This month has been a month of stories, as
The Magic Door
is yet another album based around a myth. But this time it’s a story from a warmer region of Europe and much later in time than the old Scandinavian and Sami myths we heard till now. It takes place in Baroque Rome. According to legend, at the end of the 17th century, a pilgrim called ‘Stibeum’ was a guest at the villa of Marquis Maximiliano Palombara, a man who had developed a passion for alchemy since he visited the alchemical laboratory in the Riario Palace, (now known as Palazzo Corsini) in 1656.
The pilgrim (most likely an alchemist called Giuseppe Francesco Borr) disappeared forever after this visit, but he left a paper with seven symbols and epigraphs corresponding with the seven planets that were known to mankind in those days. Unable to decipher them himself the Marquis engraved these symbols and epigraphs in his door hoping that someday, someone would decode them. This door, now known as
or Porta Magica, is the inspiration for this album.
Fast forward 350 years and we find ourselves in October 2016. The moment that
and Giada Colagrande
started work on a musical project: making an album inspired by the Porta Alchemica. Arthuan Rebis we know of course as the composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist of the Italian medieval group
In Vino Veritas,
and of his solo album
La Primavera Del Piccolo Popolo,
which we reviewed a few months ago. Giada Colagrande is an Italian film director, actress and singer. During the writing process,
(an accomplished composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist in his own right) became part of the porject as a third bandmember. Last to join The Magic Door were special guests
(percussion, frame drum) and
(double bass). Together they recorded the album
The Magic Door,
which was released in November 2018.
Those of you who know Arthuan Rebis his solo album La Primavera Del Piccolo Popolo will know he has his own very unique style: warm and friendly, somewhere between ambient-, new age-, folk- and easy-listening pop music. Well, The Magic Door is just as unique. Which brings me to the impossible task of trying to describe The Magic Doors music. A problem I already had when I tried to describe Arthuan Rebis’ solo music. The honest answer. I struggled. How do you describe 5 centuries of music flowing together anyway? New age music; chamber pop; Baroc, ’50’s pop, a touch of Arabian influences, it is all there, blending together in a unique way, making the music feel refreshingly new and comfortingly old at the same time. Confused? well, join the club. My first two attempts to put this music into words became so complicated to read, that they looked like an alchemistic formula in their own right.
The basis of The Magic Door’s music is the feeling of warmth. An embrace put to music. Listen to the warm notes of the cello in Saturnine Night combined with Giada’s equally tender voice and you’ll melt away on the spot. When Arthuan then also adds his soothing voice to the music, it becomes a warm woolen blanket you can crawl into. A soft musical pillow of ease and relaxation.
The Refrain of Jupiter’s Dew is Just as Silky
The refrain of Jupiter’s Dew is just as silky. It is stunning how Arthuan’s and Giada’s voices blend together. Not only on this song but through the whole CD. Pure magic. Supported by a gentle drum rhythm, a groovy double bass, and pleasant acoustic guitar chords this whole album is a joy for the ear. Sudden surprises as the musical saw in Jupiter’s Dew and Mercury Unveiled add that special sort of mystique an alchemist inspired album should have.
But not every song is cozy and calm. Water of Mars has an enticing bass/cello line. Really catchy and slightly dark. As the song progresses it picks up speed and at the same time drags you back through the centuries into a dark Baroc sounding cello/nyckelharpa solo. Welcome mister Bach into the 21st century. A really clever use of ‘antique’ instruments in a modern arrangement. And that is the essence of the sound of The Magic Door.
Capturing The Essence of the Sound of The Magic Door
On one hand, you have the warmth of the wooden string instruments and the lovely voice of Giada that take you back to the sound of the ’50s. It was a time when you still had an orchestra or a string ensemble ready in the studio to record the music. Giada’s voice has that ‘old’ almost jazzy tone, reminiscent of singers like
-dare I say it-
or, more recently,
On the other hand, the music and arrangements sound modern and fresh. That is mainly due to the production, AND the modern, folky use of the percussion. It gives this CD its cheer, its vibrancy. It sounds folky, fun, and always upbeat. Glen Velez is a master on the frame drum and it is only fair that he has got his own solo spot on the album with the song Ancient Portal. The subtle, open sound of the guitar and harp is the thing that blends everything together. The song Vitriol is possibly the best example of this beautiful mix of old and new. It is also the folkiest song of them all.
The lyrics are just as intriguing as the music itself. The refrains of most of the songs are translations of the inscriptions left on the Porta Magica 340 years ago. On Water Of Mars, for instance, the epigraph says:
‘Who knows how to burn with water,
and how to wash with fire.
Can make heaven of earth
and a precious earth of heaven.‘
Really poetic, but I do understand why Marquis Massimiliano was never able to decipher it.
Another mysteriously beautiful one is the epigraph in Saturnine Night:
‘When in your house black crows give birth to white doves, then will you be called wise‘. Pure poetry.
The most cryptic of them all goes like this:
‘As Latona is whitened by Azoth and lightning,
Diana comes undressed.‘
It inspired the band itself to equally wondrous astrological poetry of their own:
‘Blessed by the serpent scepter of Hermes,
the lover ascends the draft
to join his female half.
The chemical wedding starts.
The moon marries the sun,
Venus marries Mars. [Venus the Bride]
This album is as mysterious as it is beautiful. A true tribute to Guiseppe Francesco Borri, to Maquis Massimiliano Palombara, and to all the alchemists of 16th century Rome in general. I’ll probably never unveil all the mysteries hidden in the music and the lyrics of this CD, but trust me, I will enjoy every single note of it as I keep trying.
Picture of the Porta Alchemica: Made by Sailko. The original picture can be found
here on wikipedia.
Arthuan Rebis – La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo (2020) Review
Cliff de Booy
When it comes to selecting the albums that we want to review Ilona and I work very closely together. Sometimes I find a band and enthusiastically share it with Ilona to get it played on Celtcast, so I am allowed to write a review on it. And sometimes Ilona drops me a line when she finds something really special in her mailbox. And that is just what happened with La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo. It started with one small line:
-‘Cliff, at the moment I’m chatting with Arthuan Rebis.‘
That was it. But five days later I got another message from Ilona:
-‘Cliff, I’m going to send a very special album to you. It is from the Italian artist Arthuan. He made this record as a Corona lock-down project, and I love it!!‘
Well, messages like that made me discover beautiful music of bands like
and Rachel Croft,
so my expectations were high! And, as always, I was not disappointed. La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo is an intriguing musical fairytale, calming, peaceful, and meditative.
recorded it all by himself, only assisted by narrator
So come, let us travel to Italy together. Let’s travel to a spring that belonged only to the fairy people. Let’s go and listen to a story that started not that long ago. A story that started on March the 21st of this year.
Arthuan Rebis is the artist’s name of Italian composer, multi-instrumentalist, and free-spirited mind Alessandro Arturo Cucurnia.
Arthuan, as we will continue to call him, has built up a quite interesting back catalog. Since 2011 he is a member of the Italian medieval/dance/performance act In Vino Veritas. We did a review on their latest album Grimorium Magi not that long ago
He is also the founding member of The Magic Door, a band he started with film director, actress, and songwriter Giada Colagrande. We will dive into this intriguing band in a later review, but, having said that, those interested in world folk and art-pop should check this band out straight away.
Over the years Arthuan has studied traditional music from across the world. Finding an equal love for Nordic folk, Celtic music, and Eastern (read Mongolian, Tibetan, Chinese, and Indian) traditional music. His interest is also not limited by a time period, he is just as happy to play Medieval traditionals with In Vino Veritas as he is playing modern art-folk with The Magic Door.
All of those influences have found their way on La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo. A musical fairytale the artist started writing at the start of the Corona outbreak and subsequent lockdown, and that he finished around a month later.
Aurore Invisibili, the first song on La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo, is a blueprint for the whole album. If you love this song you’ll love the whole album. No question about it! When I first heard it I described it as a mix of
Calm meditative music almost leaning towards the new age sound, but never as sugar-coated.
In this song, no on this whole album, Arthuan brings two worlds together. On one hand you have the European folk side with instruments like the nyckelharpa, classical guitar, and harp. On the other you have the eastern influences of the Hulusi – a Chinese reed instrument – with its slightly haunted tone and the Indian Esraj – a string instrument played with a bow.
The combination of the two worlds gives you beautiful instrumental ballads, with a slightly sad and melancholic feel to them that just captures you deep within. Vael introduced the word Pan folk – world folk – to describe their music, and this is world folk at its very very best!
…A voice warm enough to melt chocolate icecream…
The title song La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo starts with Narrator Paolo Tofani reciting the first part of the fairy tale Arthuan has created. And what a voice Paolo has. A voice warm enough to melt chocolate icecream in a fridge. Rarely have I met somebody with soo much love in his voice. I now fully understand why women looooove Italians. Hearing Paolo talk even I go weak in the knees!
The story itself is about the fairy Alidoro. Here is what Arthuan tells us about it on his
–‘This album is a sort of “Musical Fairytale”, a guided journey, a night flight on the wings of the fairy Alidoro, in search of a disappeared humanity and the Great Heart. I started composing the music on March 21, 2020 and I finished the arrangements and mixing exactly one month later. This was my way of channeling and transforming the “lockdown” energies: trying to evoke the inspiration of Love of an Invisible Elsewhere that I have always perceived as present.‘
Well, I can tell you Arthuan succeeded. He is a wonderful composer! Honnestly. The way he combines the European folk sound with Eastern folk music. The way he manages to calm you down with every note he plays. Deliberately choosing the notes that will gently ease your mind in a gentle flow of relaxation. I have loved playing this record after a stressful workday, just to relax. The Third song Venti di Impermanenza is a perfect example of what I just described. It is such a beautiful song, that I have no words for it. Actually it is better that I have none, words would only disturb the moment.
Danze di Alidoro e Specchi di Rugiada is another one of those wonderful compositions. And Arthuan takes his time in this one. For 11:08 minutes he captives you in this 4 part world folk suite. In English the title of the song translates to: The dance of Alidoro in between mirrors of dew and it is done so exquisitely, so tastefully. Please listen to that beautiful rhythmical harp melody, repetative but never getting boring. Listen to those beautiful notes of the esraj and guitar, those touches of synthesizer, always coming and going, the music ever so gently increasing in strength, representing the waking day. It all sounds so simple and in that lies its beauty. Less is more. Let me rephrase that! less is pure beauty!
…This record is as pure as you can get…
Vael, Emian, new age music and every now and again touches of
That were the references that came to my mind while listening to la Primavera de Piccolo Popolo. Not totally true actually, I had one more reference I wrote down, but at first I discarded it as too obvious. I have a T’ai Chi CD at home – music purely made for meditation – and La Primavera del Piccolo Popolo has that same calming effect on me. ‘This would be such wonderful music to meditate to‘ I wrote. But as I said, I found it too obvious. I feared that, together with my reference to new age music, it would push this album in one certain corner. A corner that, considering all its quality, wouldn’t do justice to this wonderful album. So I decided to leave it out. That was until I read Arthuan’s biography and the part about his holistic activities:
–‘ Since he was a child he has cultivated vocation, study, and research about spirituality and esotericism. He currently conducts seminars of the magical science of sound, meditation with the elements and connection and interaction with the invisible worlds.’
Well, you hear all that in la Primavera de Piccolo Popolo. This record is as pure as you can get. This album IS Alessandro Arturo Cucurnia in his musical form. This is everything he stands for.
The fact that it was created in just a month’s time is its biggest asset. It means the music isn’t polished out. It has kept its freshness, its innocence, its purity. This is the essence of Arthuan Rebis. This is the essence of what he wanted to say. And he said it beautifully!!! Thank you Arthuan!! Thank you Alidoro, for flying out that night in March, so we all could hear your wonderful story!
– editor: Anna Schürmann
– pictures: Arthuan Rebis