• Ambra Mattioli

Shape is not Appearance. Ambra Mattioli.

Updated: Apr 22


This is an article of mine published on davidbowieblackstar.it, a site born from the idea and commitment of some David Bowie fans whom I know and appreciate for their initiative.


What can I say about myself? How can I introduce myself?

I was born in Rome, under the constellation of Pisces and the third Moon of March.

I am the perfect thief!


Since my early childhood, my eyes were able to steal the form of things, to absorb the elegance of shapes, the combination of colors that inspire poets, the secret connection between light and shadow, the balance of mixed flavors, but most of all they could discern the paths leading to the imaginative creations of the mind. I dream and I am in touch with all I need to express myself in my everyday life. As for music, I visualize it, even before I actually listen to it, as a cathedral-like structure, with spires and pinnacles and that is the peculiar way it remains fixed in my memory, the way I enjoy it. Smells are the soundtrack of my life; scented memories of places, names, and people always vivid in me. I am fascinated by the body language, those little involuntary movements that reveal the well-protected, hidden side of creatures. They tell me about wishes, hopes, fears, for shape is not appearance.


I have always refused to focus on single disciplines for fear of losing the larger perspective. I talk with plants, animals tell me their stories, and …electronic devices seem to refuse to work properly in my presence (much to repairmen satisfaction). My hands instinctively know what to do to “make”.

A witch! I would have been labelled in times past.

A synaesthetic one! now, in the new millennium.


I know David Bowie in 1976, first as an actor ("The man who fell to earth") than as a singer. I leave for London on a pilgrimage. During the day, I wash mountains of dishes in a restaurant while I learn the language and in the evening, I play the guitar at the Marble Arch subway station. These 5 songs played in sequence: "Quicksand", "Space Oddity", "5 Years", "Life on Mars?", "Memory of a free festival", allowed me to live with dignity for a year. I'm back in Italy; a couple of engagements as an animator in tourist villages, then a job in a Bank that devastated me.


We are in 1984. The Bank grants me a part-time working schedule and this allows me to work with the Italian RCA to a new project with a group of musicians that today are famous names in the Italian music scene. However, the project does not start. The tributes did not exist yet, but with a dear friend, still present in my life, I started to play the songs of David Bowie and meanwhile I resume painting and showing my works in Europe and in America and this time, it works! I get some success; I sell almost all the works, and others are commissioned.


However, I am a demon and instead of calming myself ... I change! (Will it be the “Changes” effect?). I am getting married. I make two male twins (so as not to overdo it) meanwhile I play piano bar - I do not even know why - and then I put on a kind of tribute in which David Bowie occupies the most relevant part.


The difficulty in interpreting David Bowie music is in the vocal utopia. His range is wonderfully wide, with different registers for glam and then melodic compositions, soul, rock and progressive rock and dark rock faced and experimented in fifty years of career. With Bowie, you can never get bored. I wasn't bored. I continued. I sang as lead vocalist in several bands; in some cases, there was just enough time to introduce up before a performance and immediately go on stage! Pretty cool! I currently have more projects that are active, first the band Aladdin Insane, a bunch of crazy (even more insane than me), all dear friends and talented musicians to whom I donated a piece of my heart. The acoustic versions, arranged for piano and voice (very intimate and emotional performances created in collaboration with several exceptional pianists). From about 2 years, I propose the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera by Webber and Rice. I play all the nine roles of the main characters (an absolute madness), with the blessing of dear Ted Neeley (Jesus in the original musical), who after seeing the CD I gave him when I met him after his first show at the Sistina Theatre in Rome, says hugging me : "You are amazing, absolutely amazing... you're completely crazy!".


Then there is my dream, what I never hoped to achieve ... “1.Outside”!

I immediately and immensely loved this obscure David Bowie masterpiece, who turned 20 last year, and finally after a long search, found the musicians for this ambitious project, I did the whole job, including the spoken parts, live, without recorded music and in original keys. I am the interpreter, the lead vocalist and producer of the project "1.OUtside AGain 1995-2015", which debuted in Rome last year and which I dream to bring on tour in Italy and, who knows, maybe even abroad.


On January 10 of this year, like so many others who love David Bowie, I suffered immensely. Words cannot describe the detachment and anguish of this, which seemed to me an unjust and premature abandonment. Unfortunately, I had noticed his illness before, in spite of so many reassuring and smiling photos that circulated at the end of last year ... With the release of his album Blackstar I had the terrible confirmation. I also wrote an article, talking to a journalist friend of mine, who agreed with my bad feelings. The announcement of his death devastated me with all the strength of a strictly personal mourning. I still have serious difficulties in hearing some tracks particularly related to my youth and especially with Lazarus.


"When I grow up" I do not want to do anything other than what I'm doing, even if some cricket is already spinning in my head ... I think of new musical projects that have been locked in the drawer for too long, for which I hope to find a recognizable sound. Meanwhile, I continue to write my novels and have recently published a collection of short stories that are on all the major online platforms.

I take this wonderful opportunity to thank the public, which is always so warm in my regard. Spectators understand very well that everything I have always done and still do interpreting David Bowie music is animated solely by the desire to keep alive the immense work of the exceptional artist that he was ... and always will be.


Thanks for your estimate.


Ambra


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