Name: Ludovico Einaudi
Occupation: Composer, pianist
Current release: NOMADLAND OST will be released on CD by Decca Records on 23rd April and is available to stream now HERE.
Recommendations: Murakami - The art of running; Italo Calvino - Invisible Cities
If this Ludovico Einaudi interview piqued your interest, visit his website for more information and music. For recent updates, he also has a Facebook page.
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started composing as a teenager, on piano and guitar. My early influences, apart from my mother playing Chopin, Bach and French children songs on the piano at home, were the Beatles, the Stones, blues, and all the pop music of the 60s and early 70s. The sound was the sound of guitars, organs, bass and drums of the bands of that era. I loved the variety of colours and the creative vibe of that time.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
It was a long transition for me. Maybe because I was not very confident with myself and felt I had to know all the music of the world before speaking.
At the end of my academic studies I spent a few years studying and working with the composer Luciano Berio and at the beginning of writing my scores I was very influenced by his language. But soon I started to realize that with the twelve tone imprinting I wasn't able to feel the music I wanted to write. It was good to have been there to understand that it was not for me. So I started to move into a direction of freedom. Within a few years, I was writing music with a tonal approach.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think that during your life you build your identity through the things you do and you love to do. I am the result of what I have done over the years and my creative process is shaped around my experiences and influenced by the events of my life.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
At the beginning I was very fascinated by the great forms and architecture of music. I then started to explore small forms of music and to create great forms with the sum of small forms.
I feel now I care more about the feeling music and sound can create in human beings, more than exploring forms. Finally, I like music that establishes a sense of a personal and intimate relation or music that immediately takes you on an emotional journey.
Time is a variable only seldom discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
Time is of course one of the basic elements of music. I have always been fascinated by how music can transform it into something that you can perceive. I played with time in different ways, I feel that with harmony it is the most relevant element of music and has also an invisible role in shaping the path of a composition.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
For me its a fundamental relationship.
You compose, then you give life to your composition through a sound. To give an example, you write a piano piece with an upright piano - then later on you try recording the piece with a grand piano. You will discover that you will have to change the way you played it on the upright, also you may change the amount of notes. Because you have to adapt your idea to the sound and the timbre you produce that in the case of a grand piano is bigger and louder compared to the upright. You may also discover that you prefer the sound of the upright, that it is more connected with your vision.
Anyway, recording and producing albums gave me the possibility to explore my sound vision and search for the colours I was looking for.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
I have done many collaborations and for me one of the fundamental things is to establish a connection of friendship with the people I work with. Also I think that everyone should feel a sense of freedom.
Collaborations are essential to discover new dimensions, different points of views. It is like sharing the view of the same landscape with a different eye and culture. You may learn and discover new and unexpected aspects of yourself.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
When I am at home I wake up between 7 and 8, have breakfast or instead I do my daily hour of Pilates. Then I go to my home studio and, depending on the priorities, I can sit at the piano and play, or play and write with the pencil, or transcribe something into my computer. But I could be interrupted by emails or phone calls, or from something else, or decide to go out for a walk. It really depends on the mood and if I have deadlines.
But I learned to be more organized and to have some regularity, I hate to work with pressure. Anyway life and music blends extremily organically and I definitely prefer to have my studio in the house where I live.
When I am on tour, life is completely different of course. There’s little time for myself and everything is focused on the concentration required for the evening concert. But I manage to explore some new ideas during soundchecks.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I will talk about the time I composed recorded and performed Le Onde, my first solo piano album. I felt that I needed to bring my musical ideas and my idea of sound into one unity. Until then I had recorded and performed my music, but never to a scale where I was doing a full project from A to Z. I also worked on the cover choosing a photograph that I took years before with my Rolleiflex.
That move changed everything in my career. Radios started to play my music regularly, filmmakers started to call me for filmscores, and more important I felt that I established a connection with an audience.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
My ideal state of mind is when I am at home and my family is around in the house. I need life around me and especially the family vibe is perfect for my concentration and creative state. The distractions are the bureaucratic sides of life that I hate, documents, payments, etc … and also emotional tensions. Those can be very disturbing.
My strategy is to try to avoid the things I don't want to do and to establish a positive mood around me, and then focus on music with a very good tea.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music has healed me many times, all my life probably. Since I was a child I found only in music the emotions that I needed. Music has transported me into beautiful places full of colours, joy and sadness. Without it life would have been completely different for me, for sure more grey.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Yes all the senses seem to be connected. I feel a sound as I smell a scent. I see a sound as a colour or a landscape. I can feel the texture of the wood or a stone in a sound. And I often compare the taste and the composition of a recipe choosing musical colours. I think that all the senses share a common field, but hearing somehow touches a deeper level of consciousness and opens your heart.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
For me art is connected to the emotional side of our life, especially music. I can see a painting or a visual project bringing to light a political statement, a tragedy or injustice (e.g. Picasso’ Guernica). With music it's different. I think that for its abstract nature it will always be elusive.
But of course you can attach a message to a piece of music. I did it when I wrote “Elegy for the Arctic” for the Greenpeace campaign. It is an example of a piece of music successfully supporting an idea.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I feel it can express all the scale of emotions of mankind and even more. I heard music that made me understand things nobody else was able to tell me.