Every jukebox everywhere is playing our song. – Dario Robleto
By Dr. J Caldwell
“Music is the material of humanity” is the leitmotif of the conceptual pieces made by artist Dario Robleto. Music isn’t merely a device to evoke emotion but it is, in and of itself, an emotion. Dario traces this uniquely human emotion from its humble beginnings to the modern day.
In early man, music was an untapped emotion, but, as Dario posits, it is one that arose to satisfy a primal need; to transform mourning – the agony of loss – into something altogether different. Music started as an anguished scream in the night and slowly, almost imperceptibly like continental drift, it evolved and became part of us. Music thus served as our memory, our record, of our time in this world, individually and collectively. The very essence of music has been sewn into the fabric of humanity.
Dario has paid homage to these early musical forays by creating a replica of Lucy – once thought to be the missing link between ape and man and, ironically, named after The Beatles song Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds – and constructing her bone marrow from melted vinyl records.
Fast forward to the earliest days of recorded music.
It seems fitting that French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville’s phonautograph, which pre-dates Thomas Edison’s phonograph, would capture music, like capturing our very essence, and the song would be written in puffs of almost intangible but immutable smoke. Like the glacial changes from primitive to modern human, recorded music would also evolved, but on a much more compressed scale.
Fast forward to the modern age within Dario’s lifetime.
Dario spoke on three recordings that have significantly impacted his aesthetic. The first of which was The Smiths 1985 recording Meat Is Murder where frontman Morrissey altered a still image of from Emile de Antonio’s 1968 documentary In the Year of the Pig and made it into the album art. The handwritten message on the soldier’s helmet “Make War Not Love” was changed to “Meat Is Murder”. Dario used this album to highlight the conceptual art side of music beyond just the music contained on the record or, more likely for 1985, cassette. Indeed, Dario’s triptych Lamb of Man/ Atom and Eve/ Americana Materia Medica on display in the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection is a series of imagined musicians and the album art for their seminal recordings.
Dario laments somewhat on the ease of availability of music and the mp3 download phenomenon that are pushing musicians further away from elaborate packaging, although there are a still groups carrying the torch (in my recent memory, the gorgeous Switchblade EP vinyl release from HEARTSREVOLUTION, the triple Animal Crack Box LP live recordings of Animal Collective and the revolutionary In Rainbows discbox from Radiohead (also pictured above). He recalls the time where the second of his essential albums – Voyager Golden Record – that was sent into space in 1977 could only be heard by calling a special phone number and now is readily available (I found it on a blog on the first try).
Finally, he discussed an album where both the design and the music were conceptual. Goldie’s aptly titled debut drum and bass album Timeless was made by Goldie suggesting sound he’d like to hear and an in house studio producer figuring out ways to make those concepts into reality; producer Rob Playford was transforming Goldie from man back into music.
There is a quiet poetry in Dario’s piece Untitled (Patsy Spool) where he made a thread from a 45 RPM record of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” underscoring the fact that music is the record of humanity and the thread that binds us all to one another as family.
IMAGE: Photo by Dr. J Caldwell