Born in the small village of Vignola in 1955, Tiziano Popoli grew up with music in his family, and, in the late 1970s, it became his life’s pursuit, enrolling in the Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna after a brief detour as a law student. Identifying with the Italian counterculture’s rejection of the bourgeoisie, but skeptical of its actors’ preoccupation with drugs and misguided debauchery, Popoli’s own moral compass found direction during a post-graduation trip to India in 1979. Arriving by car through the Khyber Pass, Popoli recalled a journey full of “confirmations and illuminations, but also of disillusion and, I believe, of personal growth” informed by his lone encounters with underserved communities.
Utilizing his relative privilege for good upon returning to Bologna, Popoli promoted the potential of music as a community-building agent, and advocated for the perception shifting advantages of its avant-garde. Exposed to the canon of 20th century new music while at the conservatory, and more importantly, the advancements of western minimalists such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley, Popoli aligned himself with a network of composers such as Franco Battiato, Lino Capra Vaccina, and Giusto Pio to establish a new era of radical music, ethos, and innovation in Italian music. No such minimalist scene existed by name at the time though; the tag retroactively pinned to Popoli and his peers’ unassuming position on the periphery of the avant-garde.
Technology played a pivotal role within this anti-movement, and Popoli’s desire to evolve sound and technique was fulfilled with the arrival of the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer in 1983. With the advent of MIDI protocol, Popoli was able to program raw, melodic patterns on a Roland TR-909 drum machine and voice them through the DX7’s range of polyphonic and timbrical possibilities.
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