Archivo por meses: julio 2022

in any language

PEACE, мир, FRIEDE, שלום, PAIX, سلام, PAZ, 和平, PACE

In Any Tongue by David Gilmour

Home and done it’s just begun
His heart weighs more
More than it ever did before
What has he done?
God help my son
Hey, stay a while, I’ll stay up
No sugar is enough to bring sweetness to his cup
I know sorrow tastes the same on any tongue

How was I to feel it
When a gun was in my hands
And I’d waited for so long
How was I to see straight
In the dust and blinding sun
Just a pair of boots on the ground

On the screen the young men die
The children cry
In the rubble of their lives
What has he done?
God help my son
Hey, stay a while, I’ll stay up
The volume pumped right up
But not enough to drown it out
I hear «Mama» sounds the same in any tongue

How am I to see you
When my faith stands in the way
And the wailing is long done
How am I to know you
With a joystick in my hand
When the call to arms has come

just ONE…


One World by Dire Straits

Can’t get no sleeves for my records
Can’t get no laces for my shoes
Can’t get no fancy notes on my blue guitar

I can’t get no antidote for blues
Oh yeah, blues

I can’t find the reasons for your actions
Or I don’t much like the reasoning you use
Somehow your motives are impure
Or somehow I can’t find the cure

Can’t get no antidote for blues
Oh yeah, blues

They say it’s mostly vanity
That writes the plays we act
They tell me that’s what everybody knows
There’s no such thing as sanity
And that’s the sanest fact
That’s the way the story goes

Oh yeah

Oh, yeah


Can’t get no remedy on my TV
It’s nothing but the same old news
Well, they can’t find a way to be
One world in harmony

Can’t get no antidote for blues
Alright, yeah, blues


Oh yeah


One World (Not Three) by The Police

One world (not three)

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

It’s a subject we rarely mention
But when we do we have this little invention
By pretending they’re a different world from me
I show my responsibility

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

The third world breathes our air tomorrow
We live on the time we borrow
In our world there’s no time for sorrow
In their world there is no tomorrow

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

Lines are drawn upon the world
Before we get our flags unfurled
Whichever one we pick
It’s just a self deluding trick

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

I don’t want to bring a sour note
Remember this before you vote
We can all sink or we all float
‘Cause we’re all in the same big boat

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

One world is enough
For all of us
One world is enough
For all of us

One world is enough
For all of us

It may seem a million miles away
But it gets a little closer everyday
It may seem a million miles away
But it gets a little closer everyday
It may seem a million miles away
But it gets a little closer everyday

One world…

One World by de Billy Ocean

So many people
Living in the world today
Trying to find an answer
Searching for a better way
So much demonstrations
People voicing their opinion
We got to find the solution
What we need is a love revolution

‘Cause we got one world
So let’s take care of business
Don’t wait another day
We got one love, yeah
Keep on holding on
No letting go
We got one world, mmh
Delivering a message
I came here to tell you
We’ve got one dream, mmh
Brothers and sisters
You know what I mean

Callous people out there
In the world today
Will burst your bubble
Hurting (hurting) by the games they play
But I know (I know) and I feel (I see)
I see there’s something going on (yeah)
It’s time for us to turn it around (ooh-ooh)
We can’t afford to get it wrong

‘Cause we got one world
So let’s take care of business
Don’t wait another day
We got one love, mmh
Keep on holding on
No letting go
We got one world, eh
I’m delivering a message
I came here to tell you
We got one dream
Brothers and sisters
You know what I mean

One world, listen
One dream, one hope
One love, one chance
One mind, one faith
This human race
Oh, and this human race, oh-oh
One love, one hope
One dream, one love

We got one world, yeah
Let’s take care of business
Don’t wait another day
We got one love, mmh, yeah
Keep on holding on
No letting go
We got one world
Delivering a message
I came here to let you know
One dream, yeah
Brothers and sisters
You know what I mean

One world
One world, one love, one dream
You know what I mean
One love
Delivering a message
I came here to tell we got
One world
One dream, yeah
Delivering a message

One by U2

Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame?

You say, one love, one life (One life)
It’s one need in the night
One love (One love)
Get to share it
Leaves you darling
If you don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

Well, it’s too late, tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other

One (One)
One (Oh, oh, one)
One (One, oh-oh)
One (Oh-oh)

Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

Well, did I ask too much? More than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got
We’re one but we’re not the same
See we, hurt each other then we do it again

You say, love is a temple, love is a higher law
Love is a temple, love is a higher law
You ask for me to enter but then you make me crawl
And I can’t keep holding on to what you’ve got
‘Cause all you got is hurt

One love, one blood
One life, you’ve got to do what you should
One life with each other
Sisters and my brothers
One life but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other


One love, one love

Sorrow by Pink Floyd

The sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land
Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky
A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers
But awakes to a morning with no reason for waking

He’s haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream, he can’t be precise
He’s chained forever to a world that’s departed
It’s not enough, it’s not enough

His blood has frozen and curdled with fright
His knees have trembled and given way in the night
His hand has weakened at the moment of truth
His step has faltered

One world, one soul
Time pass, the river roll

And he talks to the river of lost love and dedication
And silent replies that swirl invitation
Flow dark and troubled to an oily sea
A grim intimation of what is to be

There’s an unceasing wind that blows through this night
And there’s dust in my eyes, that blinds my sight
And silence that speaks so much louder than words
Of promises broken

One Love by de Bob Marley & The Wailers

One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
Hear the children cryin’ (one love)
Hear the children cryin’ (one heart)
Sayin’ give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin’ let’s get together and feel all right

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (one love)
There is one question I’d really love to ask (one heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinners
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?

One love, what about the one heart, one heart
What about, people, let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (one love)
So shall it be in the end (one heart)
All right! Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right, one more thing

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (one love)
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (one song)
Have pity on those whose chances grows t’inner
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin’, one love, what about the one heart? (one heart)
What about the, let’s get together and feel all right
I’m pleadin’ to mankind (one love)
Oh, Lord (one heart) whoa

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right

An Endless Lapse of PEACE


On The Turning Away by Pink Floyd

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand

Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away

It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known

Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite in a silent accord

Using words, you will find, are strange
Mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside

Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?

Centro di gravita permanente

Franco Battiato: la malattia, la musica e l’eterno enigma di un maestro senza confini

«Il silenzio del rumore / Delle valvole a pressione / I cilindri del calore / Serbatoi di produzione / Anche il tuo spazio è su misura / Non hai forza per tentare / Di cambiare il tuo avvenire / Per paura di scoprire / Libertà che non vuoi avere / Ti sei mai chiesto / Quale funzione hai?».

Così cantava Franco Battiato nello spettacolo «Pollution» (1972) ancor oggi un classico dello sperimentalismo musicale. È morto oggi — come ha reso noto la famiglia — dopo lunga malattia nella sua casa che era l’ex castello della famiglia Moncada a Milo, in Sicilia.

Battiato è stato uno degli artisti più significativi e complessi e versatili dell’universo artistico italiano.

Nei decenni a trionfare sia nella musica classica e sperimentale che nel pop, finendo più volte in testa alle classifiche con brani come «Bandiera bianca», o «L’era del cinghiale bianco». Pur avendo creato opere musicali complesse come «Gilgamesh» andato in scena all’Opera di Roma o la sonata per pianoforte «L’Egitto prima delle sabbie», Battiato è riuscito a vincere come autore il festival di Sanremo 1981, avendo composto con Giusto Pio e la stessa Alice il brano «Per Elisa».

Battiato viveva allora un momento magico al centro di un sodalizio artistico molto affiatato composto da lui, il violinista Giusto Pio, il produttore Angelo Carrara, la cantante Giuni Russo, il cantante Mino di Martino, il musicista Francesco Messina e il compositore e pianista Roberto Cacciapaglia.

La scomparsa del padre, il viaggio a Milano con la madre

Battiato era nato a Riposto, allora chiamata Ionia, il 23 marzo 1945.

A seguito della prematura scomparsa del padre si trasferisce con la madre a Milano.

Nel cabaret club 64, dove suona e canta conosce Paolo Poli, Enzo Jannacci, Renato Pozzetto, Bruno Lauzi e Giorgio Gaber con cui instaura una duratura amicizia.

Scrive con lui il brano «E allora dai» che, cantato da Gaber e da Caterina Caselli, va in gara a Sanremo 1967. Nel 1973 un operatore culturale e pubblicitario di nome Gianni Sassi cerca qualcosa di nuovo e dirompente per promuovere le ceramiche Iris, delle piastrelle di lusso che raffigurano fedelmente una zolla di terra appena arata. E trova sponda nel singolare artista siciliano innamorato dello stile di Karlheinz Stockhausen (conosciuto dopo un suo concerto a Torino)e Luciano Berio.


Battiato fa musiche e poesia d’avanguardia, sfidando nei concerti un pubblico poco avezzo a dissonanze e altre follie.

Con la stessa etichetta del maestro Pino Massara, la Bla Bla record, incide anche l’album «Fetus» che reca un feto umano in copertina e viene sequestrato. I suoi interessi vanno dalla musica lirica al pop e all’avanguardia.

È un outsider a tutto campo. Che la grande platea scopre soprattutto con gli album «L’era del cinghiale bianco», «La voce del Padrone» e «Up patriots to arms».

Ma la magia con cui lui maneggia i grovigli di fili dei rudimentali sintetizzatori dell’epoca è straordinaria come dimostrano le geometrie elettroniche di «Proprietad prohibila» nell’album «Clic», ancora oggi sigla di TG2 dossier.

Un magico e ipnotico crescendo che incanta ancora oggi. Uno degli album più rivelatori del suo percorso resta «Caffè de la Paix», dove «l’inconscio ci comunica frammenti di verità sepolte».

L‘enigma e la malattia

Sul piano umano e musicale Franco Battiato resta un enigma.

La sua creatività è sorretta da una dura disciplina spirituale.

I suoi percorsi musicali spesso hanno ispirazioni lontane, tortuose, e forme espressive ostiche che alludono a culture e simbologie remote e iniziatiche.

Frequenta assiduamente il filosofo Henri Thomasson, che firma molte canzoni con lo pseudonimo di Tommaso Tramonti.

A volte Battiato riesce ad essere oscuro e lontano (così lo vivemmo con «Gilgamesh» all’Opera di Roma), altre di una chiarezza cristallina (basti pensare a «Povera patria» in «Come un cammello in una grondaia»).

La fede in una immortalità immanente

Battiato impasta e mette in musica, scienza e mito, fede in un’immortalità immanente nel mistero della natura e dello spirito, nel rimpianto perenne di un ordine e di una felicità perduta ma che nel Gran Giorno per alcuni ritornerà.

Tema ben presente in «Lode all’inviolato».

In altri dischi Battiato invita a trascendere il corpo entrando in una sorta di sonno vegliante.

Battiato, che ha anche prodotto un disco di Milva con le sue canzoni e ha scritto successi estivi di Giuni Russo come «Un’estate al mare» è stato attivo su vari campi artistici: la pittura, il cinema con la colonna sonora del film «Una vita scellerata» (uscito nel 1990), incentrato sulla figura di Benvenuto Cellini. Negli ultimi anni aveva collaborato con il filosofo Manlio Sgalambro.

La devozione alla madre

Battiato era molto devoto alla madre. Quando comprò il castello dei Moncada a Milo, fece riconsacrare la cappella che faceva parte del complesso e ogni mattina un prete diceva messa per lei.

Nel restauro del castello Battiato sventrò le cantine creando una sala da ballo (adorava le danze sufi) di oltre 200 metri quadri con il parquet ricavato dal legno di rovere delle botti.

E a chi gli chiedeva «e il vino?» lui rispondeva: lo comprerò al supermercato.


Storia di Franco Battiato: gli amori, la spiritualità, le canzoni e il disgusto per i politici corrotti

Franco Battiato moriva il 18 maggio 2021. A un anno dalla scomparsa, Rai1 lo ricorda con il documentario “Il coraggio di essere Franco”. Ripercorriamo la sua storia: le canzoni indimenticabili come La Cura, la decisione di non prendere moglie e di non avere figli, la ricerca spirituale continua e il disgusto per la corruzione politica.

Franco Battiato è morto il 18 maggio 2021. A un anno dalla sua scomparsa, Rai1 lo ricorda con il documentario Il coraggio di essere Franco. Alessandro Preziosi, voce narrante, ripercorre la vita e la carriera del Maestro attraverso le testimonianze di amici, colleghi e della nipote Cristina. Un vissuto intenso quello dell’artista siciliano, annoiato dalla banalità della concretezza e proiettato verso quelle che definiva «sfere celesti», a cui si accostava tramite la meditazione e una continua ricerca spirituale. Era vegano «ma non stretto». Non prese mai moglie e non ebbe figli, perché non venisse violata la sua libertà e l’amore per la solitudine. Ha lasciato canzoni, che come molliche lucenti e preziose, ricondurranno sempre al genio di uno degli artisti più apprezzati di tutti i tempi.

L’infanzia e la decisione di lasciare la Sicilia

Franco Battiato è nato il 23 marzo 1945 a Ionia (oggi Giarre e Riposto, comuni che all’epoca vennero unificati), da papà Salvatore Battiato – detto Turi – e da mamma Grazia Patti. Dopo aver frequentato il liceo scientifico, decise di lasciare la sua Sicilia alla volta di Milano. Nella nebbia di quella città rivide un luogo per lui ideale, lo specchio che rifletteva e accoglieva il suo spirito solitario. Un amore che venne spezzato dopo oltre vent’anni dal disgusto che provava per la situazione politica e che lo portò a tornare in Sicilia. In un’intervista rilasciata nel 2010 presso la Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò dichiarò:

«Quando sono andato via dalla Sicilia avevo quasi 19 anni e sono andato via, senza neanche girarmi indietro. Euridice sarebbe stata salva (ride, ndr). Arrivai a Milano che era mezzanotte. Una nebbia totale. E ho detto: «Questa è casa mia». Restai a lungo, addirittura non avevo neanche più l’accento siciliano. Però bastò un mese di Sicilia e quando tornai a Milano, i miei amici mi dicevano: «Ma come caz** parli?». All’età di 42 anni, per via di alcuni gruppi politici, per me Milano era diventata una fogna. E allora decisi di ritornare in Sicilia».

La spiritualità e la tecnica di meditazione di Franco Battiato

Sin dalla giovinezza, Franco Battiato è stato contraddistinto da una forte spiritualità. Una ricerca che per l’artista ha avuto inizio quando aveva solo 7 anni. In un tema già si chiedeva: «Io chi sono?». Ogni mattina si svegliava all’alba, ascoltava musica classica per un paio d’ore e poi andava in veranda a meditare, con una tecnica che aveva messo a punto in anni di pratica. Ad AffariItaliani spiegò:

«Inizialmente bisogna imparare a decentrane tutti i propri muscoli. Così a poco a poco sono riuscito a governare il rilassamento del mio corpo: in questo modo non vi sono più blocchi di energie, e queste fluiscono liberamente in me. E solo allora non sei più in balia dei pensieri».

Negli anni ’70, iniziò ad approfondire diverse culture religiose, partendo dalla filosofia indiana, interessandosi poi al misticismo occidentale e infine al Sufismo. Un viaggio iniziato con una motivazione ben precisa: «Mi stava stretta la società in cui vivevo, con quei valori piccoli come il buon posto nella società, l’affermazione sociale, e stop».

Perché non si è mai sposato e non ha avuto figli

Franco Battiato ha sempre parlato di sé come di una persona che amava la solitudine e non poteva tollerare che qualcuno dipendesse da lui o invadesse i suoi spazi. A GQ espresse chiaramente il suo punto di vista sui rapporti amorosi: «Per me è fondamentale che la donna sia autonoma. Non potrei avere un rapporto con una donna che dipende da me. Una che ogni sera mi dice: “Che facciamo stasera?” Madonna santa! Un incubo!». Al Corriere raccontò che quando era giovane e suonava con il suo complesso, era sempre circondato da donne. Ne lasciò una solo perché mentre lui faceva la doccia, mangiò i suoi yogurt:

«Ecco, diciamo che anime gemelle non ne ho avute… Ma amiche degne di questo nome sì, e ogni tanto ce n’è qualcuna che viene a stare qui con me per cinque, dieci giorni. In camere completamente separate, però, per forza!».

Franco Battiato poteva però contare su una famiglia che lo amava profondamente: il fratello Michele, la nipote Cristina a cui era legatissimo e con cui trascorreva anche le vacanze e poi i nipoti, figli di Cristina.

Franco Battiato credeva nella reincarnazione
Franco Battiato ha più volte dichiarato di non temere la morte. L’artista credeva nella reincarnazione, motivo per il quale prestava grande attenzione a tutte le creature, persino alle zanzare. Al Corriere della Sera, nel 2015, ha espresso la sua convinzione su cosa accade dopo la morte:

«Se una persona ha un minimo di sensibilità, come fa a dire che veniamo dalle scimmie? Brutto cretino! dico io: le scimmie sono loro stesse esseri umani messi lì per un motivo. Quando tu ti comporti in modo tremendo, quando ammazzi qualcuno, poi rinasci come insetto, serpente o un altro animale… Ecco perché cammino per strada facendo attenzione a non calpestare neppure le formiche. Non faccio del male nemmeno alle zanzare. Oggi ci sono delle cose interessanti profumate per allontanarle…».

Villa Grazia a Milo, il suo rifugio

Franco Battiato non aveva dubbi circa le cose che gli davano felicità: «Il rapporto equilibrato con il resto del creato, con la natura. Cielo, nuvole, alberi, sono cose che riassestano l’uomo nella sua condizione reale». E tutto ciò poteva ammirarlo nella sua Villa Grazia a Milo. Un vero e proprio rifugio per lui, che gli permetteva di immergersi in una ricca vegetazione e godere della frescura dei pini secolari e delle palme, dei vivaci colori delle rose selvatiche e dei profumi dell’orto, tra pompelmi, mandarini, pomodori e patate:

«Prima di acquistare la dimora da dei nobili siciliani che ci venivano a svernare, mi sono preso tre notti per pensarci, poi ho sentito che potevo farlo. Era la fine degli anni Ottanta. Non ci vivo da solo, non me la sentirei: nella dependance vive una famiglia marocchina molto discreta che mi aiuta. E poi ho la cuoca, che cucina in modo divino».

L’eredità artistica: la denuncia politica di Povera Patria, l’amore universale de La Cura

Franco Battiato ha lasciato le sue canzoni in eredità a tutti coloro che lo hanno amato. Il suo repertorio, che si estende dai primi anni ’70 al 2019, è impossibile da sintetizzare senza dimenticare di menzionare brani e album di fondamentale importanza. Dalla sua genialità sono sbocciati successi senza tempo come La stagione dell’amore, E ti vengo a cercare, Cuccurucucù, Centro di gravità permanente, Voglio vederti danzare, Bandiera bianca e L’era del cinghiale bianco. Ma anche brani di grande impatto emotivo come La cura, di cui Battiato disse: «È una canzone in cui non viene mai pronunciata la parola amore, perché ne racchiude vari tipi, come tra padre e figlio, per esempio» o Povera patria, in cui esprimeva la sua indignazione per gli abusi di potere la corruzione dei politici: «Tra i governanti quanti perfetti e inutili buffoni». In un’occasione spiegò:

«Accendo la televisione e vedo questi politici scortati da guardie del corpo, sembrano più dei mafiosi che politici. Si muovono con un’arroganza disgustosa. Allora mi dico: ma non è meglio cambiare genere? Diventare una nuvola, che poi diventa pioggia e cade su un fiume, che poi va verso il mare. Mi piacerebbe cambiare genere se potessi, perché questi uomini sono fetenti».


Franco Battiato è stato l’effetto collaterale della musica italiana

Franco Battiato, oltre 70 anni di musica: impossibile non conoscere le sue hit è il titolo che un quotidiano nazionale ha deciso di dare alla notizia della sua morte. Lo rileggo più e più volte, e ancora fatico a capire come la parola hit possa essere accostata a Franco Battiato, neanche stessimo parlando di Fred De Palma. Allora cerco su Google: dicesi hit una canzone di gran successo. E fin qui siamo tutti d’accordo. Battiato è stato un artista di gran successo, oltre l’immaginabile, e ha avuto un impatto gigantesco su generazioni diverse proprio in virtù della sua abilità nel coltivare il pop, la canzone nazional popolare. Ma allora perché la parola “hit” dovrebbe farci così orrore? Presto detto: perché anche la canzone più sputtanata di Battiato era un immenso capolavoro culturale. Battiato non era il principio attivo del mercato discografico, Battiato era la controindicazione. Battiato è stato l’effetto collaterale della musica italiana, e chiunque abbia avuto modo di fare esperienza della sua musica capisce di cosa stiamo parlando.

Il livello di ascolto che impone ogni suo pezzo è diametralmente e concettualmente diverso da qualsiasi altra canzone che si possa definire hit. I suoi testi riflettono i suoi interessi, fra cui l’esoterismo, la teoretica filosofica, la mistica sufi e la meditazione orientale. Ha scritto testi di una profondità immensa con il filosofo Manlio Sgalambro, non certo Cristiano MalgioglioL’era del cinghiale biancoProspettiva NevskijCentro di gravità permanenteBandiera biancaCuccurucucùVoglio vederti danzareE ti vengo a cercarePovera patria, sono solo alcuni dei suoi più grandi successi. Eppure non riesco a definire nessuno di questi pezzi una hit, perché nonostante queste canzoni appartengano indissolubilmente alla cultura nazional popolare italiana, Battiato ha dato solo a pochi il privilegio di farne esperienza in maniera consapevole. Solo chi ha gli strumenti giusti ha potuto godere dell’immensità celata dietro un ritornello particolarmente orecchiabile, ed ha potuto coglierne il significato, le più piccole sfumature strumentali. Perché Battiato è una di quelle cose che accadono nella vita quando sei abbastanza maturo per comprendere, per sentire la vita intorno. Battiato ha insegnato al mondo il profondo rispetto per le parole, per il senso, per la profondità. E soprattutto, Battiato non era solo pop. Nella sua carriera è passato dal rock progressivo all’avanguardia colta, dalla canzone d’autore alla musica etnica, da quella elettronica all’opera lirica.

E oltre i suoi meriti di autore, il maestro era anche un grande interprete. Un sarto della musica. Cuciva i suoi vestiti sulle canzoni più belle della musica italiana e internazionale, e le faceva danzare come ballerine sulle punte. E so che può suonare come una bestemmia, ma Battiato interpretava De André spesso meglio di De André stesso. Oggi è morto (l’articolo è stato scritto a maggio 2021) e l’Italia è orfana di uno dei suoi più grandi artisti. In tv, alla radio, non sento che il suo capolavoro più grande: La cura. Nella mia vita l’ho sentita almeno una ventina di volte suonare impropriamente nei filmini imbarazzanti dei vari diciottesimi a cui sono andato. Stamattina ho avuto la stessa sensazione: quella di un Battiato usato, più che omaggiato. Sacrificato sull’altare del clickbait per il concetto stesso di hit. Sento il dovere morale di restituire al maestro un ritratto più ampio delle sue hit. Sento la necessità di ringraziarlo per averci dato gli strumenti, e averci accolti nel suo orticello. Battiato ha coltivato la canzone d’autore come fosse un giardino zen. E qui, tra le sue rose, celebrava la vita, la consapevolezza, la bellezza. La cura, in effetti, l’ha data lui a noi.


Franco Battiato, ecco cosa resta del suo transito terrestre

È già passato un anno da quel 18 maggio, dal giorno in cui il cantacompositore più eclettico, innovativo, intransigente e coraggioso del panorama artistico italiano passava a miglior vita o, come forse avrebbe preferito dire lui, terminava la parabola del suo transito terrestre. Un anno nel quale i contributi alla sua persona e alla sua musica sono andati moltiplicandosi fino a coinvolgere anche commentatori, giornalisti e scrittori che mai prima d’allora si erano occupati dell’universo Battiato. Perciò, proprio perché giornalisticamente parlando di tutto è stato scritto, voglio oggi ricordare il musicista, regista e pittore siciliano non entrando nel merito della sua sterminata produzione artistica, nel cuore della quale tra libri e articoli si è entrati innumerevoli volte, ma, precedentemente sollecitato dalla giornalista del Quotidiano del Sud Elisabetta Mercuri, con un elenco di alcune delle sue qualità, quelle di cui il sottoscritto ha avuto modo, direttamente o indirettamente, di fare esperienza personale.

1) L’altruismo: se Franco Battiato si innamorava di qualcosa, se ne intravedeva la qualità, non badava ai numeri, ai contratti, alle logiche di mercato. Dall’alto della sua grandezza artistica, mediatica e commerciale non ha avuto alcun problema, innumerevoli volte, a dare una mano, anche consistente, a chi credeva meritorio di riceverla. Parlo, come anzidetto, per esperienza personale, perché Battiato non ha avuto alcun problema, nel lontano 2014, a mettersi a fare il “fonico” di un mio album (Klar), dandomi indicazioni sui volumi, sull’intonazione delle voci e sulla struttura dei brani, finanche scrivendo le note di alcuni incisi. Aveva apprezzato la mia musica, tanto per lui bastava, e questo nonostante la stessa fosse totalmente fuori mercato e non rispondesse ad alcuna logica commerciale. Qui, in questa semplicità, in questa autenticità, la sua grandezza.

2) La ferrea volontà: tutta la produzione di Battiato è interamente attraversata dal costante desiderio di evoluzione personale. Diceva sempre che era nato nel segno dell’Ariete ma che pian piano era riuscito ad emanciparsi dai limiti di quel segno zodiacale, invitando al tempo stesso gli altri a farlo con i propri. Questo desiderio di migliorarsi costantemente poi trascendeva la sfera esistenziale e si riversava in ogni sua attività, a partire da quella lavorativa: la sua musica si è continuamente evoluta, Battiato non si è mai lasciato catturare da uno stile o una forma specifici, e così facendo ha profondamente innovato il linguaggio della popular music degli ultimi 40 anni. Infiniti i musicisti, non solo italiani, che nella sua produzione hanno trovato fonte di profonda ispirazione.

3) La trasversalità: la sua musica parla a tutte le generazioni, la ascoltano i ragazzini, la ascoltano gli adulti, la ascoltano gli anziani. È musica evocativa, sia nelle sonorità, sia nei testi: Summer on a solitary beach, con quell’inciso motivico di sole 4 note leggermente variate nelle loro ripetizioni, è quanto di più evocativo, toccante, esistenziale e al tempo stesso vitale e dinamico si possa trovare nel variopinto repertorio della popular music. C’è insomma il ricordo, la lontananza, la nostalgia, il disincanto ma al tempo stesso la gioventù, lo slancio, l’incantesimo della vita. Per questo Battiato arriva a tutti: per ogni diversa età parla a una diversa parte di noi, ogni sua opera si offre a diverse letture possibili.

4) Il coraggio: nessun altro autore di canzoni, di popular music, è riuscito a veicolare contenuti tanto importanti da un punto di vista letterario, filosofico, mistico ed esoterico all’interno di contenitori finanche ballabili: qui la grandezza della sua operazione, di quella che definisco “Operazione Battiato”. Mentre gli altri cantavano, e imperterriti cantano ancora, cuore, amore, dolore, lui raggiungeva e continua a raggiungere le coscienze dei suoi ascoltatori con contenuti rivoluzionari, avanguardistici, perciò spiazzanti e alle volte equivocabili. È spesso stato detto: ci vogliono interi libri per capire il testo anche di un solo brano di Battiato. È vero, ma solo in parte: l’altra parte infatti è musicale, e la sua musica, sebbene mai banale, ha saputo quei testi grandemente veicolare.

5) L’amore per la dignità: “Per un gesto di dignità umana sarei capace di buttare tutta la mia produzione nella spazzatura”, e c’era da credergli, l’avrebbe fatto davvero l’uomo che senza mezzi termini aveva, da assessore alla cultura della regione Sicilia, denunciato la prostituzione affaristica della politica parlamentare italiana. Senza mezzi termini, con intransigenza, stoicamente, Battiato.



Si nesci arrinesci – dicono in Sicilia, cioè: se vai fuori, hai successo. A 19 anni, è il 1964, Franco Battiato uscì dalla Sicilia, per avere successo nel mondo. Suo padre, Turi, pure era uscito: era andato a Nuova Yorke, a fare il camionista e lo scaricatore di porto, ma ci era morto. Così, Battiato si prese la sua truscia e partì “verso le nebbie” di Milano: «Milano allora era una città di nebbia, e mi sono trovato benissimo. Mettevo a frutto la mia poca conoscenza della chitarra in un cabaret, il “Club 64”, dove c’erano Paolo Poli, Enzo Jannacci, Lino Toffolo, Renato Pozzetto e Bruno Lauzi. Io aprivo lo spettacolo con due o tre canzoni siciliane». Quelle sapeva.

Poi, è il 1967, si mise a fare canzoni di protesta – e chi non faceva canzoni di protesta, al tempo? Avevano fatto un duo, lui e il suo compaesano Gregorio Alicata, che erano nati nello stesso posto, solo che quando era nato Gregorio si chiamava Riposto che c’era il fascismo e quando era nato Franco si chiamava Ionia che il fascismo era finito – perché in Sicilia si cambia spesso nome alle cose, perché possano sembrare diverse, anche se poi sempre le stesse sono. Gregorio, che era un poco più grandicello e era “nisciuto” già prima di lui, lo aveva incoraggiato a partire. Così, avevano formato “Gli Ambulanti” – e andavano davanti le scuole e nei cabaret. Poi, con Gregorio le cose non erano andate lisce – che i siciliani sono così, oggi sembrano innamorati pazzi e il giorno dopo si odiano – e ognuno per la sua strada. La strada di Battiato si chiamava Giorgio Gaber che lo aveva notato e lo aveva invitato a andarlo a trovare e ne divenne una specie di mentore. E fu proprio Gaber che decise di chiamarlo Franco – perché in giro c’era Francesco Guccini e due “Francesco” magari che la gente si confondeva. E così Francesco Battiato divenne Franco Battiato – «Da un giorno all’altro, pure mia madre prese a chiamarmi Franco» – ma Franco o Francesco, cambiategli nome, sempre lui medesimo era: un genio. Dove c’era talento di natura, ma tanto tanto tanto lavoro, curiosità intellettuale, sperimentazione, rischio.

Certo, a pensare il Battiato spirituale e colto, ritirato e mistico degli ultimi anni, che aveva trasformato la sua Milo sotto l’Etna in una specie di Monte Athos della musica, viene difficile ricordare il Battiato dei primi anni Settanta. E forse è così che succede, che diventi vecchio e diventi davvero quello che sei e tutta la vita ti sei preparato a accogliere questa persona che ancora non conosci, ma che sta dentro di te. Eppure. Una volta raccontò in un’intervista («Esquire»): «Era tutto improvvisato, così come veniva: in maniera selvaggia, brutale. Tenevo il VCS (il sintetizzatore) fisso sui 10.000 hertz e c’era sempre questo suono lancinante – uiiiuuu-uiiiuuu – e poi gli altri mi venivano dietro facendo rumori e cose così. Usavamo anche lastre di metallo e oggetti vari, sempre tutto a volume altissimo, assordante. Anche le luci erano violente, con queste strobo accecanti sempre in movimento che non capivi nemmeno come facevi a muoverti, insomma, era un casino assoluto, totale. Poi tenevamo questa enorme croce sul palco che a un certo punto io prendevo e spaccavo davanti al pubblico – era un po’ una provocazione blasfema un po’ un messaggio del genere ‘liberatevi delle vostre ossessioni’, no? E il pubblico naturalmente impazziva. E quando dico che impazziva intendo che impazziva sul serio: mille, duemila persone in un locale che a un certo punto davano di matto e cominciavano a sfasciare tutto – poltrone, arredamento, pezzi di palco. E altre mille persone fuori che non erano riuscite a entrare e che premevano per farlo, così alla fine il casino si trasferiva anche all’aperto. Era follia pura, una roba allucinante!». Era stato uno dei primi a procurarsi quell’aggeggio per mille sterline, a Londra dove poi andò anche a esibirsi – alla Roundhouse, durante una rassegna di musica post-psichedelica europea – per beccarsi l’appellativo di “obscure sicilian freak”.  Poi, la svolta, Stockhausen – di cui divenne anche amico – e poi il primo disco a raggiungere un milione di copie: L’era del cinghiale bianco. Da lì – la storia la ricordiamo tutti. Lui la raccontava così a «Repubblica»: «Avevo bisogno di un pubblico. Per anni mi ero comportato come un recluso, da solo nel mio studio, a studiare e a comporre. Ho tentato la carta del successo commerciale praticamente per scherzo. E, incredibile a dirsi, mi è andata bene!»

Oggi, padre Antonio Spataro direttore della rivista gesuita «Civiltà Cattolica», un siciliano anche lui, che di Battiato era amico, non parla certo di quella enorme croce sul palco che veniva spaccata ma dice: «Era assolutamente unico nel suo genere, con una forte radice spirituale, più che religiosa, nella sua opera artistica. La sua assoluta e completa apertura alla dimensione della spiritualità è una rarità nel mondo musicale italiano. E il brano La cura, cui sono personalmente legato, è un vero gioiello che rivela la sua profondità spirituale e artistica, intrecciando l’umano e il divino». De La cura, padre Spataro fa una sorta di moderno Cantico dei Cantici – e forse non se ne allontana troppo, considerata com’è una delle più belle canzoni d’amore. Chissà se padre Spataro ricorda che a quel testo collaborò anche il filosofo Manlio Sgalambro, siciliano certo – questa è tutta una storia di siciliani nel mondo – “nichilista”, nietzschiano incallito. Ma sono i misteri della spiritualità, dell’umano e del divino, o come più laicamente si dice, dell’alto e del basso mescolati.

Battiato scriveva cose così (proprio ne La cura): «Vagavo per i campi del Tennessee / Come vi ero arrivato, chissà
 / Non hai fiori bianchi per me?» E spiegava: «Quando si intende adattare un testo alla musica si scopre che non è sempre possibile. Finché non si fa ricorso a quel genere di frasi che hanno solo una funzione sonora. Se si prova allora ad ascoltare, diventa chiaro il senso di quella parola, il perché di quella e non di un’altra». Quella parola, non un’altra: «Un giorno sulla prospettiva Nevski / per caso vi incontrai Igor Stravinsky».

A un certo punto, verso la fine degli anni Ottanta, se ne tornò in Sicilia. Ricorda oggi Pippo Baudo: «Era molto legato alla sua terra e non l’ha mai lasciata. Prima abitava nel centro storico di Catania, nella bellissima via Crociferi. Poi, per avere più tranquillità, si ritirò nella sua villa a Milo, il paese più alto sull’Etna, dove comprò un palmento». E qui compose dei lavori struggenti e bellissimi.

Tempo fa in un’intervista confessò: «Gli esseri umani non muoiono. Ci si trasforma. Sto lavorando per essere degno di questo passaggio».

Sono certo che fosse pronto.


Franco Battiato, il più grande

A chi chiedeva chi fosse il musicista più influente del pop italiano ho quasi sempre risposto senza esitazioni Franco Battiato, che da qualche tempo è anche la mia risposta alla domanda “qual è il tuo cantautore preferito?”. Ora che Battiato è morto, a 76 anni, dopo una lunga fase di riservato ritiro dalle scene seguita a un incidente e – ragionevolmente – a un aggravarsi delle sue condizioni di salute, possiamo serenamente esporci e affermare che sia stato il più grande.

Certo la musica pop non è una gara e questo tipo di affermazioni a effetto – specie in mortem – lascia un po’ il tempo che trova. Eppure ci sono delle ragioni per sostenerlo, ragioni che intrecciano in maniera inscindibile i fili della storia culturale (o almeno, della storia culturale della nostra canzone) e quelli di decenni di ascolti privati, di autoradio notturne, di canzoni cantate a squarciagola nelle docce e nelle discoteche di mezza Italia.

Battiato ha attraversato più di mezzo secolo di musica pop, dal beat inciso sui flexi-disc della Nuova Enigmistica Tascabile alla metà dei sessanta, ancora a nome Francesco Battiato, alle complesse opere liriche dedicati al pantheon sumero, dalle cerebrali sperimentazioni sui primi sintetizzatori alle orchestre d’archi, ai videoclip su TMC2. Rispetto a quella dei colleghi e coetanei, la musica di Battiato è invecchiata benissimo. O meglio, è forse apparsa vintage per qualche minuto negli anni novanta-primi duemila, ma è stata poi incorporata in un canone nostalgico che è oggi il suono del pop di buona parte del pianeta, dai The Giornalisti a Dua Lipa.

Battiato (e i suoi collaboratori: Angelo CarraraFrancesco MessinaGiusto Pio…) hanno creato questo suono per l’Italia. I dischi di Battiato suonavano da dio quando sono usciti, e suonano da dio ancora oggi. Molti classici dell’ultima parte del Novecento sono invecchiati nel sound: riascoltatevi oggi Anime salve, o lo stesso Creuza de mä, e avrete l’impressione di sentire musica del secolo scorso. Con La voce del padrone questo non succede, ma non succede nemmeno con capolavori forse meno celebrati ma altrettanto decisivi per l’arte fonografica nel nostro Paese, come Gommalacca – senza dubbio l’ultimo grande album (cronologicamente parlando) prodotto da Battiato.

Ricordo Gommalacca come il disco della mia adolescenza, che ascoltai dal vivo al mio primo concerto di Franco Battiato, a Torino alla fine degli anni novanta. Mi piaceva da matti all’epoca, da ragazzino un po’ snob verso la musica che ascoltavano i miei compagni di ginnasio, che Battiato fosse còlto ma anche un po’ fricchettone. Che citasse nomi fascinosi, che le sue canzoni sembrassero dei racconti pieni di indizi da decifrare: la storia di Shackleton, gli aborigeni d’Australia, Kundalini… per limitarsi al solo Gommalacca.

Ma allo stesso tempo Battiato era anche un musicista pop, e ai suoi concerti si ballava e si cantava. Nelle discoteche di provincia che avrei frequentato pochi anni dopo, verso il mattino, il DJ nostalgico metteva sempre “Centro di gravità permanente”, che era naturalmente filtrata anche presso un certo pubblico della techno. Nei primi duemila «Il ballo del potere» era uno standard dei Murazzi torinesi.

Questo accostamento alto-basso, còlto-pop, ha sempre accompagnato Battiato e quasi sempre è stato citato come l’elemento caratteristico del suo essere musicista. È così, ma credo che si sia manifestato in lui in maniera anomala e originale. I cantautori italiani – prendiamo la categoria così com’è per praticità, pur accettando anche qui l’anomalia Battiato – si sono raccontati in vari modi: come degli intellettuali, come dei poeti, come la voce degli ultimi o degli sconfitti (assunta però quasi sempre da una prospettiva privilegiata). Oppure, al contrario, come dei semplici artigiani – a sminuire, per strategia o per ritegno, uno statuto pubblico che li voleva invece “forti, invincibili, imbattibili, incorruttibili” (come da canzone di Edoardo Bennato).

Battiato è stato un ascoltato intellettuale pubblico, ma il tipo di messaggio che ha trasmesso ha sempre danzato sottilmente tra il discorso serio e l’ironia, tra l’arroganza mistica di chi sembrava aver capito tutto del mondo e la sensazione che, in fondo in fondo, ci stesse un po’ perculando quando diceva di sentirsi come un cammello in una grondaia, o di vagare per i campi del Tennessee (come vi era arrivato? Chissà).

“Capire Battiato”, come cantavano i Bluvertigo, è sempre stato un problema per chi cercava di farlo – ovvero per noi tutti fan di Battiato a un certo punto della nostra vita. I proverbiali fiumi di inchiostro spesi per tracciare le complesse radici filosofiche dei suoi testi hanno perlopiù tralasciato che quei testi ci giungevano come prodotto pop, addirittura ultra-pop in molti casi. Il Battiato del periodo Sgalambro (quello di dischi come L’ombrello e la macchina da cucire o L’imboscata) era un meccanismo abilmente costruito per farci pensare che quelle canzoni stessero effettivamente offrendoci uno squarcio filosofico di verità sul mondo, anche perché implicavano nel testo un filosofo “vero”, per quanto anche Sgalambro…

…ma in fondo erano “solo” canzoni. Dispositivi pensati per il nostro intrattenimento, per coinvolgerci, per ammaliarci. E ce la facevano alla grande, ad ammaliarci, proprio fingendo di essere dei piccoli trattati sul senso della vita. Chiunque volesse capire Battiato a partire dalla sua esplosione nel mainstream, ovvero dalla trilogia pop “perfetta” L’era del cinghiale bianco – Patriots – La voce del padrone (che è in realtà una tetralogia a cui andrebbe aggiunto l’ingiustamente sottovalutato L’arca di Noè) dovrebbe forse però farsi venire qualche legittimo dubbio.

E si torna a quella usurata opposizione tra “alto” e “basso” che tanto piace a noi teorici della cultura pop. Che in Battiato ci giunge già frullata in forma di pastiche, come quando si permette di inserire un frammento del Tannhaüser per poi passare a prendere in giro “l’impero della musica” e quegli “scemi che si muovono” a cui lui stesso appartiene, o quando intitola un brano “Frammenti” limitandosi, appunto, a mettere dei frammenti di cose che tutti noi conosciamo a memoria.

Battiato che balla nei video quando i cantautori dovevano stare seduti. Battiato che fa le canzoni nostalgiche degli anni cinquanta (i sax da vecchio rock’n’roll che punteggiano la tetralogia, i “Cuccuruccucù Paloma”) mettendoci però il suono new wave più alla moda. (A proposito: solo una deformazione tutta italiana ci fa pensare a Battiato nella categoria dei cantautori, quando per un lungo pezzo della sua storia è stato un musicista new wave).

Quelle canzoni ci bombardano di messaggi, di citazioni a effetto da riportare a penna nella smemoranda (per i millennials) o sui social (per i millennials invecchiati) ma ci stanno anche prendendo in giro. Pochi cantautori (ci sono ricascato…) hanno avuto l’ardire di prendere in giro i propri ascoltatori.

Lucio Dalla – altra grande anomalia – era ugualmente pop, era ugualmente attento di arrivare al grande pubblico, ma lo faceva con lo spirito di chi al pubblico tende una mano, raccontandone le storie (“Anna e Marco”, “Futura”…) e per così dire scendendo al suo livello. Battiato fa pop dal suo piedistallo, dalla sua “pedana” tra “fumi e raggi laser”, e non sembra fare nulla per andare incontro a chi lo adora, costringendolo anzi a sottoporsi a umilianti tentativi di esegesi. Destinati, inevitabilmente, a fallire.

Credo che il piacere dell’ascolto sia tutto lì, in fondo: forse uno può desiderare che il suo guru conosca tutte le risposte e abbia capito il senso della vita, ma il pop funziona in modo diverso. Per questo ho sempre pensato che “Povera patria” sia una bellissima canzone ma una pessima canzone di Battiato. Così volgare nel puntare il dito contro un nemico universale – la politica corrotta – e così priva di livelli multipli, di ironia… O del dubbio dell’ironia, che è diverso dall’ironia ma che è un meccanismo fantastico attraverso cui le canzoni funzionano. Sarà vero quello che dice il cantante? C’è qualcosa da scoprire in questa canzone? O forse possiamo semplicemente ascoltare, ballare, cantare?

Perché rimane e per sempre rimarrà – grazie a dio – il dubbio che il postmoderno Battiato ci stia solo prendendo in giro. Che non ci sia un messaggio da trovare, e che ci sia solo da ascoltare e provare piacere nel farlo.


L’eredità artistica ed etica di Franco Battiato a un anno dalla sua scomparsa

E’già passato un anno dalla morte di Franco Battiato, il 18 maggio 2021: gli italiani hanno ascoltato per l’ultima volta la sua voce durante Sanremo 2020, grazie a Colapesce e Dimartino che, nella serata delle cover, hanno interpretato «Povera Patria», dando spazio alla voce del Maestro che ha sempre svolto un ruolo di affettuoso nume tutelare per le nuove generazioni di artisti siciliani.

E’ stato un anno doverosamente ricco di omaggi che non sono riusciti a colmare il senso di vuoto lasciato da un personaggio unico, uno studioso dagli orizzonti amplissimi che sapeva praticare l’arte della canzone pop ma che, grazie alla sua cultura dai vasti orizzonti, usava linguaggi e riferimenti diversissimi, sia in campo musicale che in altre forme di espressione artistica, come il cinema, la pittura, l’opera. Un’intelligenza raffinata e arguta che manca al Paese, come mancano il suo umorismo e la sua libertà di pensiero. 

Battiato aveva per i luoghi comuni del potere la stessa avversione che aveva nei confronti dell’industria: diceva senza mezzi termini di vergognarsi dei suoi grandi successi commerciali così come si divertiva a sottolineare gli svarioni dei discografici, come quello che promise di cambiare mestiere se «Il vento caldo dell’estate» fosse diventato un successo. «Quando arrivò al primo posto gli telefonai: era sempre seduto sulla sua poltrona» raccontava sibillino.

L’aplomb lo perdeva quando si parlava dello stato della Cultura nel nostro Paese, ma anche della situazione acustica dei teatri. In lui convivevano l’allievo di Stockhausen e l’autore di canzoni pop entrate nella storia del costume, il cultore di filosofie orientali, del Sufismo, della meditazione trascendentale, del pensiero di Gurdjeff e lo spirito del rock, l’amore e la conoscenza profonda della musica antica e classica e lo sperimentatore elettronico che negli anni ’70 si allineava al rock d’avanguardia, il cantautore di protesta, il pittore e il regista cinematografico. 

Era un uomo libero e un intellettuale che ha sempre guardato la società e il mondo da un punto di vista personale e originale, molto spesso in anticipo sui tempi. Così come è stato un precursore della musica elettronica, Battiato è stato un cultore di musica classica e sinfonica che nei suoi racconti sembrava monopolizzare i suoi ascolti nel tempo libero. Però la lista delle sue collaborazioni va da Claudio Baglioni ai CSI, da Enzo Avitabile a Pino Daniele, dai Bluvertigo a Tiziano Ferro, Celentano, Subsonica, Marta sui Tubi, senza contare il decisivo ruolo svolto nelle carriere di Alice e Giuni Russo. 

Non è certo un caso che continui a essere un punto di riferimento: i giovani vedono in lui un modello di originalità e di curiosità, quelli più grandi un difensore dell’intelligenza in un mondo che troppo spesso ne dimentica l’importanza.

Franco Battiato ha lasciato un’eredità straordinaria in termini artistici ed etici: cercare sempre qualcosa che possa portarci al di là della superficie, alla ricerca di un altrove che non sia soltanto una realtà ulteriore ma un modo diverso di affrontare la vita e di definire l’arte e il ruolo dell’artista.


Franco Battiato, dentro l’ombra della Luce

E il mio maestro mi insegnò com’è difficile trovare l’alba dentro l’imbrunire…Si potrebbe già chiudere qui, tutto quello che c’è da dire su Franco Battiato, sull’apparente volgere alla fine del suo cammino, musicale, artistico, umano.In questa frase c’è la sintesi di tutto il suo mondo e il suo grande lascito.

L’ombra della Luce, il nascere e il morire, gli unici due momenti autenticamente reali, interrotti solo da qualche sprazzo di veglia.

L’artista che ha scritto il disco più pop della storia della musica italiana –La voce del padrone, il primo album italiano a vendere un milione di copie – in realtà ha vissuto tutto il suo percorso di successo lontano dai carri in maschera del pop, su una torre d’avorio, con un distacco ineguagliabile.

È stato sul palco 50 anni e nessuno ha mai visto o sentito il suo sudore. Si è nutrito dell’amore e della venerazione dei suoi fan adoranti – come ogni rock star – senza, però, mai scendere tra di loro, tra di noi…Niente è come sembra, niente è come appare, perché niente è reale.

Battiato è ancora vivo nel corpo ma, come il prode Barbarossa, che non muore ma dorme in una grotta, anche lui è in attesa di risvegliarsi quando arriverà un’epoca e un tempo a cui veramente appartiene e che gli appartiene. Spero che ritorni presto l’era del cinghiale bianco, cantava.

Della “sparizione” dell’artista, del suo “autoesilio”, si è detto già molto, ma anche questa volta senza riuscire ad afferrarlo. Nessuno è riuscito a trovare la chiave per sensazionalizzare il suo “ritiro”, come si fa solitamente con la vita di una star patinata. Nel suo caso si è lasciato perdere, dopo aver tentato invano ricostruzioni pruriginose o morbose. Le stelle nello spazio non sono ancora del tutto decifrabili e non sono ancora facilmente raggiungibili.

C’è chi lo vuole ricordare per il coraggioso concerto del ‘92 a Baghdad/Mesopotamia, durante l’embargo, e c’è chi lo vuole strumentalizzare per qualche frase sparsa su politici ladri o libertini. A turno tutti hanno tentato di portarlo da qualche parte, di tirarlo in mezzo, ma amava ricordare di essere un musicista e di stare sopra, molto sopra, alle stupide galline che si azzuffano per niente.

Definire Battiato un cantautore è riduttivo. Musicista, compositore, polistrumentista, arrangiatore, regista, scrittore, pittore, iniziato, sono solo etichette.

Battiato è stato certamente un rivoluzionario, un anticipatore, un visionario, un intellettuale vero, se questa parola ha ancora senso nel panorama desolante degli strani giorni che viviamo.

Anticipatore di generi, stili, e non solo. Alcune sue canzoni, ormai quarantenni, potrebbero essere state scritte ieri o addirittura oggi: eterne, senza spazio e senza tempo. Nel 1986, ad esempio, scriveva: “vuoto di senso crolla l’Occidente, soffocherà per ingordigia e assurda sete di potere – e dall’Oriente orde di fanatici”.In pochi sono riusciti a vedere e prevedere così lucidamente. E qual è il compito dell’intellettuale se non quello di raccontarci il mondo, prima che il mondo ci appaia? In molti scrivono, pochi hanno e sanno trasmettere una visione. Questi sono fari di luce, gli altri sono scrittori: ne è pieno il mondo.

Si è dibattuto a lungo persino sulle sue canzoni d’amore. Quelle che più facilmente sono arrivate e rimaste nel cuore, non erano semplici canzoni d’amore, non nell’idea che l’amore esista solo tra una persona amata e una che ama. Ogni volta che gli è stata chiesta una spiegazione, non ha mai risposto chiaramente. Memorabile la risposta a Luzzatto Fegiz (noto critico musicale) sul significato di Centro di gravità permanente: rispose che era riferita a una sua amica che cercava un posto dove fare la permanente ai capelli…

Lasciamo libera interpretazione alle cose che non abbiamo realmente voglia di spiegare: restano in noi e arrivano a chi devono arrivare.

Messaggio elitario sicuramente, ma grazie a lui sulla bocca di tutti, su tutte le spiagge, tutte le estati e persino in una famosa serie televisiva spagnola. Questa la grandezza del lascito di Battiato: per pochi, ma alla portata di tutti.

Fra cento anni, la sua opera così ampia – che va dall’elettronica alla musica sacra – verrà ancora studiata, come quella di un grande compositore di musica classica.

L’ombra che ora sembra calata sulla sua persona, è quella luce immensa che ha sempre cercato. Ci è riuscito anche questa volta, come quando decise a tavolino di vendere milioni di copie o vincere il festival di Sanremo (con Per Elisa) o di creare il perfetto tormentone: Un’estate al mare. È riuscito a vivere la vita che andava vissuta, dall’alba al crepuscolo, difendendosi dalle insidie di energie lunari. Battiato non ha scelto un’uscita sensazionale come tanti altri artisti; non si è sparato – questa parvenza di vita ha reso antiquato il suicidio – non è scappato, non si è ritirato in collina. Battiato riposa in attesa del prossimo passaggio – perché degna è la vita di colui che è sveglio e ancor di più di chi diventa saggio.

Fra pochi giorni, il 23 marzo, compirà il suo settantaseiesimo anno di transito terrestre. Nacque Francesco Battiato, da tutti conosciuto, come Franco, nome che gli consigliò Giorgio Gaber dopo la sua prima apparizione televisiva nel 1967 (ndr, per non confondersi con Francesco Guccini): “Da quel giorno in poi tutti mi chiamarono Franco, anche mia madre”.

Echi di mantra nel suono del suo nome…


Un viaggio nella maestria (anche linguistica) di Franco Battiato

E così, Franco Battiato ci ha lasciati. Faccio fatica a crederci, perché le sue canzoni hanno accompagnato la mia vita, come credo quella di molte altre persone. Da ragazzina non lo apprezzavo troppo – i suoi testi mi parevano astrusi e distanti dalla mia esperienza di vita – ma crescendo, e ascoltando meglio non solo la musica, ma anche le parole, ho iniziato ad apprezzare la ricchezza dei riferimenti del cantante. Mi ricordo di lunghi viaggi con una macchina in prestito, nel cui mangianastri era perennemente inserita un’unica musicassetta: “L’era del cinghiale bianco”. Forse fu proprio viaggiando su per quei tornanti di montagna, accompagnata da quella cassetta, che ho fatto amicizia con la sua musica.

Ho sempre avuto la sensazione che Battiato sentisse tutto il mondo, e tutte le ere, come casa sua, e che in tutte si sentisse a proprio agio. Lo mostra, secondo me, la ricchezza di riferimenti geografici: dai campi del Tennessee ad Alexanderplatz, Berlino, dalle sponde del Mar Nero a Pechino, da Tunisi a Parigi. Un sito web, Mappiato, sta raccogliendo tutte le tracce geografiche della discografia battiatesca. Con le sue canzoni, il Maestro ha toccato i cinque continenti, compresa l’Isola Elefante, nell’Antartico, dove oggi si trova il monumento eretto in memoria di Shackleton.

Il viaggio di Battiato è geografico, certo, ma anche umano: sono molti i riferimenti a popoli, persone, personaggi: gesuìti (cioè ‘della compagnia di Gesù’, 1583) euclidèi (cioè razionali, rigorosi), danzatόri bùlgaribalinési (‘abitanti dell’isola di Bali), sciamàni (dall’inglese shaman, che è dal tunguso šamān, a sua volta dal pali [medio indiano] samana, derivato dal sanscrito śramana ‘monaco’, 1838), bόnzi (dal portoghese bonzo, dal giapponese bōzu, ‘monaco buddista’, 1549), Dervisches Tourners ossia dervìsci (dal persiano darviš ‘povero’, 1521, ‘membro della confraternita musulmana sufica dei Dervisci, che si propongono l’unione mistica con Dio mediante l’ascesi e la danza’) rotàntizìngari (dal greco. Atsíganoi, nome di una tribù dell’Asia Minore, 1470, ‘chi appartiene a una popolazione originaria dell’India, diffusasi in Europa fin dal XII secolo’) ribèllistudènti di Damàsco (capitale siriana, arabo Dimašq), squaw (adattamento inglese di una voce indiana delle tribù della famiglia algonchina, 1908, ‘sposa, moglie, nel linguaggio degli Indiani dell’America settentrionale’) pèlle di lùna, un mònaco birmàno (della Birmania, oggi Myanmar; il nome deriva dall’inglese Burman, 1828), geishe (vocabolo giapponese, propriamente ‘danzatrice’, composto di sha ‘persona’ e gei ‘d’arte, artistico’, 1905), prostitùte lìbichepròfughi (dal latino prŏfugu(m), da profŭgere ‘fuggire via’, sec. XIV) afgàni

Questi sono solo alcuni dei personaggi che conosciamo tramite le canzoni del Maestro, che sembrava avere un debole per creare immagini evocative semplicemente accostando un sostantivo a un aggettivo: e così, troviamo anche le sigarétte tùrche, i valzer (dal tedesco Walzer, da walzen ‘spianare, ballare’, 1826, ‘danza a coppie di origine tedesca, in tre tempi a movimento allegro o moderato’) viennési, le campàne tibetàne, le mùsiche balcàniche, le dànze sufi (derivato, attraverso l’inglese, dall’arabo ṣūfī, ‘coperto di lana’, da ṣūf ‘lana’, perché i devoti vestivano un saio di lana di cammello, 1494, ‘dottrina e organizzazione mistiche musulmane che ritengono possibile il contatto diretto con Dio attraverso mezzi estatici e meditazione’), le mètro giapponési, il pulvìscolo (dal latino pulvĭsculu(m), diminutivo di pŭlvis ‘polvere’, 1499) londinése, i ballétti rùssi. Con l’aggiunta di un semplice aggettivo, ecco che dei sostantivi tutto sommato normali, come le sigarette o il pulviscolo, diventano delle micro-polaroid di luoghi lontani e tradizioni esotiche.

I testi sono colmi di riferimenti culturali: dal “senso del possesso che fu prealessandrìno” al “coro delle sirene di Ulisse”) e pop (“with a little help from my friends” titolo di un brano dei Beatles contenuto nell’album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; “Le mille bolle blu”, canzone di Mina), con uno sguardo talvolta disincantato, “pratico”, sul presente (le bronchiti coi vapori e il Vicks Vaporubcontrollori di volo). Ma emerge anche un altro interesse di Battiato: quello per la scienza. A parte la ricerca del famoso cèntro di gravità (o baricèntro, ‘Punto di applicazione della risultante delle forze peso agenti su ogni singola parte costituente un corpo. In un solido omogeneo il baricentro coincide con il centro di simmetria’) permanènte e le corrènti gravitazionàli, c’è un brano intitolato direttamente Mòto browniano (dal nome di chi per primo lo studiò, il botanico scozzese Robert Brown (1773-1858), 1868, ‘movimento continuo e disordinato di particelle solide o liquide microscopiche in sospensione in un fluido, dovute all’agitazione termica delle molecole del fluido stesso’); e non basta: nel brano Fenomenologia sono inserite le due formulex1= A*sen (ωt) e x2= A*sen (ωt + γ), che rappresentano in due dimensioni le sinusoidali che compongono la doppia elica del DNA. Ma c’è di più: nel 1972 Battiato composte una canzone, “Pollution”, che di fatto è una piccola lezione di fisica sulla portata: “La portata di un condotto / è il volume liquido / Che passa in una sua sezione / Nell’unità di tempo: / E si ottiene moltiplicando / La sezione perpendicolare / Per la velocità che avrai del liquido. / A regime permanente / La portata è costante / Attraverso una sezione del condotto”. Non molti sarebbero stati in grado di musicare un simile testo!

Battiato non temeva di certo le parole difficili, auliche, specialistiche, rare. Nelle sue canzoni incontriamo cariocinèsi (composto di cario– e –cinesi, 1884), equivalente a mitòsi, ossia ‘l’insieme delle trasformazioni nucleari che, nel corso della moltiplicazione cellulare, consente di mantenere costante il numero dei cromosomi nelle cellule figlie’; fisiognòmica (dal greco physiognōmonía, 1579) ‘disciplina parascientifica che cerca di interpretare i caratteri di un individuo dall’aspetto esterno, specialmente dai tratti del viso’; forièro (dall’antico francese fourrier ‘foraggiatore’ che precedeva le truppe, 1557), ‘che precede e annuncia’; kathakali, un teatro-danza indiano, originario dello stato del Kerala e risalente a circa quattrocento anni fa; kundalini (voce sanscrita, propriamente ‘circolare’, 1985) ‘secondo l’induismo, energia presente in ogni essere umano che si manifesta come forza generativa’; mescalìna (dallo spagnolo mezcal, nome di un tipo di agave e quindi del liquore che se ne estrae: da mexcalli, voce indigena del Messico, 1957) ‘alcaloide estratto da una cactacea messicana e dotato di proprietà allucinogene’; sarcofagìa (che nel vocabolario non si trova, viene dal greco antico e significa ‘essere carnivori’).

Allo stesso modo, il Maestro amava cantare in molte lingue diverse. Talvolta, questa tendenza si manifesta attraverso testi in cui è comune il code-switching, cioè il passaggio, all’interno dello stesso periodo, da una lingua all’altra, in altri casi i testi sono integralmente cantati in altre lingue. Incontriamo degli inserti tedeschi in “Ein Tag aus dem Leben des kleinen Johannes”; il francese nel brano “La canzone dei vecchi amanti”; il portoghese in “Secunda feira”; l’inglese in “No time, no space”; lo spagnolo in “Sentimiento nuevo” e in molte canzoni che Battiato ha ricantato in lingua per la gioia dei suoi fan in Spagna; giapponese in “Le aquile volano a stormi”; “Fogh In Nakhal” è cantata interamente in arabo; “Credo” in latino; “Di passaggio” contiene dei versi in greco antico; “U cuntu” è in siciliano, come pure “Caliti junku”, canzone nella quale Battiato canta: “Un antico detto, cinese o tibetano, forse arabo-siciliano, dice così: Caliti junku ‘ca passa la China, caliti junku, da sira ‘a matina”.

La mia sensazione è che Franco Battiato, nel suo misticismo, nella sua perenne ricerca di un altrove e di un’alterità che però per lui erano casa, auspicasse davvero un ritorno all’“Era del cinghiale bianco”: un’epoca mitica, cantata dai Celti, in cui le persone mettevano – e forse metteranno – la sapienza e la conoscenza al primo posto, un’età dell’oro comune a tutte le culture, di pace e splendore.


From 2019 to 2049 – Back to the Future

FUTURISTIC  Blade Runner

THE view of the future offered by Ridley Scott’s muddled yet mesmerizing »Blade Runner» is as intricately detailed as anything a science-fiction film has yet envisioned. The year is 2019, the place Los Angeles, the landscape garish but bleak. The city is a canyon bounded by industrial towers, some of which belch fire. Advertising billboards, which are everywhere, now feature lifelike electronic people who are the size of giants. The police cruise both horizontally and vertically on their patrol routes, but there is seldom anyone to arrest, because the place is much emptier than it used to be. In an age of space travel, anyone with the wherewithal has presumably gone away. Only the dregs remain.

»Blade Runner» begins with a stunning shot of this futuristic city, accompanied by the rumbling of Vangelis’s eerie, highly effective score. It proceeds to tell the story of Rick Deckard and his battle with the replicants, a story based on Philip K. Dick’s novel »Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?» In brief: replicants are manmade creatures that possess all human attributes except feelings. They have been built to serve as slaves in Earth colonies that are Off World, i.e., elsewhere. Whenever the replicants rebel, the job of eliminating them is given to a special, skilled hunter. This expert is called a blade runner.

Rick Deckard is the best of the blade runners, now retired. He is as hard-boiled as any film noir detective, with much the same world view. So when he is told, at the beginning of »Blade Runner,» that an especially dangerous group of replicants is on the loose, and is offered the job of hunting them, he can’t say no. Even in the murkiest reaches of science-fiction lore, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

»Blade Runner,» which opens today at the Criterion Center and other theaters, follows Deckard’s love affair with a beautiful replicant named Rachael, who is special assistant to the high-level industrialist who created her. It also follows Deckard’s tracking down of the runaways, most notably their white-haired, demoniclooking leader, Batty (Rutger Hauer). These events involve quite a bit of plot, but they’re nothing in the movie’s excessively busy overall scheme. »Blade Runner» is crammed to the gills with much more information than it can hold.

Science-fiction devotees may find »Blade Runner» a wonderfully meticulous movie and marvel at the comprehensiveness of its vision. Even those without a taste for gadgetry cannot fail to appreciate the degree of effort that has gone into constructing a film so ambitious and idiosyncratic. The special effects are by Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer, and they are superb. So is Laurence G. Paull’s production design. But »Blade Runner» is a film that special effects could have easily run away with, and run away with it they have.

And it’s also a mess, at least as far as its narrative is concerned. Almost nothing is explained coherently, and the plot has great lapses, from the changeable nature of one key character to the frequent disappearances of another. The story lurches along awkwardly, helped not at all by some ponderous stabs at developing Deckard’s character. As an old-fashioned detective cruising his way through the space age, Deckard is both tedious and outre.

At several points in the story, Deckard is called on to wonder whether Rachael has feelings. This seems peculiar, because the icy, poised Rachael, played by Sean Young as a 1940’s heroine with spaceage trimmings, seems a lot more expressive than Deckard, who is played by Harrison Ford. Mr. Ford is, for a movie so darkly fanciful, rather a colorless hero; he fades too easily into the bleak background. And he is often upstaged by Rutger Hauer, who in this film and in »Night Hawks» appears to be specializing in fiendish roles. Mr. Hauer is properly cold-blooded here, but there is something almost humorous behind his nastiness. In any case, he is by far the most animated performer in a film intentionally populated by automatons.

Mr. Scott, who made his mark in »Alien» by showing a creature bursting forth from the body of one of its victims, tries hard to hit the same note here. One scene takes place in an eyeball factory. Two others show Deckard in vicious, sadistic fights with women. One of these fights features strange calisthenics and unearthly shrieks.

The end of the film is both gruesome and sentimental. Mr. Scott can’t have it both ways, any more than he can expect overdecoration to carry a film that has neither strong characters nor a strong story. That hasn’t stopped him from trying, even if it perhaps should have.


Blade Runner’s chillingly prescient vision of the future

Can corporations become so powerful that they dictate the way we feel? Can machines get mad – like, really mad – at their makers? Can people learn to love machines?

These are a few of the questions raised by Ridley Scott’s influential sci-fi neo-noir film “Blade Runner” (1982), which imagines a corporation whose product tests the limits of the machine-man divide.

Looking back at the original theatrical release of “Blade Runner” – just as its sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” opens in theaters – I’m struck by the original’s ambivalence about technology and its chillingly prescient vision of corporate attempts to control human feelings.

From machine killer to machine lover

Even though the film was tepidly received at the time of its release, its detractors agreed that its imagining of Los Angeles in 2019 was wonderfully atmospheric and artfully disconcerting. Looming over a dingy, rain-soaked City of Angels is Tyrell Corporation, whose namesake, Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel), announces, “Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto.”

Tyrell creates robots called replicants, which are difficult to differentiate from humans. They are designed to be worker-slaves – with designations like “combat model” or “pleasure model” – and to expire after four years.

Batty (Rutger Hauer) and Pris (Darryl Hannah) are two members of a small cohort of rebelling replicants who escape their enslavement and hope to extend their lives beyond the four years allotted them by their makers. These replicant models even possess fake memories, which Tyrell implanted as a way to buffer the machine’s anxieties. Instead, the memories create a longing for an unattainable future. The machines want to be treated like people, too.

Deckard (Harrison Ford), a policeman (and maybe a replicant too), is tasked with eliminating the escaped machines. During his search, he meets a special replicant who lacks the corporate safeguard of a four-year lifespan: the beautiful Rachael (Sean Young), who shoots and kills one of her own in order to save Deckard. This opens the door for Deckard to acknowledge growing feelings towards a machine who has developed the will to live and love beyond the existence imagined for her by Tyrell Corp.

The greatest challenge to Deckard comes from combat model Batty, who has demonstrably more passion for existence than the affectless Deckard.

The film’s climax is a duel to the death between Deckard and Batty, in which Batty ends up not just sparing but saving Deckard. As Deckard watches Batty expire, he envies the replicant’s lust for life at the very moment it escapes him. Batty seems more human than the humans in this world, but Tyrell’s motto is both clue and trap.

Deckard’s end-of-film decision to escape with Rachael defies the rules of the corporation and of society. But it’s also an acknowledgment of the successful, seamless integration of machine and human life.

“Blade Runner” imagines a world in which human machines are created to serve people, but Deckard’s interactions with these replicants reveals the thinness of the line: He goes from being on assignment as a machine killer to falling in love with a machine.

A world succumbing to machines

Today, the relationship between corporations, machines and humans defines modern life in ways that Ridley Scott – even in his wildest and most dystopic imagination – couldn’t have forecast in 1982.

In “Blade Runner,” implanted memories are propped up by coveted (but fake) family photos. Yet a world in which memory is fragile and malleable seems all too possible and familiar. Recent studies have shown that people’s memories are increasingly susceptible to being warped by social media misinformation, whether it’s stories of fake terrorist attacks or Muslims celebrating after 9/11. When this misinformation spreads on social media networks, it can create and reinforce false collective memories, fomenting a crisis of reality that can skew election results or whip up small town hysteria.

Meanwhile, Facebook has studied how it can manipulate the way its users feel – and yet over a billion people a day log on to willingly participate in its massive data collection efforts.

Our entrancement with technology might seem less dramatic than the full-blown love affair that Scott imagined, but it’s no less all-consuming. We often prioritize our smartphones over human social interactions, with millennials checking their phones over 150 times a day. In fact, even as people increasingly feel that they cannot live without their smartphones, many say that the devices are ruining their relationships.

And at a time when we’re faced with the likelihood of being unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake – a world of Twitter bots and doctored photographs, trolling and faux-outrage, mechanical pets and plastic surgery – we might be well served by recalling Deckard’s first conversation upon arriving at Tyrell Corp. Spotting an owl, Deckard asks, “It’s artificial?” Rachael replies, not skipping a beat, “Of course it is.”

In “Blade Runner,” reality no longer really matters.

How much longer will it matter to us?



In 1982, Blade Runner floored audiences with its technodystopian depiction of the future. Almost 40 years on, some of these projections seem eerily accurate

“Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually identical to a human known as a Replicant. … After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-World colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth – under penalty of death…This was not called execution. It was called retirement.”
– opening text of “Blade Runner” (1982)

Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic film, Blade Runner, takes us into a dystopian future that humankind has brought on itself through the rapid, unrestrained and ultimately chaotic development of new technologies.

First and foremost, this sci-fi noir film explores the dangers, uncertainties and moral and ethical ambiguities surrounding the creation of advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The interactions between humans and the advanced androids, known as Replicants, portray a world in which the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ people is inextricably blurred.

In doing so, Blade Runner questions what it fundamentally means to be human, following four Replicants who have returned to Earth to meet their maker.

Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is then tasked with tracking down and eliminating the rogue AIs, who are asserting their right to live in a society that doesn’t recognise them as real people.

What is startling to remember is that the film was set in 2019. So today, well past that date, can the dark predictions of Blade Runner provoke a reflection and even a deeper understanding of our relationship with technology? How successful is art and film at predicting our future?


The Replicants of Blade Runner, as the name suggests, are essentially AI systems given advanced bioengineered bodies designed to replicate the physical abilities and intellectual capacities of humans. They’re put in dangerous scenarios without the need to risk actual human lives.

Despite many advances in this technology, these highly intelligent androids are far from existing in our world. The technology today, three years after the setting of Blade Runner, is still far from creating actual Artificially Intelligent beings.

Beings like this – sometimes called general AI – are beyond the scope of our modern AI systems and technologies available today.

AI, as we know it, consists of technologies like machine learning algorithms, natural language processing and computer vision technologies. This can work in surprising and sophisticated ways by identifying patterns and correlations to predict outcomes.

But AI is very far from understanding humans or having its own thoughts and feelings. The robots we interact with are more likely to be the cute but inert Paro aged care seal or the somewhat creepy Boston Dynamic dancing dog.

While technologists might still mull over the existence of potentially dangerous ‘almost humans’ that are nearly impossible to distinguish from ‘real’ humans, experts in the field are more concerned about the hidden black box workings of manipulative and prejudiced algorithms that are making decisions about our jobs, money and freedom.

Experts are concerned too over the digital platforms sitting in moats of data that give them the ability to manipulate what we buy or how we vote.


Although Replicants may still only exist in the realms of fantasy, Blade Runner still prompts relevant questions about human-computer interactions and the ethics of AI.

In the world of Blade Runner, Replicants are simply tools that are to be used for the benefit of their owners. So, killing a Replicant isn’t referred to as execution like “real” people – they are “retired”. And yet, the design of the Replicants intrinsically, yet also paradoxically, challenges their status as mere non-human tools and property.

Replicants are purposefully designed to be “virtually identical” to humans. They look like humans, speak like humans and without investigation from a Blade Runner, are indistinguishable from humans.

And this idea goes strictly against ethical design for AI or robotic systems.

Many contemporary scholars of AI or robot ethics see something inherently deceptive about this mimicry, which both insults the human interacting with the robot and may also degrade the robot’s innate humanity.

What does it mean if, on deciding that a robot which strongly resembles a human is non-human, a human engages in cruel or vicious treatment of that robot? In the real world, it’s been suggested that one of the new ‘laws of robotics’ should require a robot to always identify itself as a robot, ultimately responsible to the humans who deployed it.


These questions are interesting in understanding our relationships with technology and what it is to be human. But the questions prompted by the Replicants and their relationship with Blade Runner also have real and current applications.

Should the chatbots we interact with dealing with banking, telco and airline providers identify themselves as artificial? What about Alexa? Google’s AI system, Duplex, was met with controversy after demonstrating it could book a restaurant because many felt that the deception involved in this practice was inherently wrong.

In Blade Runner, Deckard’s relationship with Rachael also reflects this concern, raising questions about whether AI should mimic human affection and emotion in their language.

The ethical and moral standing of a robot is questioned in many films, and in literature and art. And often sci-fi films like Blade Runner depict robots with genuine thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as the deeply human desire to fight for their own survival.

Although humanoid robots are not likely in the foreseeable future, we do need laws to deal with the consequences of the hidden black box algorithms that are increasingly informing government and private sector decisions. For humans, there are many laws and regulations that exist for our own protection – so should we have the same laws for robots?


Baby, the Rain Must Fall

The visionary sci-fi movie “Blade Runner” has its own look, and a place in film history.

Ridley Scott, the director of the futuristic thriller “Blade Runner,” sets up the action with a crawl announcing that the time is early in the twenty-first century, and that a blade runner is a police officer who “retires”—i.e., kills—“replicants,” the powerful humanoids manufactured by genetic engineers, if they rebel against their drudgery in the space colonies and show up on Earth. A title informs us that we’re in Los Angeles in the year 2019, and then Scott plunges us into a hellish, claustrophobic city that has become a cross between Newark and old Singapore. The skies are polluted, and there’s a continual drenching rainfall. The air is so rotten that it’s dark outside, yet when we’re inside, the brightest lights are on the outside, from the giant searchlights scanning the city and shining in. A huge, squat pyramidal skyscraper (the new architecture appears to be Mayan and Egyptian in inspiration) houses the offices of the Tyrell Corporation, which produces those marvels of energy the replicants, who are faster and stronger than human beings, and even at the top, in the penthouse of Tyrell himself, there’s dust hanging in the smoky air. (You may find yourself idly wondering why this bigwig inventor can’t produce a humble little replicant to do some dusting.)

The congested-megalopolis sets are extraordinary, and they’re lovingly, perhaps obsessively, detailed; this is the future as a black market, made up of scrambled sordid aspects of the past—Chinatown, the Casbah, and Times Square, with an enormous, mesmerizing ad for Coca-Cola, and Art Deco neon signs everywhere, in a blur of languages. “Blade Runner,” which cost thirty million dollars, has its own look, and a visionary sci-fi movie that has its own look can’t be ignored—it has its place in film history. But we’re always aware of the sets as sets, partly because although the impasto of decay is fascinating, what we see doesn’t mean anything to us. (It’s 2019 back lot.) Ridley Scott isn’t great on mise en scène—we’re never sure exactly what part of the city we’re in, or where it is in relation to the scene before and the scene after. (Scott seems to be trapped in his own alleyways, without a map.) And we’re not caught up in the pulpy suspense plot, which involves the hero, Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner forced to come back to hunt down four murderous replicants who have blended into the swarming street life. (The term “blade runner” actually comes from the title of a William Burroughs novel, which has no connection with the movie.) It’s a very strange tenderloin that Ridley Scott and his associates have concocted; except for Deckard and stray Hari Krishna-ites and porcupine-headed punks, there are few Caucasians (and not many blacks, either). The population seems to be almost entirely ethnic—poor, hustling Asians and assorted foreigners, who are made to seem not quite degenerate, perhaps, but oddly subhuman. They’re all selling, dealing, struggling to get along; they never look up—they’re intent on what they’re involved in, like slot-machine zealots in Vegas. You know that Deckard is a breed apart, because he’s the only one you see who reads a newspaper. Nothing much is explained (except in that opening crawl), but we get the vague impression that the more prosperous, clean-cut types have gone off-world to some Scarsdale in space.

Here we are—only forty years from now—in a horrible electronic slum, and “Blade Runner” never asks, “How did this happen?” The picture treats this grimy, retrograde future as a given—a foregone conclusion, which we’re not meant to question. The presumption is that man is now fully realized as a spoiler of the earth. The sci-fi movies of the past were often utopian or cautionary; this film seems indifferent, blasé, and maybe, like some of the people in the audience, a little pleased by this view of a medieval future—satisfied in a slightly vengeful way. There’s a subject, though, lurking around the comic-strip edges: What does it mean to be human? Tracking down the replicants, who are assumed not to have any feelings, Deckard finds not only that they suffer and passionately want to live but that they are capable of acts of generosity. They have become far more human than the scavenging people left on Earth. Maybe Scott and the scriptwriters (Hampton Fancher and David Peoples), who adapted the 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” by the late Philip K. Dick, shied away from this subject because it has sticky, neo-Fascist aspects. But this underlying idea is the only promising one in the movie, and it has a strong visual base: when a manufactured person looks just like a person born of woman—when even the eyes don’t tell you which is which—how do you define the difference?

Scott’s creepy, oppressive vision requires some sort of overriding idea—something besides spoofy gimmicks, such as having Deckard narrate the movie in the loner-in-the-big-city manner of a Hammett or Chandler private eye. This voice-over, which is said to have been a late addition, sounds ludicrous, and it breaks the visual hold of the material. The dialogue isn’t well handled, either. Scott doesn’t seem to have a grasp of how to use words as part of the way a movie moves. “Blade Runner” is a suspenseless thriller; it appears to be a victim of its own imaginative use of hardware and miniatures and mattes. At some point, Scott and the others must have decided that the story was unimportant; maybe the booming, lewd and sultry score by Chariots-for-Hire Vangelis that seems to come out of the smoke convinced them that the audience would be moved even if vital parts of the story were trimmed. Vangelis gives the picture so much film noir overload that he fights Scott’s imagery; he chomps on it, stomps on it, and drowns it.

“Blade Runner” doesn’t engage you directly; it forces passivity on you. It sets you down in this lopsided maze of a city, with its post-human feeling, and keeps you persuaded that something bad is about to happen. Some of the scenes seem to have six subtexts but no text, and no context, either. There are suggestions of Nicolas Roeg in the odd, premonitory atmosphere, but Roeg gives promise of something perversely sexual. With Scott, it’s just something unpleasant or ugly. The dizzying architectural angles (we always seem to be looking down from perilous heights) and the buglike police cars that lift off in the street and rise straight up in the canyons between the tall buildings and drop down again give us a teasing kind of vertigo. Scott goes much further, though. He uses way-off-kilter angles that produce not nausea, exactly, but a queasiness that prepares us for the feelings of nausea that Deckard is then seen to have. And, perhaps because of the what-is-a-human-being remnant in the story, the picture keeps Deckard—and us—fixated on eyes. (The characters’ perambulations include a visit to the eyemaker who supplies the Tyrell genetic engineers with human eyes, and he turns out to be a wizened old Chinese gent—as if eyemaking were an ancient art. Maybe Tyrell picks up some used elbows in Saigon. His methods of operation for creating replicant slaves out of living cell tissue seem as haphazard as bodywork on wrecked cars.) In Nicolas Roeg’s films, the characters are drained, and they’re left soft and androgynous in an inviting way; Scott squashes his characters, and the dread that he sets up leads you to expect some release, and you know it’s not the release you want.

All we’ve got to hang on to is Deckard, and the moviemakers seem to have decided that his characterization was complete when they signed Harrison Ford for the role. Deckard’s bachelor pad is part of a 1924 Frank Lloyd Wright house with a Mayan motif. Apart from that, the only things we learn about him are that he has inexplicably latched on to private-eye lingo, that he was married, and that he’s tired of killing replicants—it has begun to sicken him. (The piano in his apartment has dozens of family pictures on it, but they’re curiously old-fashioned photos—they seem to go back to the nineteenth century—and we have no idea what happened to all those people.) The film’s visual scale makes the sloppy bit of plot about Deckard going from one oddball place to another as he tracks down the four replicants—two men, two women—seem sort of pitiable. But his encounters with the replicant women are sensationally, violently effective. As Zhora, who has found employment as an artificial-snake charmer, Joanna Cassidy has some of the fine torrid sluttiness she had in “The Late Show.” (Nobody is less like a humanoid than Joanna Cassidy; her Zhora wasn’t manufactured as an adult—she was formed by bitter experience, and that’s what gives her a screen presence.) And, in the one really shocking and magical sequence, Daryl Hannah, as the straw-haired, acrobatic Pris, does a punk variation on Olympia, the doll automaton of “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

The two male replicants give the movie problems. Leon (Brion James, who brings a sweaty wariness and suggestions of depth to the role) has found a factory job at the Tyrell Corporation itself, and his new employers, suspecting that he may be a renegade replicant, give him a highly sophisticated test. It checks his emotional responses by detecting the contractions of the pupils of his eyes as he attempts to deal with questions about his early life. But this replicant-detector test comes at the beginning of the picture, before we have registered that replicants have no early life. And it seems utterly pointless, since surely the Tyrell Corporation has photographic records of the models it has produced—and, in fact, when the police order Deckard to find and retire the four he is shown perfectly clear pictures of them. It might have been much cannier to save any testing until later in the movie, when Deckard has doubts about a very beautiful dark-eyed woman—Tyrell’s assistant, Rachael, played by Sean Young. Rachael, who has the eyes of an old Murine ad, seems more of a zombie than anyone else in the movie, because the director tries to pose her the way von Sternberg posed Dietrich, but she saves Deckard’s life, and even plays his piano. (She smokes, too, but then the whole atmosphere is smoking.) Rachael wears vamped-up versions of the mannish padded-shoulder suits and the sleek, stiff hairdos and ultra-glossy lipstick of career girls in forties movies; her shoulder comes into a room a long time before she does. And if Deckard had felt compelled to test her responses it could have been the occasion for some nifty repartee; she might have been spirited and touching. Her role is limply written, though; she’s cool at first, but she spends most of her screen time looking mysteriously afflicted—wet-eyed with yearning—and she never gets to deliver a zinger. I don’t think she even has a chance to laugh. The moviemakers haven’t learned that wonderful, simple trick of bringing a character close to the audience by giving him a joke or having him overreact to one. The people we’re watching are so remote from us they might be shadows of people who aren’t there.

The only character who gets to display a large range of emotions is the fourth of the killer replicants, and their leader—Roy Batty (the Crazed King?), played by the tall, blue-eyed blond Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, whose hair is lemon-white here. Hauer (who was Albert Speer in “Inside the Third Reich” on television last May) stares all the time; he also smiles ominously, hoo-hoos like a mad owl and howls like a wolf, and, at moments, appears to see himself as the god Pan, and as Christ crucified. He seems a shoo-in for this year’s Klaus Kinski Scenery-Chewing Award. As a humanoid in a homicidal rage because replicants are built to last only four years, he stalks through the movie like an evil Aryan superman; he brings the wrong kind of intensity to the role—an effete, self-aware irony so overscaled it’s Wagnerian. His gaga performance is an unconscious burlesque that apparently passes for great acting with the director, especially when Hauer turns noble sufferer and poses like a big hunk of sculpture. (It’s a wonder he doesn’t rust out in all that rain.) This sequence is particularly funny because there’s poor Harrison Ford, with the fingers of one hand broken, reduced to hanging on to bits of the cornice of a tall building by his one good hand—by then you’ve probably forgotten that he is Harrison Ford, the fellow who charms audiences by his boundless good humor—while the saucer-eyed Hauer rants and carries on. Ford is like Harold Lloyd stuck by mistake in the climax of “Duel in the Sun.”

Ridley Scott may not notice that when Hauer is onscreen the camera seems stalled and time breaks down, because the whole movie gives you a feeling of not getting anywhere. Deckard’s mission seems of no particular consequence. Whom is he trying to save? Those sewer-rat people in the city? They’re presented as so dehumanized that their life or death hardly matters. Deckard feels no more connection with them than Ridley Scott does. They’re just part of the film’s bluish-gray, heavy-metal chic—inertia made glamorous. Lead zeppelins could float in this smoggy air. And maybe in the moviemakers’ heads, too. Why is Deckard engaged in this urgent hunt? The replicants are due to expire anyway. All the moviemakers’ thinking must have gone into the sets. Apparently, the replicants have a motive for returning to Earth: they’re trying to reach Tyrell—they hope he can extend their life span. So if the police want to catch them, all they need to do is wait for them to show up at Tyrell’s place. And why hasn’t Deckard, the ace blade runner, figured out that if the replicants can’t have their lives extended they may want revenge for their slave existence, and that all he’s doing is protecting Tyrell? You can dope out how the story might have been presented, with Deckard as the patsy who does Tyrell’s dirty work; as it is, you can’t clear up why Tyrell isn’t better guarded—and why the movie doesn’t pull the plot strands together.

“Blade Runner” is musty even while you’re looking at it (and noting its relationship to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and to von Sternberg’s lighting techniques, and maybe to Polanski’s “Chinatown” and “Fellini’s Roma,” and so on). There are some remarkable images—for example, when the camera plays over the iron grillwork of the famous Bradbury Building in Los Angeles the iron looks tortured into shape. These images are part of the sequences about a lonely, sickly young toymaker, Sebastian (William Sanderson), who lives in the deserted building. Sebastian has used the same techniques employed in producing replicants to make living toy companions for himself, and since the first appearance of these toys has some charm, we wait to see them in action again. When the innocent, friendly Sebastian is in danger, we expect the toys to come to his aid or be upset or, later, try to take reprisals for what happens to their creator, or at least grieve. We assume that moviemakers wouldn’t go to all the trouble of devising a whole batch of toy figures only to forget about them. But this movie loses track of the few expectations it sets up, and the formlessness adds to a viewer’s demoralization—the film itself seems part of the atmosphere of decay. “Blade Runner” has nothing to give the audience—not even a second of sorrow for Sebastian. It hasn’t been thought out in human terms. If anybody comes around with a test to detect humanoids, maybe Ridley Scott and his associates should hide. With all the smoke in this movie, you feel as if everyone connected with it needs to have his flue cleaned.


Are we living in a Blade Runner world?

The 1982 sci-fi film imagined a dystopian metropolis in November 2019. But, now we’ve caught up, to what extent did it really predict our present reality, asks David Barnett.

The city stretches as far as the eye can see; the lights in the packed-together buildings shine – unlike the stars which are invisible in the smog-filled night sky… Flames belch from gigantic industrial towers. A vehicle flies into the scene, then out again, heading towards two monstrous pyramids.

An increasingly anxious man undergoes a verbal test conducted by his supervisor at the Tyrell Corporation, housed in the vast ziggurats. It doesn’t end well. We cut to another flying car, negotiating the narrow avenues of the city, framed against a digital hoarding, storeys-tall, featuring an Asian woman advertising snack foods. A booming voice cheerfully tells the unseen but presumably multitudinous denizens of this strange future world that a new life awaits them in the off-world colonies.

Except, of course, it isn’t the future, not any more. This is Blade Runner, the 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott: (very loosely) based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and telling the story of Rick Deckard, a cop who works for the LAPD, tracking down and ‘retiring’ replicants – genetically-engineered, almost-human artificial people whose presence on Earth is illegal, following a replicant revolt on one of Earth’s off-world colonies.

This may sound far-flung from our own reality, but as the opening credits tell us, the film is set in Los Angeles, November 2019. In that sense, Blade Runner is no longer science fiction. It’s a contemporary thriller. The question is: in the 37 years between Blade Runner’s release and its setting – our present – how close have we come to the future presented in the movie?

On one hand, there are parts of its vision of 2019 that feel jarringly old-fashioned. There is no internet, and when we first meet Deckard he’s reading an actual newspaper, sheltering from the rain by the window of a shop that is selling bulky old cathode-ray television sets. Meanwhile when Deckard performs the Voight-Kampff test – an examination designed to distinguish replicants from humans via their emotional responses to verbal questioning  – on Sean Young’s Rachael, the assistant of Eldon Tyrell, the boss of the company that makes replicants, she is smoking! A cigarette! In an office!

The world of Blade Runner is one in which the fictional Tyrell conglomerate dominates alongside other, real-life corporations, that feature on some of the film’s massive neon advertising hoardings – tempting fate as to whether the businesses active in 1982 would still be going in 2019. Coca-Cola was a fairly safe bet, but PanAm, whose logo we glimpse in the opening scene, wasn’t; the airline went out of business in 1991.

On the other hand, we are still catching up with much of its technology, of course – though some elements are now not far beyond the bounds of possibility. A German company, Lilium, announced last month that the flying car it is developing could be in use as a taxi service by the year 2025. We don’t have artificial humans, but we have been making huge strides in gene-editing, causing concern in some quarters. And we don’t need the Voight-Kampff test yet, but how many times have you been asked to mark all the traffic lights on a grid picture to prove you’re not a robot, and gain access to a website?

What the film gets right

However, beyond particular components, Blade Runner arguably gets something much more fundamental right, which is the world’s socio-political outlook in 2019 – and that isn’t particularly welcome, according to Michi Trota, who is a media critic and the non-fiction editor of the science-fiction periodical, Uncanny Magazine.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least, that what Blade Runner ‘predicted’ accurately is a dystopian landscape shaped by corporate influence and interests, mass industrialisation’s detrimental effect on the environment, the police state, and the whims of the rich and powerful resulting in chaos and violence, suffered by the socially marginalised.”

In the movie the replicants have a fail-safe programmed into them – a lifespan of just four years – to prevent a further revolution. Trota believes there is “something prescient in the replicants’ frustration and rage at their shortened lifespans, resulting from corporate greed and indifference, that’s echoed in the current state of US healthcare and globalised exploitation of workers.” She adds: “I’d have vastly preferred the flying cars instead.”

As for the devastating effects of pollution and climate change evident in Blade Runner, as well as its 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049, “the environmental collapse the film so vividly depicts is not too far off from where we are today,” says science-fiction writer and software developer Matthew Kressel, pointing to the infamous 2013 picture of the Beijing smog that looks like a cut frame from the film. “And we’re currently undergoing the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. In addition, the film’s depiction of haves and have-nots, those who are able to live comfortable lives, while the rest live in squalor, is remarkably parallel to the immense disparity in wealth between the world’s richest and poorest today. In that sense, the film is quite accurate.”

Accurate about where, though? Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a cultural melange, with heavy Eastern influences, and a street-level argot called Cityspeak that is a mish-mash of Japanese, Spanish, German, Korean, among other languages. Trota, who is Filipino-American, says the film is an example of “how pervasive the use of ‘exotic Asian pastiche’ is in science-fiction stories that seem to have no problem with taking the surface bits of non-European cultures to ‘spice things up’, while neglecting to include any significant characters of colour in those stories”.

As in Kressel’s comment above, Beijing has been a frequent reference point when discussing Blade Runner’s metropolis – and that’s where award-winning science-fiction author Mary Robinette Kowal has just returned from. Is the Chinese megacity more representative of the Blade Runner aesthetic than present-day LA, I wonder? “The smog was no joke, so in that respect, yes,” says Kowal. “But in the parts of Beijing that I was in, I saw a significant overlap of the old and the new. Each seemed equally celebrated. Aside from the air quality, it was a clean, modern city, interwoven with historic areas.”

What’s the point of sci-fi?

Is the question of whether Blade Runner in 1982 correctly predicted the world of 2019 even a valid one, though? Is it science fiction’s job to be predictive, or to just entertain? Or, perhaps, something more?

Kowal says she is less interested in the genre’s literally predictive qualities than in the opportunities it offers as “a playground for thought experiments. It allows us to tip our world to the side and look at the interconnected tissues and then draw logical chains of causality into the future. The best SF remains relevant, not because of the technology in it, but because of the questions it forces us to ask. Blade Runner, for instance, is asking about the morality of creating sentient life for the purpose of enslaving it.”

Trota agrees science fiction’s real potency lies in the wider philosophical issues it explores. “It can often be about the future, it can be ‘predictive’ but those predictions are also very much reflective of our grappling with present day issues, as well as our past. If there’s any ‘job’ that science fiction – and fantasy – has, to paraphrase authors Ijeoma Oluo and NK Jemisin, it’s to help us imagine entirely new ways of being, to move beyond reflexively recreating our past so we can envision other ways of living outside the systems, oppressions, and societal defaults we’ve internalised and normalised.”

Kowal’s latest novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, envisage an alternate-history US, where a woman mathematician and pilot leads humanity’s mission to colonise other worlds, as an apocalyptic climate change bears down on the Earth. The author says that Blade Runner “shaped a lot of our ideas of what ‘the future’ looks like… If we think of broad strokes, I think it did surprisingly well. Pollution, talking to our computers, corporations running the country, and the ethical questions of who is considered a person. If we talk about specifics? Flying cars exist but are always going to be a terrible idea, so I’m fine with not having those in the mainstream.”

If not necessarily predictive, science fiction can also prove to have a symbiotic relationship with the present. Kowal says, “So many people in STEM fields cite science-fiction films or books as their inspiration for an invention. Did Star Trek invent the flip phone, or cause it to come into being? Did 1984 predict the Big Brother state or prevent it from being pervasive?”

And it can also provide a warning for us to mend our ways. Nobody, surely, would want to live in the November 2019 depicted by Blade Runner, would they? Don’t be too sure, says Kressel.

“In a way, Blade Runner can be thought of as the ultimate cautionary tale,” he says. “Has there ever been a vision so totally bleak, one that shows how environmental degradation, dehumanisation and personal estrangement are so harmful to the future of the world?

“And yet, if anything, Blade Runner just shows the failure of the premise that cautionary tales actually work. Instead, we have fetishised Blade Runner’s dystopian vision. Look at most art depicting the future across literature, film, visual art, and in almost all of them you will find echoes of Blade Runner’s bleak dystopia.

“Blade Runner made dystopias ‘cool’, and so here we are, careening toward environmental collapse one burned hectare of rainforest at a time. If anything, I think we should be looking at why we failed to heed its warning.”


Blade Runner 2049: The Mysteries Deepen

The good news about life on Earth, thirty-two years from now, is that people still listen to Frank Sinatra. In “Blade Runner 2049,” the land is the color of a corpse, and the skies are no better. The only tree is sapless and dead, and the only farmer is harvesting weevils for protein. The Voice, however, is unimpaired. True, Sinatra is no more than a hologram, crooning to a couple of folks in the shell of a Las Vegas hot spot, and yet, when he sings the words “Set ’em up, Joe,” you soften and melt as if it were 1954 and he were singing them to Doris Day, hushing a crowded room, in “Young at Heart.”

By a nice twist, there is a Joe around. He’s with the L.A.P.D., and he’s officially called KD6.3-7 (Ryan Gosling), or K, for short, but somebody suggests Joe, and it lends him a little flavor. He needs a real name, not least because it makes him sound like a real person—shades of Pinocchio, who longed to be a real boy. In fact, K is a Blade Runner: a synthetic human known as a replicant, physically redoubtable and emotionally dry, whose job is to find and to “retire” (a ghoulish euphemism) any early-model replicants who are still out there. They have “open-ended lifespans,” and immortality, as ever, is not to be trusted. Such is the premise of Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious sequel to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” which came out in 1982 and was set, with startling powers of premonition, in 2019. It starred Harrison Ford as Deckard, a cop who hunted down rogue replicants across Los Angeles—a joyless Babel, blitzed by neon glare and lashed by the whip of dirty rain. That was the future back then. How’s it looking now?

Well, the rain hasn’t stopped. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink; most of it is contaminated, and when K takes a shower it’s over in a two-second blast. The director of photography, Roger Deakins, delights in drowning our senses: enemies clash by night in a frothing torrent, at the foot of a dam, and, in one telling image, K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), is barely visible through a window, such is the deluge streaming across the panes. “It is my job to keep order,” she says, and that order is coming adrift. K has been sent out of town to confront a hulking replicant named Sapper Morton. (He is played by Dave Bautista, who gets better and more solid, if that is possible, with every film.) What K discovers, buried on Morton’s property, is a box of bones, and what the bones reveal is unthinkable: a secret that could undermine the near-fascistic system, upheld by Joshi, whereby replicants do the bidding of humanity. If replicants were to rise up or—perish the thought—to reproduce, there might be no way to contain them.

Not that the film is a hymn to revolution. It runs for nearly three hours, and it looms as large as an epic, with a score, by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, that feels at times like an onslaught of monumental thuds. Yet the bastions of power—the corporate ziggurats of L.A., cliff-high and elephant gray, which viewers of the first film will recall with awe—remain in place, unbreached, and the hordes at ground level seethe not with a lust for liberation but with a busy trade in high-tech assistance and lowly sexual favors. Moreover, the plot is a small and coiled affair, involving a missing child, and the mood is as inward as anything in the annals of Philip Marlowe, with a dose of Marlowe’s glum self-bullying, as K investigates not only historical crimes but his own potential presence in the labyrinth of the past. The movie doesn’t seem slow, but its clues are minuscule—a single piano key depressed beside its neighbors, a serial number visible only under a microscope—and the action sequences flare up against a backdrop of inaction and an existential dread of getting stuck. The result is at once consuming and confounding, a private puzzle cached inside a blockbuster.

One coup, for Villeneuve, is the return of Harrison Ford, as Deckard. The surprise was sprung in a trailer, months ago, raising expectations that the new movie might clear up the conundrum that has plagued the brains of “Blade Runner” fans since 1982: Is Deckard himself a replicant? I am pleased to report that I still can’t decide. Undying he may or may not be, but he is certainly aging, with a halting gait and a bottle of Johnnie Walker close at hand. He lives alone with—guess what—a shaggy dog, pouring whiskey onto the floor for the mutt to lap at. Ford is splendidly grizzled and gruff, giving the film a necessary rasp, and he even shakes up Ryan Gosling. I happen to like Gosling in hangdog mode, when he yields to the pressure of sentiment, as in “Blue Valentine” (2010), but many of his worshippers prefer the cool constraint that he showed in “Drive” (2011), and that is mostly what we get here. K is an android, after all, who can walk away from a bloody fight without a squeak of complaint, and one purpose of the film is to probe that calm façade. Hence the two scenes in which, after a mission, he is interrogated not by a superior but by a computer that stares at him, with an unblinking lens, and performs a “Post-Trauma Baseline Test.” K must respond to certain words and phrases: “Cells,” “Interlinked,” “A Tall White Fountain Played.” The first time he takes the test, he passes. Later in the film, he fails.

What the hell is going on here, and what does it tell us about the relation of “Blade Runner 2049” to the original? Decode the test, and you realize that the computer is quoting verse:

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

The lines come from Nabokov’s “Pale Fire,” a novel that wraps a poem inside a commentary. The mixture is rich in murder and madness, and you can go crazy, too, piecing together the components of the book; what matters is that each gorges on the other, and so it is with the two parts of “Blade Runner.” The second film doesn’t explicate the first so much as compound its mystery, and, in some respects, I envy those who don’t have to wrestle with the comparison. Younger viewers who’ve never seen Scott’s movie will be granted a delicious jolt as the fully formed dystopia rises out of nowhere to greet their virginal gaze. They can relish the spectacle of K’s police car in flight, while we veterans get a kick out of the newfangled drone that detaches from its roof and, at K’s casual command, goes sniffing around like a gundog. And, if the newbies thrill to Sylvia Hoeks as a Terminator-style replicant, assigned to track the hero in his quest, try not to ruin their fun by mentioning Rutger Hauer, who, shouldering a similar role in 1982, brought us the poetry of implacability. The new film’s idea of an arch-villain is Jared Leto, who has milky orbs for eyes, and who gives the impression, as in last year’s “Suicide Squad,” of an actor straining a little too hard, with dialogue to match: “You do not know what pain is. You will learn.”

Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches. “Prisoners” (2013) was as welcoming as a dungeon, and, in “Blade Runner 2049,” the light is no longer, as Nabokov had it, “dreadfully distinct / Against the dark,” for the darkness has overcome it. San Diego is a waste dump, and Las Vegas lurks in a tangerine dream of radioactive smog. And yet, within the gloom, what miracles unfold. Brace yourself for the delivery of a new replicant, not born as a baby but slithering out from a plastic sheath as an instant adult, slimy with fabricated vernix and quaking at the shock of being alive. Suddenly, the lofty questions that swarm around artificial intelligence—Could the feelings familiar to mankind abound within the man-made? Could an operating system grow a soul?—reach a breathtaking consummation, and become flesh.

More wondrous still is Ana de Armas, who plays Joi, a digital program that in turn plays K’s live-in girlfriend. It is no coincidence that Villeneuve’s best films, “Sicario” (2015) and “Arrival” (2016), feature a woman at their center, and, whenever Joi appears, the movie’s imaginative heart begins to race. Upon request, she manifests herself in K’s apartment, switching outfits in a shimmer—a vision that smacks of servility, except that it’s he who seems beholden to her. Gosling looks happiest in these scenes, perhaps because happiness, albeit of the simulated sort, hovers within K’s grasp. And what a simulation: at one point, Joi uses an Emanator, which allows her to escape her virtual self and to experience mortal sensations—the prick of rain on her skin, naturally, and a tangible embrace. Has science fiction, you want to ask, ever conjured a moment quite as romantic as this? And how can it possibly last? It can’t; K gets a voice mail that overrides Joi and freezes her, inches short of a kiss. Love is deleted, and the Blade Runner gets back to work. The future, unlike Heaven, can’t wait. 


Blade Runner 2049 – and why eyes are so important in this vision of the future

Even a brief glimpse of Blade Runner 2049 takes you straight into Deckard’s world. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece gets the colour palette just right, perfectly capturing the tone of the original.

Achieving the look and feel of the original Blade Runner (1982) is essential because appearances, vision and eyes are key to both the experience and the story.

Blade Runner was ahead of the AI curve when it made sci-fi arguments about identity and philosophy a mainstream concern. Is Deckard a replicant? Do androids have souls? What makes us human?

In the original, seeking answers was all about looking at the eyes. The film’s Voight-Kampff “empathy test”, used by the Blade Runners to identify replicants, now has its own special place in popular culture. The striking image of a glorious blue iris reflecting fire and light has become a cinematic icon; and Rutger Hauer’s emotional final lines when his character, Roy Batty, succumbs to death are a sublime moment in film history:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to die.

And now Blade Runner 2049 appears primed to expand the exploration of eyes and identity with mind-bending visuals. In the neon flashes and noirish glimmers, Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, muses on the act of creating replicants like a blind god. His white irises have a sinister and mysterious beauty, but they also belie any sense of limitation caused by his lack of sight – even though he can’t see, he has the “vision” to create or end life.

David Bowie was actually Villeneuve’s first choice for the Niander Wallace role. Seen as an influence upon Blade Runner “in many ways”, the late singer was also well-known for his distinctive mismatched eyes that gave him an otherworldly persona – an affect Leto created in his own way with “custom made contact lenses that turned his eyes totally opaque”.

Eye spy

Cinema has often used eyes as a visual code for character and morality. Traditionally, damaged eyes tend to represent “baddies” and corruption – suggesting an off-kilter world seen in a dark and dangerous way. The vicious scar Donald Pleasence has around his right eye as a highly memorable Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) helps to make him an enduring Bond villain.

The Oscar winning Chinatown (1974), meanwhile, is full of cracked lenses, broken glasses and other means of distorting vision – ending with the disturbing shot of Faye Dunaway, as Evelyn Mulwray, with her eye socket blown apart by a bullet.

And as Carl Fogarty in A History of Violence (2005), Ed Harris relishes showing his scar tissue to the camera as he recalls his eye being ripped out with barbed wire.

Cinema also has its fair share of “old crones” with cataracts setting curses (Drag Me to Hell); blind priests who have forsaken their faith (Father Spiletto in The Omen), and “mutants” with unusual eyes spying on unwitting victims (The Hills Have Eyes).

Computers and robots add a different twist to this psychopathology. The calm red lens of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Yul Brenner’s blank metallic eyes in Westworld (1973), and the persistent red dot shining out of Arnie’s silver skull in the original Terminator (1984) all project fear through a sense of the uncanny.

If the thought of a non-human consciousness glimpsed through the eye as a “window to the soul” is consistently unnerving, it is because instead of a human connection there is something else there entirely: the terror and wonder of the unknown.

By contrast, heroes are more likely to benefit from enhanced vision. Christopher Reeve’s Superman (1978) famously has X-ray eyes, while Keanu Reeve’s “Neo” in The Matrix (1999) realises his destiny as “The One” only when he can visualise the code world and see how to change its rules from within.

New look

But our changing perception of eyes and how we see them is also visible onscreen. We now have popular blind superheroes like Daredevil, on film (2003) and TV (2015 onwards), and anti-heroes like Elliot in Mr Robot (2015 onwards) who “sees differently” due to a strange combination of dissociative identity disorder and next-level hacker skills. Rami Malek’s starring eyes, somewhere between the unblinking focus of a screen addict and the wide-eyed paranoia of a drug addict, add a mesmeric quality to his performance of Mr Robot’s complex persona.

Back in Deckard’s increasingly toxic world, it looks like Niander Wallace is set to become an iconic cinematic villain in a film already seen by some as a masterpiece. His cloudy eyes feel well suited to the shadowy undertones of Blade Runner 2049, while his ability to create artificial intelligence offer a dark vision of the future. However bleak an outlook Blade Runner 2049 might visualise, films that look as good as this make it hard to take your eyes off the screen – and offer a glimpse of our future.



Blade Runner 2049, like the original, is about what it means to be human. But the ethical implications of cloning could prophesize an ethically fraught future

In this fictional future, bio-engineered humans are known as replicants. Blade Runners “retire” or kill these replicants when they become a threat to society. In both films, we are left wondering what difference there is between a human and a replicant. In the original, rogue replicant Roy Batty – played by Rutger Hauer –comes across as more human than the humans when he delivers his famous “Tears in the Rain” speech.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.


The films raise fundamental questions about personal identity: who are we? What defines the existence of a person from one moment to the next?

Thematically, there is the suggestion that the biological mass, the body, is not what matters, but the mind. In the original, bioengineered Roy seems as human as Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard – as human as someone could be.

In 2049, the idea is extended further still. Officer K – played by Ryan Gosling – has a girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) – she is a creation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) but seems as real as the other characters.

In the Blade Runner films, it is the psychological life, the mental states including dispositions, character and memories that matter, not whether one is a natural human or a bioengineered replicant, or even AI. This implies that AI, if it were to become conscious and have the same mental states as us, should be treated as one of us.

These issues of moral status already face us today.

Scientists in the US and Japan are creating pig-human chimeras using a procedure called blastocyst complementation. A pig embryo is taken and gene editing knocks out the genes for an organ, for example the liver.

In the future, a human skin cell could be taken from a person needing a liver transplant. This would be cloned to produce induced pluripotent stem cells of that person and would then be injected into the early pig embryo. The result would be a pig-human chimera where all the cells in the body are a mixture of pig and human, except the liver. The liver would be human and could then be extracted to save the life of a sick person.

The problem is that it is difficult to predict how human or pig the chimeric organs, including the brain, would be. It is possible the brain could be quite human, but the appearance be pig-like.

How such an animal ought to be treated, and whether it is ethical to take its liver, will depend on its mental states. It could be closer to human than to pig. It will, however, be extremely difficult to assess its psychological capabilities and mental states since it would not have direct language.

The pig-human chimera would be a kind of organ replicant. How it should be treated will depend not on its species membership, or what it looks like, but on what kind of mental states it has.


Another issue raised in both films is the unjust treatment of the replicants because they are biologically different, though their mental lives turn out to be very similar to ours. In many ways, they are better than us, more humane.

Our biological origins are irrelevant to our moral status and how we ought to be treated.

I coined the term “clonism” – which describes the poor treatment of clones of existing people compared with non-clones. Clonism is what occurs in Nobel prize winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go. This issue arose in debates around in vitro fertilisation before the 1978 birth of the world’s first IVF baby.

People worried that “test tube” babies would be discriminated against, teased or treated as socially inferior. They haven’t been and nor of course should they be – the process of conception is irrelevant to their moral status and rights.

This will come up if people are genetically selected or even born as the result of gene editing. What was science fiction in 1982 is fast becoming a reality. The prospect of bioengineering human beings using gene editing is with us.

One possible use would be to prevent catastrophic genetic disease in cases where couples have a sole remaining embryo during IVF. But the possibilities could extend to endowing humans with unprecedented abilities as genes could be transferred or introduced from any part of the animal or plant kingdom.


The moral of the Blade Runner films is that what matters is the quality of mental life, not its biological origins, or even whether it is “original.” In the future, new life forms will exist with mental lives, some of these will be biological in origin and others will arise from AI.

These lives ought to be respected and treated according to psychological properties, not according to physical appearance or the origin of their “hardware.”

In the years since 1982 when Blade Runner was first made, cloning of human beings either by nuclear transfer or embryo splitting has become possible. Genetic selection using whole genome analysis of every gene in the genome is on the horizon.

Gene editing is being done on human embryos and artificial intelligence is increasing exponentially in power. Yet a failure of philosophical understanding of identity and moral status pervades our discussion of these life changing advances in science. Our scientific powers have inordinately increased in the last 35 years but our moral insight has progressed very little.


e C h O e S

’70s Pink Floyd Songs That We Will Always Remember

Their Glory Years

The 1970s was a glorious era in rock but Pink Floyd rose up and became one of prog-rock’s titans with a string of classic hits that reaffirmed their status as rockstars. Founder and frontman Syd Barrett left in 1968 due to his deteriorating mental health and his unreliability during live performances. Roger Waters stepped up and took on the role of primary lyricist. He was also mostly responsible for coming up with their iconic concept albums.

5. Echoes (Meddle, 1971)

The highlight of their sixth album Meddle, the song takes up the entire side two and clocks in at 23 minutes & 31 seconds. From the structure and texture to Gilmour’s stunning solo, Echoes evolved from some of their live performances. Its working title was Return To The Sun Of Nothing and if you think the song seems deep, that’s because it is. Waters wanted to describe “The potential that human beings have for recognizing each other’s humanity and responding to it, with empathy rather than antipathy.”

4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Wish You Were Here, 1975)

A tribute to Syd Barrett, it’s slow and dramatic. And it perfectly conveyed Waters’ distress at seeing Barrett’s state when he wandered into their recording studio. Separated in two parts, the epic track bookends their ninth album Wish You Were Here. It’s one of the most arresting and emotive pieces in Pink Floyd’s catalog. Not surprisingly, this was also difficult to record.

3. Money (The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)

In the early ’70s, Pink Floyd were at their creative peak and Money is one of the proofs. From the unusual time signature to the guitar riffs and bass line, it’s as glorious as it can get. Throw in some extended guitar solos by Gilmour and we just couldn’t ask for more. In an interview with Guitar World, Gilmour revealed: “I just wanted to make a dramatic effect with the three solos. The first solo is ADT’d – Artificially Double Tracked. I think I did the first two solos on a Fender Stratocaster, but the last one was done on a different guitar – a Lewis, which was made by some guy in Vancouver. It had a whole two octaves on the neck, which meant I could get up to notes that I couldn’t play on a Stratocaster.”

2. Wish You Were Here (Wish You Were Here, 1975)

Pink Floyd can go from dreamy to fiery but for one of their most hauntingly beautiful pieces, it’s both emotive and poignant. According to Waters, this is another song inspired by Barrett whose battle with his mental health was well-known. Even with plenty of masterpieces on their catalog, this is actually one of the few times when both Waters and Gilmour wrote a song together. Gilmour called it one of their best songs “because of its resonance and the emotional weight it carries.”

1. Comfortably Numb (The Wall, 1979)

This rock anthem perfectly defines Pink Floyd’s sound. It’s one of their most popular and enduring songs. A lot of people mistakenly believed it’s about drugs but Waters has repeatedly denied that and even explained what it’s about. Speaking to Guitar World about his iconic solo, Gilmour said: “I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good.”


Looking back at Pink Floyd’s ambitious experiment, ‘Meddle‘ 50 years later

By 1971, Pink Floyd were one of the biggest bands in the world and drowning in touring commitments. They were restricted to only snippets of studio time as they tried to write and record Meddle. The story goes that, while messing around in the Abbey Road studio, Pink Floyd happened upon one note that would form a 23-minute song and define their output as one of the finest prog-rock bands of all time. ‘Echoes’ was the song, and it is just one part of why Meddle is one of the band’s best records.

With limited time and resources, the band’s experimental edge came to slice through the muck and deliver an LP worthy of their high praise. 50 years later, and it appears as though Meddle’s presence in the pantheon of The Floyd is ever-growing, with countless generations resisting the album to witness what accurate, precise and potent musical experimentation is.

No clue and no direction are usually two facets one would like to keep away from the art of making music. But, in the case of Pink Floyd and backed by the talents of the musicians at hand, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason composed a series of novel sound experiments that would eventually turn into ‘Echoes’. This 23-minute opus would define the entire album. The record is considered a transitional moment for the group, after they had left Syd Barrett’s style behind and before Roger Waters took over lyrical duties, Meddleis blissful in its envelopment of the listener.

The band used several experimental methods to start creating the album. One such method was to ask each band member to play on a track without any knowledge of what the rest of the group had played or would play. The bandmates were also asked to experiment with tempo, with simple directions like “first two minutes romantic, next two up-tempo” being the only notes. The early experiments, titled Nothings, was soon developed into Son of Nothings, which, in turn, was followed by Return of the Son of Nothings as the working title of the LP, before they became a single side of the record, ‘Echoes’.

These experiments would not cease on the flipside of the album. ‘one of These Days’, the album opener, would feature Mason maliciously saying into the mic: “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces.” It drawls on as the bassline builds to an unfathomable climax. It, alongside ‘Echoes’, has become a signature favourite for Floyd’s fans. But the rest of the album is potent and powerful, providing a sincere reflection of Pink Floyd in their expressive pomp.

Simply put, this album was the moment when Pink Floyd moved out of the traditional rock sphere and towards forging a new genre in prog-rock. Initially, the group had been expanding the psyche-rock sound but now jumped out of the realm of rock and towards a new and progressive musical style.

Using everyday objects and brand new techniques, the group were very much on the path towards greatness. In fact, it was the first step towards their most beautiful records, and without Meddle, many of them would not have been made at all. This album is the foundation stone for all of that work, and everybody else’s within the prog-rock arena.


Classics Revisited: Pink Floyd – ‘Meddle’

Anytime I happen to listen to Meddle, or hear any of its strange and – quite frankly, confusing – array of tracks, I appreciate more and more the circumstantial limbo that this weird and beautiful album found itself conceived within (hear me out – the context is important, and slightly intriguing) – and how this ultimately birthed what is now considered one of Pink Floyd’s greatest achievements.

It’s no secret that Pink Floyd were going through a rough, and creatively inconsistent patch following the nervous breakdown and departure of founding member, frontman, and writer Syd Barrett in 1968. With new talent in the form of David Gilmour, who would later fuel Floyd’s more accessible and famous sound, they were yet to release a palpable, consistent third album – and so the group were let loose upon Abbey Road studios in early 1971, collaborating properly as a band for the first time. And in the improvisational revelry, in the search for an elusive, mysterious sound, unfolded Meddle, released in October of 1971.

I say all of this because Meddle as an album – to me at least – makes no sense. The album comprises an eclectic side A of five contrasting tracks, and a side B of only one song – the epic, mesmerising, 23-minute-long Echoes, somewhere between prog-rock and post-rock: art-rock and soundscape. Ranging from the intensity of the opening track One of These Days, to the melodic, lackadaisical central songs – music akin to floating on the clouds – and eventually, back to Echoes, which shatters the peace and resonates with a fervid grandeur that’ll somehow make you wish the 23 minutes (and 33 seconds) would never end.

In fact, it’s really not fair of me to group the central four tracks together so haphazardly. The soothing A Pillow of Winds, calms us down from the intensity: a more accessible track which slows the pace of the album down – followed by the beautiful Fearless, famously finishing with a rendition of the Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone. After that we have the bluesy San Tropez, a track I can only describe positively and using the words ‘little ditty’; and 5th comes the only weakness of the album, a simple song called Seamus (About a dog of the same name): a joke track Gilmour included, meant as a small respite, but which ultimately fell short and failed to provide any real substance to the creatively dense Meddle (Gilmour later said of the song: “I guess it wasn’t really as funny to everyone else [as] it was to us»). Finally Echoes hits – powerful, grand and a little terrifying. All I’ll say is it’s really a must-listen track.

Yet, despite all of this perplexity, Floyd manages to tie each estranged and mystifying track into something more powerful than the sum of its parts – and in doing so, produces what can only be considered as a classic – an essential album which paved the way for a multitude of avant-garde genres and artists (admittedly Echoes does this almost all by itself), and showed the world the true potential of the group.

Meddle – sonically and contextually – falls between a classically Pink Floyd sound, and something entirely different. Echoes itself could be considered a standalone achievement, but the rest of the album brings together the remaining enigmatic tracks which act as a lead up to the grand finale, and should be enjoyed almost (but not quite) as much. This album will forever hold a special place for me as it was one of the cornerstone albums I listened to in school, which would pave the way for my own passion for experimental and strange music, a love which I hold to this day.


Echoes by Pink Floyd

Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine

And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb toward the light

Strangers passing in the street
By chance, two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand the best I can?

And no one calls us to move on
And no one forces down our eyes
No one speaks and no one tries
No one flies around the sun

Cloudless everyday
You fall upon my waking eyes
Inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no one sings me lullabies
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky