Why Did It Take So Long To Make A Festival Like Terraforma?

Italian experimental weekender Terraforma is about as close to perfect as could be: sustainable, surprising and lovely. Here's why we loved it.

There’s no mess at Terraforma Festival. No empty beer cups or wrappers lay strewn on the lawn; no cigarette butts were squashed in the dirt; no discarded food or packaging was left out around the grounds of the Villa Arconati, where the third edition of Italy’s leading sustainable experimental music festival took place over three days last weekend. The cleanliness was a manifestation of the organizers’ and attendees’ commitment to the “sustainability” aspect of Terraforma, which also brought a cadre of tipped forward-thinking musicians from established avant-gardists like Charlamagne Palestine to new-school musicians including Helena Hauff, Dynamo Dreesen, Beatrice Dillon, Mark Fell, Donato Dozzy and Lee Gamble.

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The 18th century was a fitting setting to inspire people to take personal responsibility for the environment, as it’s simply too beautiful for a conscionable human to trash. That was striking from the first performance, by Palestine, which involved a solo piano concert on the front lawn followed by a mesmerizing A/V performance from Rabih Beani and Vincent Moon that burned holes into the air and an unflappably solid closer from Dozzy. The only threat to Terraforma’s absolute bliss was a two-hour monsoon that drenched Milan on the second day, but the dreary weather ended up setting the perfect mood for the brooding catharsis of Lee Gamble’s DJ set. And the proceedings on the final day more than made up for it anyway with a vibey dub sound system party in the sunny woods.

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The festival’s closing set began off schedule and out of nowhere. A light installation that had sat in a corn field by the main stage, untouched but gently pulsing, suddenly came to life with Feldermelder at the helm. Despite the obscure location, he and the light hive attracted everyone within 20 minutes. This was Terraforma at its best: impromptu but immediately communal; sophisticated yet approachable; visionary and close to nature. It left us wondering what took so long to get it right.

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