Massimiliano Adelmo Giorgini

Mass Giorgini: Producer/Engineer (Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, etc), CoProductions include Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day), Kris Roe (of the Ataris), John Strohm (of the Lemonheads), Paul Mahern (producer of John Mellencamp, Iggy Pop), and Anjali Dutt (producer of Oasis, My Bloody Valentine). Sonic Iguana Studios founder. Screeching Weasel bass. Squirtgun bass/b. vocals, Common Rider bass/sax. Occasional contributor to Punk, Rock Sound, and Punk Planet magazines.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I am woefully past due on posting new blogs, so I have decided to reprint here an interview I did with Lafayette-area magazine Tipp-C in December of 1995. As the distribution of the free publication is limited to local stores and restaurants, I thought it might of interest to the readers of my blog.

“Meeting of the Masses,”
Interview with Mass Giorgini of Squirtgun by Aaron Colter

Tipp-C: the Lafayette Cities’ Arts, Events and Entertainment Magazine (Vol. 3, 1),
December 7th - January 11th, 2006.

I met Mass for the interview at Village
Coffee Shop. Thankfully, I had already
seen his face at the Squirtgun show about
a week before. Mass Giorgini does not
look like a punk rocker, or even a soft
rocker for that matter. One of Lafayette’s
biggest stars, a man who co-produced an
album with Billie Armstrong, produced
an album for Rise Against, Anti-Flag and
Alkaline Trio, bassist for Common Rider,
Screeching Weasel and Squirtgun, toured
with Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182.
For Christ’s sake people, Squirtgun’s
song “Social” opens Mallrats. Fucking
Mallrats! Maybe I’m too easily won over,
but this man has had more productive
influence on music than that fat slob Axl
Rose. And here he is ordering coffee,
looking like a teaching assistant for
Physics 101. As I found out Mass actually
teaches Italian at Purdue, for fun he says,
and is a graduate student in Spanish.
Incredible. Now at 37, I got to sit down
with Mass and find out what punk rock
does with someone over 22.

What is the first instrument you ever

I started on the sax. And in fact, I played a
lot of sax in Common Rider with Jesse from
Operation Ivy.

When did you first pick up the bass then?
I started playing bass in seventh grade, so I
must have been twelve at the time.

I guess we’ll just dive into it from here.
So, why punk?
I was drawn to punk when I was about
12. I started playing in a punk band by
the age of 15. Remember the island of
misfit toys in that reindeer movie? It was
like that -- an island of misfit kids. Back
then, being punk was definitely not a cool
thing. The punks were the ultimate misfits,
beyond being square pegs in round holes
– we were four-dimensional fractals
trying to live in Flatland. And by “punks,”
I definitely don’t mean that they were
bad kids, but like me, nerdy kids, just…
outcasts. I think that the “misfit island”
of punk was what made me want to be a
part of it. I had felt like an outcast of sorts
from an early age for not understanding
the language – I was raised in Italy my first
several years, and came here not knowing
any English – that was probably enough
on its own to guarantee my getting picked
on or beat up… but add on to that the fact
that my mother had schizophrenia, and all
of a sudden I was the kid with the “crazy
mom.” But in the punk scene, I fit in. At
least in what I call my punk scene – because
for me there were three waves of punk:
the first wave was made up of American
groups like the Ramones, and before them
Iggy and The Stooges or MC5. Real basic,
loud rock -- fast and simple. The second
wave was British, with the Sex Pistols and
The Clash. And this was when, you know,
the politics came in, when the bands first
got involved with social issues. But the
third wave -- that was the most important
to me, that was… no, is my scene. We
kept the politics, and the fast, simple, hard
music. But we also added this sense of anti-commercialism,
community. We cranked
up the dial on our resistance to the status
quo – we brought the Mohawk to the
masses, declared ourselves an alternative
to the mainstream, claimed a different
sense of justice and morality that we felt
exceeded those of the powers-that-be,
and, whether we knew it or not, we were
preaching a form of socialism, within the
scene -- essentially semi-Marxist stuff, as
I see now, in hindsight. Sure, we were to
a large degree deluded, dreamy-eyed kids
that thought we could completely change
the world with our music and ideas, and
our actual effect on the world may not have
been as dramatic as our dreams, but I do
think that we made, and still are making,
a difference. Groups like Black Flag,
Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys – they
engendered this scene. It was all about
D.I.Y., Do-It-Yourself, you know? And
with it there was the birth of the zine culture
– our own underground, independent press
--- starting with MaximumRockNRoll, and
later with zines like Punk Planet. And then,
of course came the whole concept of “unity”
– which first came to punk from ska via the
Clash, who brought the in word through
Desmond Dekker of Jamaica. “Unity” was
meant to symbolize how a music scene
could improve race relations, and used
the black and white checkerboard as it’s
symbol, to represent the idea of unity with
individuality – the colors are together, but
still distinct. But, even though the notion
started in the “second wave,” it really
came to life in the third wave, in the U.S.,
through Operation Ivy.
I was drawn to these kinds of social issues.
I guess I can add to that the fact that my
parents were not like many other parents,
not W.A.S.P. or conservative, they were
actually rather liberal, and very anti-war.
My father grew up a prisoner of war of the
Allies in Africa during the second World
War, and mother grew up in wartime Italy,
as the Nazis and the U.S. fought each other
on Italian soil – every bombing of a “Nazi
stronghold” was another Italian church
destroyed, every “U.S. Munitions Armory”
blown up was another Italian school. Maybe
that is part of why I like championing the
underdog, why I try to see things from the
side of the oppressed. Anyway, that’s what
punk is supposed to be about – championing
the rights of those whose race, culture,
or beliefs do not reflect the majority.
(Laughing) And, yeah, I admit that you have
to include the “teen angst” factor, too… I
mean, honestly, plain-old youthful rebellion
had something to do with it – just like it did
with early rock’n’roll – but also just like any
it has had to do with any social revolution
throughout history. The rebelliousness
of youth can be powerful. But, it’s also
short-lived, ephemeral. Just how many
thirty-seven year olds go to punk shows?
It’s only a phase of two years for most

Why stay in the scene then?
I love it. And I’ve made it my life to some
degree. But I would have made a living
easier any other way. When people say,
“Oh you must be so lucky.” Well, yeah, I
am lucky, yes. But I’ve worked an average
of over a hundred hours per week for most
of the last 15 years. You do that because
you want to. It’s something you do out of
passion. It’s not about the fashion, which
I love, too -- it’s all kinds of stuff. It’s the
combination of the music and the message.
I still believe it can change the world.

Punk seems to be coming back, it’s “cool”
now. How do you feel about that?

The classic punk reaction to that trend is
that it’s cheapening what we started, or that
the “cool” bands are selling out. I don’t
think it’s that simple. In many ways, it has
made the punk scene more powerful,
therefore more able to affect the changes
that were part of our credo. But, honestly,
like the naysayers, I do miss some things.
Back then, in the punk days of yore, if I
saw a guy with a Mohawk walking down
the street, instantly there was a connection.
Chances were that we listened to the same
bands, thought the same way about wanting
to rid the world of racism, or homophobia,
or sexism. I can’t say that anymore. With
all of the popularity, the message has been
diluted, there’s not enough unity to pass
on any focused message. There’s division
now, which is sad. You know, now that we
have such a wide scene, there really is the
possibility to band together and accomplish
something. But unfortunately, there’s a
tendency to separate. Don’t get me wrong,
I don’t want everything to be the same,
homogenous -- I’m not saying that. But
maybe there’s just one thread to connect all
of us together… we just need to find it.
As a scene, we’ve gotten big and fat.
There’s a lot of in-fighting, weird inner band
back-biting, discord between the subgenres,
and so on. If we’re not careful, punk will
become the same as dinosaur rock. Green
Day still has most of what made them. But
some other bands . . . there’s a bloated
carcass in the music industry now that calls
itself “punk.” It’s no more punk than
PokÉmon. Commercialism creates these
bands with no knowledge of what punk
is. People are looking for another Green
Day. But those guys busted their butts, they
slept on floors, their vans would break down
and they had to find a way to make it to the
next show. They are the real thing. These
new, pre-fab, wanna-be “punky” pop-band
pretty boys -- they can’t rise above stuff
like that. Not without living it, learning it.
…and I’m not saying there’s no hope for
the newest wave of punks. We all can learn,
and change. It’s up to the old guard to talk
about what was special about our cultural
revolution, and not bask in the glory of our
records sales, or gloat over how well we’ve
done compared to what anyone else would
have believed. We must not become what
we hated. Otherwise, all will have been
for naught. The new generation must
pick up the torch and banner, raise their
fists in the air, and fan the flames of the
fire we started. They just need to know
it exists. It’s not as if you can’t learn it,
or become it, if you didn’t live back then.
None of us were “born punk.”

What has changed over the years?
Well, when I first started, locally, it was
almost impossible to hold all-ages shows.
We had to resort to playing parties, which
was not always a good idea. But then in ’85,
’86 there was a huge push to have all-ages
shows, so barriers were broken down. We
got to start having some of the very first
shows at the Morton Center and University
In ’87 I took all of my college savings,
without telling my dad, and opened my club
called Spud Zero. Many other music fans –
punk or indie rock – would volunteer to help
me run the club, just to keep it open. All of
these great bands were playing right across
the river, two or three shows per week.
Sometimes only ten or twenty people would
show up, but then bands like Naked Raygun,
Dag Nasty, or Material Issue would come
and get two hundred. It worked for a year.
And during that time is when I met most of
the people I know in the music scene now -- the same basic group of people who started labels like Lookout and
Fat Records. It was so much work though.
Sometimes bands like Operation Ivy would
only get thirty people. And they were great!
They went on to sell over a million copies
of the record they were promoting on that
tour… but played to 30 people in Lafayette,
and slept on my floor.
Later, when I closed that club, the group
of kids would help me put on monthly
shows – back at the Morton Center, the
Conservation Club, and places like that. All
of the fans that had gotten used to several
shows per week were hungry for live bands,
so we would get up to 700 hundred people
on some occasions. But overall, locally,
“The Scene,” if you can call it that, was
the biggest back then. All these different
bands played, and everyone supported everyone
else. “Alternative” meant underground back
then, you know, this was before Nirvana or
before MTV cashed in on that name, before
you’d ever hear that word on the radio.
So it included everything, everything you
wouldn’t hear on the radio.
We found power in banding together. But
bands today have that power through
numbers, through the internet. Back then
it was all about calling people who knew
someone, who maybe knew someone that
knew someone else in a band, and we
would try to get them to come down from
places like Chicago to play. It’s so much
easier today. And I don’t understand why
there’s not a bigger scene as a result of that
Even as for our local scene -- so many great
bands have come from here. But no one
outside of town seems to hear of the bands
that are still here. The funny thing is that a
lot of great, unknown bands have recorded
at Sonic Iguana, that later went on to be very influential bands on an international level. None of them were local – they
came from far away to record here. But even
while they were in town, they did not play
here, because no one was putting on punk
rock shows anymore.
We could be making a huge splash here,
now, with so much cutting-edge music being
done in the area. Huge bands have come
out of here before… Blind Melon, Guns N
Roses -- one of the biggest rock bands of all
time. But those guys left, and didn’t really
come back here. There was no reason for
them to, because when they were here, they
weren’t encouraged. …but I would hardly
want to paint them to be saints, either.
We only need a strong group of, fifty people
or so, regulars… people who come to every
show, and push, beg, or force their friends to
go with them. Movements, at least in the rock
music scene, start with the fans between about
16 and 22 years of age. With a major university of
over 40,000 students, there’s no reason why
this town cannot be a major music scene
on a national level. But there are caveats,
you have to protect the scene too. Don’t
trash the place where there’s a show. Don’t
bring alcohol. If the rules say you can’t,
then don’t. Stay at home and get drunk if
that’s what you’re looking for. Being punk
doesn’t mean throwing bottles, breaking
windows, spitting on random people – that’s
just stupid. If we agree that the music and its
presence is important, we have to be willing
to respect the rules of the people willing to
allow us to put on shows. I know of at least
one place in town, with a perfect location,
that decided to no longer put on shows
because of precisely such problems.
(Laughing) I should have been a preacher.

How was the last Squirtgun show here, in
your opinion?

That was an example of the unity that we
need to see more of. I felt very good about
the number of people that came – about
300, give or take. Sure, I would have
liked to have seen more people. But it was
Thanksgiving Weekend, so I understand.
The kids at the show accepted all the of
acts – I saw punks with Mohawks clapping
and cheering for the Pat McClimans Group
– which is anything but punk. Sure, he
was involved a lot in the old scene, but his
acoustic bluesy set was far from his punk
roots. The fact that at the show people that
were into punk accepted bands outside of
their genre, and that fans of hip-hop, blues,
or country were so accepting of punk bands
is exactly the kind of solidarity that can
build a great scene.
And, of course, playing with Squirtgun…
that line up hasn’t played together for two
and a half years. It has always been like a
little family to us. We’ve toured the world
together, been on MTV, played to stadiums
of over 6,000 people, been in movie
soundtracks – but it really doesn’t get any
better than playing a basement show in your
hometown. Actually, some of the very roots
of Squirtgun, they
go back to that basement at the University
Church. …our first show in that basement
was in ’86. Shows in venues like that one are at the core of the scene that built all of what is DIY punk rock -- whether you speak of Screeching Weasel, NOFX, or Green Day. So it was a little like coming
home, back to the start.
(Laughing) Almost the entire front row
knew all the songs. I couldn’t believe it. I
mean, those kids were eight at the time our
first record came out. Many weren’t even
born yet when we first played that same
stage. Yet, I felt there wasn’t really an age
We felt great. Some people thought we were
poppier than they had first thought, others
thought we were edgier. More importantly,
though, as a benefit concert, it was a
success. The graduate student for whom
we had the concert was really moved. She
couldn’t believe that so many people would
get together to help her. She feels like she
has a family here now. By working together
– let’s just say it, through “unity” – we were
able to make a real difference in someone’s
life. That’s a start.

What do you think of some of the new,
local bands?
I really have a limited knowledge of a lot of
the new local bands. But there is definite
potential to have a national music scene
here. Groups like Clayton Miller have
talent, no doubt. Pat McClimas Group, he
has a punk background, yet his new sound
is a blend of country, blues, and rock,
but with a new twist. CounterActive, the
punk-punk band that was at the show… I
heard some people say that they’re nothing
original, just ’77 punk. But the truth is
that they have lots of energy, passion, and
dedication. Besides, there’s nothing really
new in musical genres or sounds anyway. I
could find a cow chip out in a field, hit it
hard with an electric guitar and record it,
and it would possibly, probably be “new”
– but it would sound like… well, we can
all guess what it would sound like. Back
to my point -- a good song done well, with
passion, will rise above any style or genre.
But looking ahead, as a scene we really
need to get people to try to go to every show
possible, just to check it out. If shows are
well-attended, there will be more shows.
More shows means more outside talent
coming to town, and more exposure for
local artists to other styles. Also, we can’t
let the scene fall into infighting between
bands, all wanting to be the “most popular,”
and discouraging people from going to
other bands’ shows. It’s too easy to fall into
rivalries, and that destroys music scenes.
We should take a cue from Operation Ivy,
who took it from the Clash, who took it
from Desmond Dekker… and focus on the
unity of our scene.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Hymn to Achievement

The same event of which I wrote in my prior blog entry generated more than just one media article, apparently. In the Summer 1973 issue of the Purdue Alumnus magazine, there appeared an extensive article about astronaut Eugene Cernan’s speech and its subject matter, as well as an additional photograph depicting my presentation to Cernan of a painting by my father.

MASSIMO GIORGINI, son of Prof. Aldo Giorgini, Civil Engineering School, presents an enamel painting to Capt. Cernan. Prof. Giorgini, who painted the large mural in the CE building, also painted the enamel for Cernan. In the background is a member of the Quarterdeck Society, NROTC honorary, and Gloria Peterson, a graduate student.

The caption above, which appeared alongside the photograph in the aforementioned publication makes mention of “the large mural in the CE building” painted by my father. The name of the work was Hymn to Achievement, and was a work done on commission for the Civil Engineering building on the Purdue University campus in order to commemorate the technological advances due to research in academic areas – as witnessed in engineering itself, for instance. The mural was unveiled coincident to one of the speeches by Cernan, entitled “Technology and Man’s Future.” However, far from being a mere glorification of the marvels of scientific breakthroughs, the mural also represented the awesome negative side of this same “progress” by displaying an image of a mushroom cloud, an animal skeleton, and a dying soldier vis-a-vis images representing religion, philosophy, and modern architectural structures.
Although some of the members of the committee that commissioned the work were contrary to the less than laudatory representation of modernization depicted therein, the agreement signed by my father included a provision for artistic license and interpretation, and thus the mural had to be accepted as painted. Furthermore, my father argued that a reminder of the importance of considering both sides of such equations was especially suitable to a speech regarding technology during a memorial conference to two men killed precisely by their interaction with a product of scientific progress.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Little Man With Man On The Moon

“Little Man With Man On The Moon” was the caption to this photograph, which shows me getting an autograph from Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 space mission, and the last astronaut to step on the surface of the moon. The photo appeared on the front page of the April 19, 1973 edition of the Lafayette Leader, and shows me in full dress suit with bowtie, accompanied by my father, immediately following a speech by Cernan at a memorial seminar for Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee, two astronauts who died in an Apollo training capsule. The article marks my first appearance in the media following that in the May 23, 1968 edition of the Journal & Courier, which reported my birth the prior day in Home Hospital. My awareness of the inaccuracy of the press began right here in the text accompanying the photo, which states:

Little Massimo Aldogiogine appears a little “moonstruck”
as he patiently waits with his father for an autograph
from Capt. Eugene Cernan, USN, commander of Apollo 17
and the last man to walk on the moon.
Cernan, a 1956 electrical engineering graduate from
Purdue, returned to the campus Friday to speak at the
Grissom-Chaffee Memorial Seminar. Virgil Grissom and
Roger Chaffee, who dies in an Apollo capsule training accident
at Cape Kennedy in January, 1967, were Purdue graduates
as is Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon.
(Photo by Jesse McGreevy)

How the reporter managed to rend “Massimo Aldogiogine” from “Massimiliano Adelmo Giorgini” is one of the inexplicable mysteries that led to my choosing to go by “Mass Giorgini” by the time my first album was released many years later.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My first live performance in over six months: Squirtgun to play a benefit concert
This is one of the longest stretches I have ever gone in my life without playing a live show -- but the cause that is bringing me back onto the stage is a good one: Squirtgun will be doing a one-off show as a benefit to raise money for a Purdue University graduate student (Laura Poggi, of Florence, Italy) whose recent medical difficulties resulted in a $40k-plus medical bill. Severe pain in her stomach area sent her to the emergency room, and what began as a suspected appendicitis turned out to be a much more severe congenital intestinal-colonic defect. Her University-supplied insurance guaranteed her through her role as a Spanish Language TA only covered 80% of the bill, and she was left responsible to cover the shortfall (as well as technically being required to arrange her own teaching substitutions). Fortunately, an outpouring of generosity from staff and teaching assistants within the department was able to fully arrange for alternate instructors for all of the sessions she had to miss. However, she still cannot afford to cover the remaining balance, and her medical complications continue to incur more expense. The members of Squirtgun decided to do the show in an effort to put a dent in the debt.

The line-up so far is as follows: Squirtgun, Jorge Orillac (emo-punk from Panama), 7 Speed Vortex, Color By Numbers (Fort Wayne, IN), Pat McClimans Group, and CounterActive. It will take place at the University Church in West Lafayette, IN (very near the Student Union) on November 19 at 7pm. The cover charge will be a $5 minimum donation, but all showgoers are encouraged to give as much as they can comfortably spare above that amount. The actual workings of the concert are being taken care of by the Purdue Underground Student Concert Committee, and the Purdue Club Italiano will be helping in the promotion of the event. Relating more to the broad topic of pop-punk, this will Squirtgun's first US appearance in two years, and will feature original drummer Dan Lumley for this show only -- since we are playing his hometown. He has no plans to come out of "retirement," so this may well be the only chance to ever see him play (for those not in the know, Lumley has played drums for not only Squirtgun, but also spent 7 years in Screeching Weasel, was the drummer of Common Rider, was the drummer in the final line-up of the Riverdales, and guested on albums or concerts for the Queers, the Lillingtons, the Teen Idols, among others

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Timeless Allegory, Fitting with a Current Discourse
In a famous scene from Don Quixote, an Inquisition-era priest whose sole role was to be received at the homes of the nobility (essentially living like a king in exchange for not condemning anyone to the rack and screw) passes judgment on the self-made knight errant, telling him to stop wasting his time on nonsensical and fruitless adventures, and to return to his home and take care of his family and affairs.
The Manchegan knight responds, saying that such an undeserved insult from one who has no true experience or knowledge in such matters is undeserving of a vengeful contestation: indeed, it must simply be written off as the babbling of a fool. Don Quixote goes on to say:
“If knights, and the magnificent, the generous, and the highborn considered me an idiot, I would take it as an irreparable affront; but to be thought a fool by the unknowing who have never walked or followed the path of chivalry does not matter to me one iota: a knight I am, and a knight I shall die.” (1)

A tip of the sword to the true knights who have spoken in defense of my honor.

(1) Forgiveness is asked of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, whose original, eloquent Spanish I translated as well as possible in the above citation.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Dante and my Dad
On the eve of what would have been my father’s seventy-first birthday, I went looking for an old encyclopedia – I believe it was in order to determine when the line “Stultorum infinitus est numerus” (“The number of fools is infinite,” Ecclesiastes 1:15) was removed from modern versions of the Bible. Although the aim of my search was not fulfilled, I did run into a dusty, old edition of La Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri in the original Italian. It was in excellent shape, and contained all of drawings done by Gustav Doré early in the 19th century. My curiosity got the better of me, and I began to turn through the pages. There, inside the front cover, I found a jewel for which I have been searching on and off for over ten years -- a sort of personal “holy grail” for which I had all but given up hope. The find was not in its complete form, but only partial. Nonetheless, it has given me new hope that the possibility exists to find even more.

In 1982, while I was a sophomore in high school, we began to read portions of The Divine Comedy. I recall complaining to my father that it was a very stuffy read, and that even when I could manage to stay alert through several lines, I could rarely decipher clearly enough what exactly was happening. When my father heard that, he reacted in a way that reflected his surprise and simultaneous disappointment – after all, this story-poem had been one of my father’s greatest literary joys, and he even knew entire cantos from it by memory.

He immediately asked how we were reading the text, realizing that there would be no way in which the class could be studying it in the original Italian. When I told him that we were using an English version, he wanted to see the book. After only a few glances, he already felt that much had been lost in the translation. He pulled out the edition which I was to rediscover twenty-three years later, and began comparing the lines.

One thing led to another, and soon enough my father embarked on a search for every English translation of La Divina Commedia that he could find. Although a few more modern ones existed than the classic Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation we were using in our class, my father still felt that more could be done to preserve the feel of the original. He decided to do his own translation, maintaining the original meter, rhyme scheme, and meaning of the lines.

However, he soon realized that the task was difficult. Later, that it could more aptly described as monumental. Then, eventually, he was struck by the awareness that a perfect translation was impossible. Such difficulties exist in all translations, but are compounded in poetry because of the additional restrictions of meter and rhyme. He slowly began the undertaking, eventually completing “over 80%” of the Inferno, according to my last memory of discussing the subject with him – I must admit that I was not nearly as interested in the topic at the time as I am now. Regardless, during my father’s entire bout with glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable form of cerebral cancer, it never occurred to me to ask where he kept his notes and drafts of this work. Only in the months following his eventual demise did I recollect the project he had begun. So, when on March 14 I found two sheets of paper – 73 lines in all – of the translation my father had been doing, I was ecstatic. Looking over it, I believe that it holds up well to the other translations of those same lines that I have found, and in most cases feels even better – possibly because the meter is exactly matched.

These elements of meter and rhyme are an interesting quality of the poem. It is widely assumed that Dante Alighieri invented this form, called Terza Rima, precisely for use in The Divine Comedy. The entire work is divided into numbers of sections that have arithmetical and symbolic significance. The numbers of books, cantos, levels, and rings were all specifically chosen by Dante to fit a specific emblematic plan. Part of this scheme involves the iambic meter (eleven syllabic beats) of each line, and the fact that each tercet (three-line stanza) of the poem fits into a larger scheme of aba, bcb, cdc, ded, efe, and so on.

All of these technicalities aside, Dante’s masterpiece is full of beautiful imagery, storytelling, and is rich with metaphors and symbolism. It is a work that was powerfully critical of the contemporary politics of Italy at that time. Further, it was simultaneously pious with its treatment of the Catholic faith while being incendiary in its criticism of the secular concerns of the papacy. In fact, although Dante is still considered one of the most famous Florentines of all time, he was never able to return to Florence again after the publication of this work due to a death sentence issued against him by political opponents he had derided in his poem.

What follows are several sets of the same two tercets: first, the original lines by Dante, and then several different translations of the lines into English. Most are in poetic stanzas, although several have discarded the meter and rhyme. A few are in prose form, having abandoned the poetic form altogether. The lines come from the fifth canto of the Inferno, which is the first book of the Divine Comedy. At this point in the narration, Dante and his poet guide, Virgil, are walking through the Second Circle of Hell, where the Lustful are punished. The sinful souls are being blown about eternally in a perpetual wind, flying through the air in a sort of tornado. Among these damned spirits are famous historical and political figures, including some knights and their ladies.

In keeping with the spirit of all of these translations, I decided to do a version of these six lines myself, keeping the meter, rhyme, and meaning of the original as faithfully as possible. I must admit that the task is enormously difficult, and that if I were to spend an equal amount of time on each of all the lines of the work, I would never finish the translation before my own arrival at either Inferno, Purgatario, or Paradiso.

Volume I of La Divina Commedia
by Dante Alighieri
Lines 70-75 of Canto V

Dante Alighieri’s original lines (1314)

Poscia ch’io ebbi ‘l mio dottore udito
nomar le donne antiche e’ cavalieri
pietà mi giunse, e fui quasi smarrito

I’ cominciai: “Poeta, volentieri
parlerei a quei due che ‘nsieme vanno
a paion sì al vento esser leggeri.”

Henry Boyd’s translation (1785)

And still each coming ghost the poet nam’d.
To see this wreck of souls my heart recoil’d.
At length, “ O call that pair, thou spirit mild,

That skims so light before the blast untam’d !
“ Soon may’st thou know,” he cry’d, “ the tide of air
Brings to our lofty stand the hapless pair ;

Henry F. Cary’s translation (1805)

When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o’erpower’d
By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind

Was lost; and I began: “Bard! willingly
I would address those two together coming,
Which seem so light before the wind.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation (1867)

After that I had listened to my Teacher
Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered

And I began: “O Poet, willingly
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light.”

S. Fowler Wright’s translation (1928)

He pointed as they passed, until my mind Was wildered in this heavy pass to find Ladies so many, and cavaliers and kings Fallen, and pitying past restraint, I said, "Poet, those next that on the wind appear So light, and constant as they drive or veer Are parted never, I fain would speak."

John Ciardi’s translation (1954)

I stood there while my Teacher one by one
named the great knights and ladies of dim time;
and I was swept by pity and confusion.
At last I spoke: "Poet, I should be glad
to speak a word with those two swept together
so lightly on the wind and still so sad."

Allen Mandelbaum’s translation (1980)

No sooner had I heard my teacher name
the ancient ladies and the knights,
than pity seized me, and I was like a man astray.
My first words: "Poet, I should willingly
speak with those two who go together there
and seem so lightly carried by the wind."

Aldo Giorgini’s translation (1982)
(the whereabouts of only 73 lines of this translation are currently known)

As soon as I had listened to my teacher
naming the ancient knights and their fair ladies
I was swept by compassion and confusion

At last I spoke: “My guide, I would desire
to speak a word with those two swept together
so lightly on the wind that lasts forever.”

Charles Eliot Norton’s translation (1985)
After I had heard my Teacher name
the dames of eld and the cavaliers,
pity overcame me, and I was well nigh bewildered.
I began, "Poet, willingly would I speak
with those two that go together,
and seem to be so light upon the wind."

Robert Pinsky’s translation (1994)

When I had heard my teacher tell the rolls
Of knights and ladies of antiquity,
Pity overwhelmed me. Half-lost in its coils,
"Poet," I told him, "I would willingly
Speak with those two who move along together,
And seem so light upon the wind." And he:

Mark Musa’s translation (1995)

After I heard my teacher call the names
of all these knights and ladies of ancient times,
pity confused my senses, and I was dazed.

I began: “Poet, I would like, with all my heart,
to speak to those two there who move together,
and seem to be so light upon the winds.”

Robert M. Durling’s translation (1996)

After I heard my teacher name the ancient
ladies and knights, pity came upon me, and I was
almost lost.
I began: “Poet, gladly would I speak with those
two who go together and seem to be so light upon
the wind.”

James Finn Cotter’s translation (2000)

After I had listened to my instructor
Name the knights and ladies of the past,
Pity gripped me, and I lost my bearing.

I began, "Poet, I would most willingly
Address those two who pass together there
And appear to be so light upon the wind,"

Anthony S. Kline’s translation (2004)

After I had heard my teacher name
the ancient knights and ladies, pity overcame me,
and I was as if dazed.

I began: ‘Poet, I would speak, willingly,
to those two who go together,
and seem so light upon the wind.’

Massimiliano Giorgini's translation (2005)
(only these 6 lines were translated)

Then after having listened to my mentor
mention the ancient knights and their fair ladies
pity took hold, I fell into a stupor

I began to speak: “Poet, I would be pleased
to converse with those two who fly together
and appear to float so lightly in the breeze.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Current Mastering Project:
Howard Zinn Spoken Word split EP with punk band Resident Genius

Historian Howard Zinn is undoubtedly celebrated in his own academic discipline, having taught at Harvard University, the University of Paris, the University of Bologna, Spellman College, and Boston University in addition to having earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Indeed, his best-known book, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to the Present is an oft-quoted text within both popular culture magazines and academic journals. This book is unique among history books in that its entire focus is to present the historical events described in its title from the perspective of the defeated in each conflict – thus turning the tables on the idiom “history is written by the winners.”

The popular success of A People’s History led directly to Zinn being widely held within liberal circles as a sort of “Champion of the Underdog.” Zinn has taken that title and made a second career with it, writing several books, articles, and even plays that expanded his role from Professor of History into recognition as a political theorist and outspoken social activist. His working-class upbringing and years of military service during the second world war have given his writings a common-sense approach far removed from the stereotypes of grandiloquent intellectualism that conservatives typically ascribe to liberal thinkers.

I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to master an upcoming release that will feature spoken-word audio recordings of Howard Zinn along with songs from punk band Resident Genius, an act known for its involvement in activism and lyrics dealing with socio-political issues. The release is to be issued in CD-EP form later this year by Thick Records.