Schiano Graffiti: an espresso with Johnny Lapio e Arcote Project


June 16, 2022

Johnny Lapio, composer, trumpeter and artist always inclined to creative research; with “Schiano Graffiti”, he goes beyond the musical and performative aspect, experimenting with an exclusive way to enjoy his music that suggests a new paradigm of sharing one’s art.

> Ivano Rossato – Eugenio Mirti

How was the “Schiano Graffiti” project born?
It all started quite by chance, in the sense that in the middle of the pandemic, what did you want to do but write music? And the music came out on its own. I was composing a work, as usual tied a little to graphic music, canonical, to conducting, always putting together more parts and also taking care of the aesthetics, in short, trying to open up different scenarios.
At a certain point this opportunity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs comes out, linked to projects representing Italy, to the excellence of our country, and I decided to participate and try to be selected among the 10 planned projects.

The idea was to dedicate the work to an Italian artist. I didn’t want to bother Dante, so I thought of Mario Schiano, one of the very first to bring free jazz to Italy. Usually, I don’t particularly like making tributes starting from the artist’s songs. It’s not about rearranging, I prefer to make new music, a completely original composition but inspired by his way of thinking.

… and the idea of Non-Fungible Tokens?
I told myself that I would like to enhance this product in a different way, not with the usual record. And I thought it would be nice if it became a collector’s item even if I didn’t know how yet. I had to look for a way to offer exclusive content for those who bought that product, including the visual part, which is important.
I got a little closer to this world of NFT, of which I understand little because I am a musician! But I was interested in the matter of ownership certificates. In reality, for works of art this is not big news. I make a painting, take a picture of it and protect it through an NFT which is much safer than many other solutions. As a physical object I thought of using a credit card, an object that is usually linked to the economic aspect, in this case instead linked to a cultural discourse. Instead of paying for the shopping, it becomes a collector’s item with cultural content.
The result was an ATM card that on one side has the album cover while on the back is the name of the author and a QR code that gives you access to public data, the ones you already find on YouTube. However, there is also a microchip and through a password you have access to exclusive content, including, for example, the full score. These are 5 collectible cards, all unique pieces. I like to think of a hypothetical transition from disco to fluid music, to this new way of sharing one’s works.
Speaking of the music of “Schiano Graffiti”, is it music that comes from an idea you had in your head or is it more the result of improvisation?
No, absolutely in the head, even if obviously in the performance there is an improvisational aspect, even of sometimes radical freedom. Many parts are written, and the themes are inspired in two or three cases by Mario Schiano. But there is also a lot of freedom. For example, from the video you see a moment in which Francesco [Partipilo n.d.r.] throws himself into an improvisation. I stop everything because I see that he is expressing himself and he is cool. I let him go quiet and when I see that this thing is winding down, I return to the theme from where we left it.
How does the concept of “exclusivity” match with that of “sharing”?
In reality, the two concepts are compatible. If you want to listen exclusively to the musical project you can find it peacefully on YouTube and watch the video. The score can also be viewed in the public archive. But you have to move, you have to go there. With the card you have the exclusivity of having it available anywhere with you, from the living room of your home you listen to music. But it is not precluded to those who, as I have always done, want to learn more about an artist by going to the music archive or trying directly to get to know the artists in person. In my opinion, this is a bit of the engine that should drive future generations. Look at YouTube for example, where everything is accessible, but there is so much stuff that it’s like having nothing in your hand. And if you are not driven by a personal desire to deepen and understand, it is actually the YouTube algorithm that takes you where it wants based on your searches. In the end, it’s not your research, it’s a commercial discourse that enters your head.
How do you choose the musicians?
The choice of musicians depends on the particular project I want to record from time to time. Sometimes they must have more specific characteristics; maybe I need radical improvisation, while others feel the need for a musician who can read very well even if, perhaps, he doesn’t have that particular style of improvisation. Like everyone else, I have my healthy narcissism, but I prefer the artistic idea to emerge and I don’t need to be the first woman. Probably choosing the right members of the group based on the artistic idea is the most difficult phase, because if you’re wrong, you throw away a project. In this case, the need was to record with musicians I know very well, with whom we are all on the same wave and thinking. We’ve been playing together for years. But we also have our quarrels of course, so every now and then I take a break for two or three months.
If you had the opportunity to spend three minutes, for example, with the prime minister and tell him your idea for solving the problems of music today, what would you tell him?
It seems to me that the area of jazz, of the more radical improvised music, is not adequately represented with the Minister of Culture, so there should be an interlocutor linked to this area. Another aspect that I also find important is to be able to play in all places without the fear of taxation and fines, there is a need for less bureaucracy related to events. This would give the opportunity to try to experiment with a light heart, and make yourself heard, because over the years I have seen if you have the opportunity to make yourself known then the public comes to see you and appreciates you.
… And what would you recommend to your fellow musicians?
Change the way you look for dates and the way you listen, avoid accepting to be exploited for a few Euros just to play. I also think it is very important that the musician today knows how to write projects and take care of a minimum of management. You have to first be the manager of yourself, often and willingly you work much better than an agency. You also have to dedicate yourself to how to bring out your art and make it reach the public. Unless you want to be a shift worker or performer, in this case you just need to invest in the technical aspect. For me it is working, I write projects and I try to get them to be financed in 1000 different ways, such as the idea of NFT cards.
Schiano Graffiti: an espresso with Johnny Lapio and Arcote Project copyright Jazzespresso 2022.
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