• 10 Oct 2020

Assignment of the “Gentile da Fabriano” Award

Good morning, everyone. I would like to follow on from what Mrs. Grazia Francescato has just said about caring. We, at Voci Armoniche, have reorganised, or rather revitalised and enhanced, the life of a very old company by caring, which in practice has meant bringing awareness to what we do. I have called this path the Path of Whys. Asking Why? when considering an old job that was done a certain way "because it has always been done that way", meant actually starting to observe: to see by looking.

In Japan I had a teacher who taught me an organisational improvement technique called The Five Ss. The third S, Seiso, is commonly understood as cleaning, or keeping something clean; but actually, I was told, it means to make something shine. In the video you have seen some of the work steps in the production of the reeds such as cutting, grinding, measuring, refining, assembling: these steps in the video shine through. It is the awareness that, by seeing, we cause objects, people, anything, even a thought, to shine. This light that makes an object or a phase shine can also make a person, several people, a company and its products shine. This same light is also capable, in our case, of creating a beautiful, luminous sound from matter.

Making reeds, at first glance, is crafting metal: we are precision metalworkers. But in reality, when we make reeds, we are looking for the quality of sound: the luminosity, the beauty, the sensoriality, the vitality, the magic of the sound, because it is the sound that comes directly from matter: from the metals, in the reeds; and then, in the complete instrument, also from the woods and how they are crafted. Reeds are in fact the sound principle of harmonicas and accordions. So we simply place at the centre of our activities the act of caring, paying attention to looking at what we are doing. Then you can do anything I guess, but if you adopt this attitude, and then a ray of sunshine comes, something will appear that makes everything you do different. It will make it shine.

I think that today, in the world we live in, the dimension of quantity prevails. I believe that, on the contrary, Tradition, with a capital ‘T’, points us in the direction of quality. I don’t want to get into a technical argument. However, it is important to define quality as that which qualifies, gives meaning, creates value, and which determines recognisable and enjoyable differences. When it comes to sound quality, today we talk about flavour, something that is broader and deeper than the concepts of timbre and colour.

The realm of quantity is one that homologates downwards and disqualifies. I believe that our compass, our magnetic needle, can be strengthened and magnetised by nurturing the realm of quality. If the sphere of quantity is a desert, the realm of quality is a wonderful garden, rich in variety, like the world of nature. The world of nature teaches us that beauty is variety, diversity, coexistence in the balance of variety.

I have tried, together with my collaborators, to bring the realm of quality into the work we do: Voci Armoniche is a small factory, reeds are a niche product, but it is a world. There is a history, a long tradition and there is a future in quality. The beauty of sound gives meaning to what we produce. The beauty of the sound increases the instrument’s possibilities of expression. The instrument creates the music; and music, as maestro Ennio Morricone said in the video we saw earlier, is a very high form of communication: improving the quality of sound, and consequently the expressive possibilities of the instrument, means giving musicians an instrument with better potential for “language” and communication.

Quality applied in this way means creating the future for our work. By taking a good look at the present, looking ahead and at the same time looking at our past, observing and understanding it, we pave the way to imagining and creating new opportunities, something that does not exist today: in this way new horizons open up, and possibilities that do not exists today are created.

How do you create the future? Going back to the beginning of my speech: through observation, by taking care of what you have around you and with awareness, because then ideas always come, improvement comes, and new, positive paths are opened up.

To conclude, I’d like to read you a poem by Pindaro that I love, and that relates to this speech of mine:

Creatures of a day. Who are we? Or who are we not?
Man is nothing but the dream of a shadow.
But as soon as a ray of sunlight appears, like a gift from heaven,
a radiant light shines on man, and truly blessed is his life.

Finally, I’d like to thank the judges’ panel for this award, which I’d like to dedicate to my brother Carlo. Thank you.