italy’s most important electronic music pioneers. He established an electronic music studio in Turin, Studio di Music Elettronica di Torino, in the mid-60s (some sources say 1964, others 1966). It was a private studio, unlike the better-known state-funded RAI studio in Milan, which was established under composers Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna in 1955. Zaffiri’s co-founders were a painter, Sandro De Alexandris, and visual poet Arrigo Lora-Totino. The studio was set up to explore electronic music and visual art and “their relationships to geometry”, so it was a kind of arts lab research facility.
As well as researching and composing electronic music, Zaffiri was interested in teaching. One of the first college courses in electronic music was at the Florence Conservatory of Music, taught by another private electronic studio owner, Pietro Grossi. Grossi’s studio, called S 2F M, was established in 1963, and Zaffiri and Grossi worked together on an exhibition of electronic music and musique concrète at a gallery in Turin. Zaffiri then developed his own electronic music composition course and taught it at his studio, which relocated to the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Turin.
In the early 1970s, Zaffiri got hold of his first synthesiser, an EMS VCS 3. He was really interested in using the synthesiser as a live performance tool, and in 1972 the album ‘Musica Elettronica – Computer Music’, on the Compagnia Editoriale Pianeta label, featured him and several other composers. They used the EMS Synthi A and VCS 3 together with an IBM 360e computer – there’s a track called ‘Living Synthi N 7’. That album’s gone through the roof value wise, around £400 last time I looked.
Then there’s ‘Progetto Q81’, a really interesting album. Released in 1973 on the German label Hofhaus Presse, it’s the only album on that label. It’s pretty minimal electronic music, and part of a project by the artist Antonio Calderara that consisted of this album, and 18 prints. It’s very rare indeed.
Zaffiri is still around. He made a great record in 2009 called ‘Through The Magnifying Glass Of Tomorrow’ with My Cat Is An Alien, an avant-garde duo of brothers who are also from Turin. He was 80 when they worked together, with Zaffiri using tapes he’d made in the 1960s for his contribution to the improvisations. That came with a DVD with two films on it. One of them is a “video painting” by Zaffiri which he also soundtracked, called ‘Trasparenze’. There was also an album in 2017 called ‘Musica Per Un Anno – March 28th, 6 PM’, which you can get on CD. It’s all good stuff, highly recommended.