Franz Kafka once wrote “in your struggle against the world, bet on the world.” In Mani.Mono, Pierluigi Billone makes a wager: in a society in which flow of information increases every day and attention spans decrease, is it possible to write an extended piece for an instrument as humble as a children’s toy? Through my correspondence with Billone, I have observed a deep sense of respect for people and cultures that prefer a slower, spiritually purer way of life than what we experience in urban Western society. Films such as Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Nostalghia, in which the protagonists reject the cycle of ambition and fame for a mystical world, come to mind when thinking of Billone.
Mani.Mono is named after California’s Mono Lake, a body of water sacred to Native Americans, which is known today for its tufa towers. These once-submerged formations (which look like open-air Limestone stalagmites) became visible after years of diverting water from the lake for the growing needs of Los Angeles starting in 1941.
The piece is dedicated to the Native American mystic war general Tashunka Witko, who is better known in the annals of history as “Crazy Horse.” In the book Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk states, “Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world […]It was this vision that gave him his great power, for when he went into a fight, he had only to think of that world to be in it again, so that he could go through anything and not be hurt.”
Further, Billone writes, “How can I say? He is a kind of meditative warrior, he possesses knowledge and he fights, and he has a deep social consciousness (in the most easy terms: if there is not enough to eat in the camp, he simply renounces to eat, to let other people survive). Both things cannot be separated.
Mono Lake is a sacred place to the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes people. In fact the title and the dedication are a kind of respectful homage to this culture and its values. It is very simple.
In the film Stalker by A. Tarkovsky (a kind of spiritual journey inside a closed place which is at the same time our interiority) comes out again this name, when the "writer,” unable to understand the deep spirituality and the form of faith of the Stalker, calls him "Crazy horse," to offend him (in this case Crazy Horse = someone who fights and works against a stronger enemy with complete consciousness that he will lose the fight)”.
— Jonathan Hepfer, 2013