Inspiration: what is it? Where does it come from and how?
It is the moment which “stops” the reflection between an external element and its repercussions on our inner life. For example, a few years ago I saw Il trittico della natura by Giovanni Segantini: for me those images were like frames that alluded to movement. It seemed natural to incorporate them in a broader musical discourse. And that was how Divenire was born.
What transitions are there between thinking of a tune and realising it?
Sometimes a piece takes a single day to complete, even though I may have been thinking about it for days beforehand. At other times you can’t find the ideal perspective you want for a piece of music, fascinating though it may be. And so you rewrite it once, twice. And then there are ideas that are so powerful that they always communicate sensations, even when played in different ways and with different arrangements.
How much does thinking about who will listen to it count?
A lot. But not to pander to the desires of people who like my work. What interests me is clarity. Reaching the essence of what I want to express.
Musical composition: is it a gift or something you can learn?
For people with “perfect pitch”, it is a natural gift. But it can be cultivated through other interests too: science, the arts, literature, travel…
What type of listener are you?
Omnivorous. I’ve been listening to all types of music since I was little, from the Beatles to Bach. My mum played the piano and my sisters listened to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix on the record player. And while my professional training was classical, I’ve never stopped being curious. Going to Mali and analysing Radiohead are part of a cultural attitude in which there are no preconceptions.
In your creative process, do you have a favourite place for composing?
There isn’t any direct relationship between extremely beautiful surroundings and the extremely beautiful in my work. On the contrary. My best compositions were written in a big city, Milan. One time I remember taking my instruments to the sea, it was a wonderful place. But I was so distracted by the beauty around me that I couldn’t find the inspiration to work. True concentration doesn’t come from looking outside, but inside.
If you had to present yourself to someone who has never heard of you, which piece of your music would you choose?
Experience, which is on my latest album In a Time Lapse. But afterwards I might have doubts about my choice. We live in an age of hyper-listening. Kids sealed inside their headphones, songs in lifts, in restaurants… I find this excessiveness annoying. At certain times and in certain places it’s beautiful to hear silence. There are also films with too much music. And if there’s too much music, it doesn’t produce results, but dispels the magic.
What does having style mean?
Recognising yourself, identifying with what you do.
Do good and bad music exist?
Bad music exists at both technical and expressive level. Such as when it is performed well, but doesn’t arouse any emotions. Good music has to condense innovation and mystery.
What would you like your music to do?
To leave something inside that starts you thinking. The greatest compliment is knowing that some people have written a poem or painted a painting while listening to my music. Or that they have simply smiled at another day. I think that music can enter deep inside your soul. You are more defenceless when confronted with notes. And it’s fantastic.
The interview originally appeared at Canali; Antonio Mancinelli