When Sebastiano d’Ayala Valva was 10 years old, his father played him music by his cousin, the composer Giacinto Scelsi. He found it frightening. Now he attempts to penetrate the world of a composer who remained obscure for many years and whose ideas about music and sound were unorthodox.
Scelsi, who died in 1988, claimed that he didn’t create his music himself, but that it came to him from the gods. He spent much of his life as a recluse and refused to be photographed. Here he comes to life through the memories of singers and musicians, in powerful visual associations in which nature often plays a role, in the palm tree in which he’s said to be reincarnated, and in his music that can sometimes sound otherworldly. The portrait unfolds organically, and its palette is broad, from personal moments with d’Ayala Valva’s elderly father to the abstract beauty of interference patterns generated by Scelsi’s music. It’s an introduction to a mystical universe in which Scelsi himself still has a presence, in the form of sound recordings of his reflections.
An example of Scelsi’s transcendental music can be experienced in 3-D at the IDFA DocLab exhibition, in a VR recording of his famously challenging orchestral work Uaxuctum.
TV5MONDE supports all French-language productions at IDFA 2018. For more French documentaries with Ducth subtitles, visit TV5MONDE.