Q+A: Five Minutes with Leonardo Barbadoro


Leonardo Barbadoro, formerly known by his electronic alias Koolmorf Widesen, is an Italian musician and producer based in Florence. The highly versatile artist released his song and video, ‘Bomi’ on the 22nd of September, via Helical records. The track comes off his highly anticipated album Musica Automata, an LP comprised of orchestral music performed entirely by robots. With the official LP recently garnering support from musictech, the initial project and concept, launched a few years ago, gained serious mainstream attention from publications such as Red Bull, Vice, RaiNews, and CNN Indonesia. In addition to this, as Koolmorf Widesen, he has performed alongside the likes of Apparat, Venetian Snares, DJ Spooky and 808 State. Showing no signs of slowing down, the track has already premiered and received support from electronicgroove. We took some time out to speak to Leonardo on all things music , life , and creativity.


Set the tone for us. Why the arts?


Music has always been my greatest interest since I was a child.


Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?


It depends, I would say both. Sometimes I have a precise idea of something that I want to try out on a new track. Other times I start fiddling around with a certain device and then, when some interesting sound arise, I decide to build a track around it. In both cases it can work. In most cases, is a mix of these two ways of working. Maybe I have a precise idea of what I want to do, but then a certain timbre can take me in a different unexpected direction. Or the other way around.


Does your material feature any collaborations? 


In the case of this record, the collaboration for the project was with the Logos foundation which built the instruments I used for writing the album. Regarding the composition, there wasn’t any collaborators, I wrote and recorded everything by myself.


What’s on your current playlist?


I dont usually make playlists but I mostly try to listen to complete albums and EPS. Some albums/eps in my Sony Walkman right now:
Third Coast Percussion – Between Breaths
Material Object – Telepath
Arch – Arch
Ferdinando Romano – Invisible Painters
Chanbara – Prego!
Herva – Seez
Bang on a Can All-Stars – Field Recordings
John Luther Adams – The mathematics of Resonant Bodies


What gets your creative juices flowing?


Changing the way I approach composition, pushing myself out of the comfort zone. This can be by using particular sequencers or other devices, as well as experimenting with different types of harmonic scales or structures.


What inspired you to pursue this unique musical path of machines playing classical


The boundary between electronics and acoustics. When I produce electronic music I can easily write things that would be impossible for a musician to play (chords with very distant intervals or full of notes, accelerations and evolutions). At the same time, however, the sound produced by a vibration in real space with an acoustic instrument has certain physical characteristics that make the sonic uniqueness of every single event very interesting. By writing music for robots I was able to write things that are impossible for a performer to play and, at the same time, have a real acoustic sound source which is something very different from a digital sample. There is also a second aspect, which is the precise control of every detail of the performance. Usually a composer entrusts the score to the musicians, who perform it by translating the signs into certain actions. In this scenario, there is a big gap between the authors concept and the sound event. This, in the case of Musica Automata, does not happen- I was able to calibrate and draw every tonal detail for every single note played by the robots.


There is a lot of syntax and programming needed to do what you do. Do you do
everything on your own?


No, it wasn’t necessary to know how to program to use the robots from Logos. It would certainly help to know how to do it (I only have programming skills with Max and a few
others), but It’s not essential since the instruments built by Logos can receive MIDI messages. In a way it’s like controlling any MIDI device, except that, in addition to being electronic instruments, they are also acoustic, and, above all, mechanical. So it is a little more complex than controlling a hardware digital synth with a MIDI input port. I will give a practical example for some readers who are perhaps also electronic music producers: when you control a synth via MIDI and send 2 consecutive identical notes (same pitch), the NOTE ON message of the second note can be sent immediately after the NOTE OFF message of the first Note. This cannot happen with most robots because a mechanical release time is required for the solenoid to enter and exit the core while receiving the electronic pulses. And this time (we talk about fractions of tenths of a second) is different depending on the velocity and their range. And in each robot it is also slightly different because the types of solenoids used are different too. Many parameters controllable via CC are closely related to each other, so I had to first study a bit how each of them works. In short, it was a long process of trial and error. Furthermore, these instruments are acoustic, and are therefore subject to many variables, including obviously their intonation. Returning to the topic of programming: I have only programmed and modified existing patch on Max, which is in object-oriented programming language.


We know you used to have a successful electronic music alias/DJ. Do you ever miss


I certainly wouldn’t say I was successful with my alias. I played around quite a bit in the EU, but I never was an established artist, the breakcore, electro/IDM music scene is very small. There are very few names known to a wider audience. Sometimes I miss playing live a bit, of course, but Ive always been a person who prefers to write music rather than performing live.


Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your
creative expression.


I have used many types of software over the years, DAWs (Cubase, Ableton, Digital Performer, Reason, Pro-tools, etc.) as well as programming languages (Max mostly) and many acoustic, electric, electronic and electro-acoustic instruments. Writing a complete list would be really difficult and probably boring to read. I started writing music by playing around with acoustic/electric instruments, microphones and tapes. Then from 2002 to like 2008 I was producing music mostly with just a laptop. Then there was a phase when, like many, I got obsessed with the sound of some vintage synths. In those years I bought many analog instruments that are now worth a fortune. Things like Yamaha CS60, Space echoes, old Roland synths, sting machines, drum machines, analogue processors, etc…For 10 years or so I was using almost exclusively these tools for my tracks (some released under the name Koolmorf Widesen) recording on reel-to-reel tape. This was until 2017-2018 when I got a little bored of the analogue revival. In recent years, especially during the pandemic, I have returned to use a lot of DSPs. As for this album, Musica Automata, the only instruments used are robots, the sound is 100% acoustic, there are no synths or anything like that. To be faithful to the performance of the pieces, I chose a radical approach: no artificial processing has been added in post-production, even the reverberations of the instruments are those recorded in the real environment and with them, the sounds of the moving robots that become part of the music itself.


Any side projects you’re working on?


I have loads of unreleased tracks that I composed and recorded with other musicians several years ago now. I’ll think about how to release them in the next months. Here is a preview of a concert we did back in 2016: https://youtu.be/nPny7F816Vs?feature=shared


Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?


Clearly the album release on the 3rd November! And a new video from the album. Im also trying to sort out how to bring this album into a live setting. Its definitely possible, but not easy at all, the robots are very bulky and heavy to transport. The tracks on the album are composed for dozens of different instruments and actually carrying them all is very complicated. I am thinking about how to arrange some of these tracks for a smaller ensemble of robots. I was talking about it these days with my booking agency and Logos. Hopefully we can do some shows next year in some theater or festivals.




Follow Leonardo Barbadoro:

FacebookXSoundcloudYoutubeInstagram BandcampSpotify

Follow Helical Records: