Name: Rossano Baldini
Occupation: Soundtrack composer, producer
Current Release: Rossano Baldini's eponymous debut album under his HUMANBEING moniker is out May 28 on RareNoise.
Recommendations: An astounding read I’d like to suggest is "M. The Son Of The Century", by Antonio Scurati, which is a startling look into the Fascist mindset, a portrait of unrelenting determination and an impeccable work of historical fiction. Scurati wrote a novel without inventing a single word spoken by the characters: he has studied tons of letters, documents and sources so the dialogues are written with the real words spoken by the historical figures in it. As an Italian, the fascism is always something to deal with (but it is a compelling reading, too).
A must listen record is Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and The London Symphony Orchestra: extraordinary record, trascendental. The first time I listened to it I was almost sleeping with my eldest daughter, I put my headphones on and suddenly it was like the time had stopped. You are in a dreamlike dimension in which you ask to listen to that arpeggio over and over, it is something that belongs to you, after a while. What a super record.
If you enjoyed this interview with Rossano Baldini, visit the HUMANBEING website. He is also on Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Well, my generation was the first to use music software, created in the nineties, which made a way of producing music affordable that once was reserved only for professional studios with very expensive gear. If you were a teenager in the 90s like me, suddenly you became a producer! It was awesome and made possible thanks to software like Reason Studio, FL Studio or Cubase SX.
I remember exactly the first day on my laptop with a super basic audio interface: I was still studying piano at the Conservatory of Music in Rome, but I could make simple arrangements, bass lines, chord progressions etc, so it was pretty natural to me handling this thing. We’re talking about a magical time for music in which the releases were masterpieces such as Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, Radiohead’s Kid A, Fahrenheit Fair Enough by Telefon Tel Aviv as well as Drukqs by Aphex Twin. I immediately understood that my future was there.
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?
My very first influences were the piano composers I studied with my music teachers, and the records I randomly found in my father's collection. When I was around ten years old, I crashed into the Children Songs by Chick Corea and everything changed forever.
My music teacher at that time understood that I was an omnivorous little boy: from Mozart to a blues tune or a pop song, I wanted to play everything. Then, I discovered the White Album and that was my first record obsession. I listened to it like a thousand times and now I understand why I was in love with it: this is a record which goes into a myriad of directions, from exquisite pop to experimental sound collage, from blistering electric rock to folk-country storytelling. So, it is a manifesto of the infinite possibilities music can have.
Starting from there, it was quite natural to me growing up, playing and touring with rock bands, jazz combos, music chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras at the same time.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think there is an eternal war between the tradition you create for yourself – and this is what we call identity – and the will to search for something new over and over. Creativity is the process of making concrete things which lie between these two poles of attraction. Finding a balance is a perpetual goal.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In 2010, I used to play as a keyboard player with the band Spiritual Front and I remember one day, during a rehearsal, I decided to start playing the accordion, with no experience at all and no technique (after all, we were a suicide pop band!).
The fact is that, in the same period, I also started playing as a pianist with the Orchestra Italiana Del Cinema, a symphony orchestra specializing in soundtrack repertoire. One day, their vice-president saw a picture of mine playing the accordion with my band and he said that, needing an accordion player, he thought about me. A month later, I was in front of a Chinese audience of ten thousand at the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing, conducted by the Oscar winning composer Nicola Piovani. I still remember how scared I was.
Thanks to my skills with the accordion, it happened that five years later Maestro Piovani called me for touring with him. And we had like 300 concerts worldwide. If I would have never taken on the incredible challenge of playing, out of the blue, the accordion, I would have never had all these remarkable experiences. I don’t know if this is my main creative challenge, but for sure it is a nice story!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Well, after being frustrated for years because of my lack of gear or skills as a producer, composer and so on, I found out that the answer was in Columbus' egg. Do you remember the story? Columbus, being at a party, placed an egg on a table saying that he’d make a wager with any of the guests that no one could make the egg stand up. They all tried and no one succeeded. Then Columbus, by beating the egg down on the table and crushing it a little bit on one side, fixed it.
What does this story mean to me? That no one cares about your equipment, instruments, software, etc when they are listening to your music. If you want to make an egg stand up, you’ll find a way.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I already told you about the accordion. Following the white rabbit, it happened by chance that in 2017 I heard that there was a crazy inventor in Switzerland, a retired teacher, who created a special accordion with two keyboards on both hands, like a piano. This instrument is called bercandeon. Well, after reaching him I went to his lab to see his freaky instrument. Immediately, I fell in love with it.
You need to understand that, thanks to these two keyboards and to the capability of playing like a piano, no one is going to produce the necessary air for making sound, but the legs. In the normal accordion, as you know, the left hand is tied up at the instrument with a belt and, while you’re playing the buttons, you also move the instrument, so it plays and works. In the bercandeon the hands are free to play. Here the legs are doing the dirty work. They are bound to the instrument and you literally need to learn a kinda lateral movement to obtain a normal sound. So, this completely changed my mind, because no one can teach you how to play this brand new instrument.
We are still a few bercandeonists in the world, and since then I’m an ambassador of it. This instrument taught me, once again, that every path is so personal and you need to stay wide open to the changes you can find. And accepting the limits too. You can listen to the bercandeon on the first track of the HUMANBEING record, "Flesh". It is one of the very first albums on which it appears.
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 through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaborations are the most important thing for a musician. I grew up playing with everyone with a good vibe, and everytime I learned a lot. For sure, I’m positive about file sharing and talking or writing with others. That’s my daily work. But there is nothing more powerful than being on stage with someone, letting the music speak by its own mysterious language.