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Taking music to the cleaners

Composer with a knack for improvisation finds colorful sounds coming from a drab place.

October 09, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • Diego Stocco has been a sound designer for the past 20 years. An Italian native, Stocco moved here four years ago. He would pass Aviva Dry Cleaners in Burbank and notice the sounds as he passed by, he says. Stocco recorded sounds from the machines used at Aviva Dry Cleaners last month. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Diego Stocco has been a sound designer for the past 20 years.…

Everyone deals with the clatter of everyday life, but Burbank resident Diego Stocco makes music out of it.

His video piece, “Music From a Dry Cleaner,” shows Stocco capturing the sounds of Aviva Cleaners on Magnolia Boulevard. Using improvisation and technology, Stocco transforms them into a catchy electronic groove with a funky beat and expands the idea of where music can come from.

For Stocco, whose prior work includes the piece “Music From a Tree,” these projects are an outgrowth of his natural musical curiosity. Stocco said the idea for “Music From a Dry Cleaner” came from an everyday encounter.

“I walk in front of that almost every day and I hear the sounds coming from the inside, so at some point my brain started digesting these sounds, and I get inspired,” Stocco said. “That’s how my ears work. I immediately recognize if there a pattern or a musical chord.”

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A native of Italy, Stocco moved to Burbank four years ago to continue his work as a sound engineer and composer. With credits on movies like “Sherlock Holmes,” “Crank” and the video game “Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood,” Stocco has found success creating, as he said, “different sounds, in mostly crazy ways.”

While making music at the dry cleaners, Stocco discovered an existing element already there. “That place, even without doing anything, had a major chord … embedded in it,” Stocco said. “The conduits, they connect with the engines, and they make this buzzing tone that is a B-flat or A-sharp major.”

Working in that key, Stocco said he then decided on the beats per minute in which to record the track, and began improvising.

“I just go there, I have the click [track] in my headphones and I basically do whatever I can with what I have in front of me at that moment,” Stocco said.

Even for a born improviser like Stocco, a place like Aviva Cleaners can present its own set of surprises.

“You wouldn’t even think that steam coming out of machines could have so many different colors, variations,” Stocco said.

After five hours of recording sounds and improvising, Stocco spent about week and a half composing the song and putting it together with the video. But for Stocco, it’s far from time wasted.

“When you do something in that way, you follow your passion, rarely you waste your time,” Stocco said. “When I do these kind of experiments, I most of the time end up with techniques and sounds that I can end up using in actual projects.”

Plus, Stocco said he revels in the chance to surprise people and get them to open their ears to the sounds around them.

“It’s a good thing for me, because I like to think I give them a chance to see their world in a different way, even if it’s just for a piece of music,” Stocco said.

To watch “Music From a Dry Cleaner” and see other projects of Diego Stocco’s, go to www.diegostocco.com.

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