OPINIONI E SCRITTI in the Italian language, which are different from those published hereafter.
My goal is mainly to create profound, highly communicative, spontaneous refined atonal music. What does this mean exactly? My colleagues, the musicians that will read this page, will probably smile at this question, but you can't imagine how many people have asked it to me and even sent me e-mails to know what tonality and atonality are! So, I'll try to put it in these terms: the traditional classical music of the past ages was based on arranging all the tones and chords of a composition in relation to a central 'key' note (called the 'tonic'), thus forming a system or an arrangement of seven tones built on a tonic key or note, which ought to be also the last note of the piece in order to obtain an effect of satisfying conclusion. This traditional system was also based on a number of mainly consonant well-known traditional chords which could be easily classified according to the well-known traditional rules of harmony. It was named 'tonality'. Pop, rock and non-classical music are still based on tonality nowadays. During the 20th Century, on the contrary, classical music has developed greatly, getting more and more different from tonality-based music: composers tried to avoid arranging music in relation to a conclusive sound, and began to employ even strong dissonances as ordinary sounds with wonderful astonishing suggestive effects, and irregular rhythms as ordinary rhythms, and also began to abandon the use of motives and of leading musical themes, focusing on tone color and timbre qualities rather than on melody. This new musical style is very distinctive of the contemporary classical music, sometimes called also 'learned' contemporary music, or 'new music', or 'avant-garde' music. This fascinating, strongly evocative new style of music is not really 'new' at present: it began to exist in European and Western music about the year 1900, and we must remark - for instance - that some of its features have always been part of ethnical musical traditions of many peoples in the world. It is not therefore a music without natural bases, of course, but it has only different natural bases. This new musical style is simply not based on tonality, so it is often referred to as 'atonal' music. It's sad that so many people today do not even know what atonal music is, because it is the classical music of our age.
Of course, this evolution did not occur without problems. Classical music is no more based on tonality nowadays. But it was. When the musical system of tonality has been left aside, we have also abandoned a certainty, a commonly accepted system that ensured the possibility to build chord sequences that surely were to sound logical and consequent, a feature that has always been distinctive of the music of Europe, in my personal opinion clearly influenced by the diversity of the Christian faith, that states that the Sense of the History has entered the History and so that the man has become free and can have an active part in its development, because his task is not only to follow some teachings or laws or to recreate an eternal myth: History has a direction, a sense. Now a standard method to ensure a feeling of consequentiality (and then a feeling of Sense, of proceeding towards a Destiny) does not exist any more; on the contrary, the need to make the listeners perceive in what direction a music will go on has become more and more attenuated in many composers, in my opinion proceeding side by side with a loss of clarity about the sense and direction of the life itself, so typical of the present age. Besides, also in the domain of the contemporary music a tendency to the creation of static, repetitive, hypnotic atmospheres has been spreading all about us in the last years, partly owing to the influence of certain vaguely Oriental conceptions. Facing all this, I have been concerned, since fifteen years ago, with doing some research to find a solution to what seemed a problem to me. When, years ago, I started to feel interested to atonal music, I guessed that the problem of understanding and appreciating spontaneously a music written in an atonal style should necessarily be connected to the revivification of a method to give a feeling of logical consequentiality in music also outside the old rules of tonality. At the same time, however, the practical experience, the facts, demonstrated clearly that the atonal music was not at all necessarily the product of a situation of crisis and disorientation, as many erroneously think, and that the contemporary music could and can certainly be as great as the traditional classical music used to be. I perceived that to dismiss the great expressive goals that have been attained through the use of the dissonant atonal chords would have been like to suppress a cardinal part of the 20th Century musical heritage, a sort of apostasy committed towards an objectively beautiful and poetic experience, which had been created with the labor and struggles of many; in other words, to ignore the beauty of atonal music would have been like to ignore deliberately an important part of reality in order to escape the problems related with it, instead of reflecting on them. To ignore facts and experience.
I simply tried to start from
the observation of reality: that is, I sometimes felt that a given
succession of two atonal chords sounded more logical and more
consequent than other ones, and I started to wonder why it was
so. I wondered: how does the atonal harmony work when we feel
that "it works", that is when it has an appropriate
and clear effect? What is lacking in it when, on the contrary,
we feel that "it doesn't work" properly? In other words,
I tried to do some research on the hypothetical rules that could
govern a system of atonal chords, to order them in logical and
consequent successions, just in the way that chord sequences based
on tonality used to sound logical and consequent. I tried to obtain
something that could work as a common shared technical basis,
so that I will not be obliged to put aside something that has
always been one of the essential features of music in my culture:
a feeling of consequentiality, indeed, a feeling of being proceeding
towards a ultimate final goal, a sense given by its directionality,
by the presence of a clearly perceivable thread in the music.
I try to actuate this practically above all through my music,
of course. As a researcher, however, these thoughts brought me
also to explore the development of a method
to analyze the atonal chords. - (GO
ON about contemporary music) (TOP
I work also as a researcher. My work as a researcher is related
to the fact that I do not agree with classifying the discussions
on structure and technics as academic and dry. I believe that
in music meaning and poetry are in structure, or at least
rely on it. Of course a structure that causes some audible effects,
that you hear (possibly also without noticing its presence), not
the type of structure that can only be viewed on a score.
Any music has necessarily a structure. A structure in itself is
far from being arid. I mean, poetry and emotion rely on structures
that cause a feeling of coherence, or a feeling of hypnosis, or
a perception of dialoguing voices, or a feeling of tensions, and
relaxations, so that each passage derives from the former one
and brings to the following one, and you are forced to wait something,
until the end of the piece comes and you feel that you are waiting
for the completion not only of that piece but of your life, which
you will of course find only in Heaven... Really, the poetry of
music, or of a passage, or of a single sound or tone color, is
in its form (also a few milliseconds of sound have a form, as
I learned from my electronic music studies)...this is the way
I usually think about this problem. Atmospheres, emotions, already
exist. But isn't it poetry and a fascinating task to try to understand
(always in part, because a music is like a living person, and
you never know it completely) why that emotional effect is there,
what causes it, which structure is emanating such a beauty, and
how could I do it again? Thus you discover that everything, every
structure, conveys and points to a meaning that you never reach
in this life... But why should we reject structure, technics,
materiality? It's only through this one that some Meaning seems
to appear. My problem is never how I feel, but what reality is
made of! And reality is also materiality and rationality, I am
also made of rationality and I feel complete only if also my reason
is considered. The fact is that I compose what I like, but I need
also to understand technically why I like that passage in a particular
way, so that I can gain more control in what I am doing and understand
more profoundly what I really want and what I really like and
especially why. In my experience, the technical comprehension
and the aesthetic emotion are not separated and also the technical
research is poetic in some way, because it is made to understand
where the beauty is coming from! Really, sometimes analysis, when
analysing or playing, or building structures, when composing,
can be poetry, in this way. This gives me emotion: the unity and
collaboration between spirituality and materiality, the fact that
what you feel when you listen to Beethoven, for example, IS related
in some partly inexplicable and partly understandable way to how
Beethoven used to modulate from I to III or to write a pizzicato.
We are one, body and soul. Also any good interpreter knows
that there is a profound unity between technics and interpretation,
for example. And this is what I find fascinating. (TOP OF THIS
are my favourite music genres? Besides the contemporary and 20th
Century classical music, I love the authentic field-recorded ethnic
music (I'm fond of ethnomusicology). I believe that a composer
has much to learn from it, and that the authentic ethnic music
and the contemporary music have much in common. I love ancient
music very much, too, from the Middle Ages to the Baroque and
Haydn (philologically performed, please! "The method to know
an object properly is suggested by the object itself", wrote Luigi
Giussani, and this is crucial in music). I usually love to work
with people who deal often with
ancient music: they often know the importance of accuracy,
precision and absolute and passionate dedication to their work,
and I like this. And often they like modern and contemporary classical
music, too, like me. I really love Grieg, too. That's peculiar
for me: I am not particularly inclined towards Romanticism (and
opera), generally speaking, although with some remarkable exceptions.
I often find excellent music in the works of the so-called minor
authors (in music, and also in painting!), and I absolutely agree
with those who study them. Besides, I often find music in the
precise observation of natural elements (birds songs, animal calls,
natural forms, natural sounds). With regard to the question whether
we should go on to regard the classical music as a genre apart,
somewhat profounder than the others, or we should regard all the
genres as having a substantial parity and compose cross-genre
music without any problem, well, I confess that my opinion is
the first one. (TOP OF THIS
In non-classical music the "tune" or "rhythm" or "timbre", or
"athmosphere", or any basic idea, is important in itself. In classical
music the only important thing is what I do with it. This stresses the
importance of constructing, building architectures, structures, forms.
In classical music, meaning and style coincide with form, accurately
planned and built, both in the short and in the long duration spans.
And one must show his mastering of technique in modelling any element
(harmony, timbre, and so on) to follow the building of the structures
he is developing. This, also when one improvises (Mozart used to build
accurately structured cadenzas when improvising), and moreover when one
more to say on this subject… (TOP OF THIS
What are my favorite modern and contemporary composers? Among them there are Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud, Bartók, Charles Ives, Alban Berg (mainly because of his taste for lyrical melodic lines), some British and Nordic authors who are not very much known in Italy (like Cyril Scott, Delius, Ireland, Lars-Erik Larsson), and then Stravinskij, Messiaen, Berio, Niccolò Castiglioni, Crumb, Ligeti, Takemitsu, Grisey, Lutoslawski, Nordheim, Bronius Kutavicius, Jonathan Harvey, George Benjamin..., but also many, many others.
There is a LOT of wonderful contemporary (especially atonal) music, there is an atonal tradition, too, full of dignity EXACTLY as the classical tradition of the past, but the mass media and record labels almost ignore it. (What is atonality? Click here). There are not only the great pieces composed by the aforementioned authors, of course. But also many pieces composed by friends of mine, after a life of studies, hard work and efforts. When I see that so many people despise contemporary music and throw away the good one with the bad one, I become really irritated. More, I feel hurt, and I think to me and my friends, and our passionate work considered as if it were nothing. I'd rather to save both (good and bad contemporary music) than to throw away the good part with the bad one, to give up and destroy the love and passion for beauty that so many composers demonstrate with their hard work and their life. I think that one must be concerned with the prejudices of those who speak badly of contemporary music without even trying to understand it. Understanding the contemporary classical atonal music is often a problem of what education you have had (and musical education cannot be separated from human relationships and from a global education of a person, as we can learn from the classical early music or from the traditional cultures), and also a problem of what the mass media let you know. For instance, sometimes the little children and non-musicians understand it better.
Really, contemporary (atonal) music is not (and shouldn't be) a matter who interests only some cerebral academics: there are plain, simple people who love it, and they are more than what one usually imagines. Being involved with it can only enrich you. Besides, I believe that one should prefer - and should be prone - to be changed in his soul by the music he listens to, than to change the music he listens to according to his mood. A music that does not surprise you, a music that you already listen without problems, is not interesting for your life. So I'm always very concerned with making people love good atonal music (of course there is the bad one, too!) and get enriched, and free from prejudices. For instance: tuneful atonal melodies CAN exist. Yes, it occurs to me quite often to whistle themes from Berg (sonata op.1), Messiaen (a lot, really, and very often!) and even Stockhausen (Tierkreis, that can be one of the possible demonstrations that atonal melodies can indeed be tuneful). Why not? They come to me spontaneously and unconsciously. I believe that music is not ONE universal language. There are MANY languages, as in speech. One should simply know the language, so, as already stated, it is also a problem of education (and mass media, and so...money), and the language itself must be understandable, that is (for me), it must be partly based on natural foundations and on the culture of the environment from which it spreads. And, at least for us Europeans (I'm Italian), on consequentiality.
And, like with language minorities, each language must have the right to exist and must have its space, equal to the others. We all have the right to speak our native, spontaneous language. And atonality is absolutely spontaneous, for me, more than tonality. This does not mean I don't have composition techniques, of course, nor that I praise any kind of atonal music; on the contrary, I am very concerned with the development of an understandable atonal language with natural bases (tonality is NOT the only language with natural bases!). For instance, my technical purpose is often to demonstrate that we can build sequences of atonal chords having a clearly perceivable directional logic, e.g. from the most consonant one to the most dissonant one, or from the one that has the poorest sound to the richest one, in order to achieve a feeling of consequent development in the music (so that a listener can follow it better), like the one that we can hear in tonality-based music, but this time doing so in a completely atonal piece, that can sound absolutely natural and spontaneous (if in the composer's heart there is above all poetry, beside a good technique!).
all my work, together with
my other colleagues, on software for computer-aided
composition and music analysis (though less important than
the musical one, of course!) is done for the same reasons that
I have presented here: helping to develop and to understand a
natural, spontaneous atonal or modern musical language.
used to atonality regards it as an expression of nervous
uneasiness, as something involving tragedy, or the lack of meaning in
modern life, and expressing the
stressing modern life, and so on. I think this was true 90 years ago,
when tonality was not completely dead yet, at the time of Hugo Wolf or
of the first works of Berg and Schoenberg, but that was a distant age,
when my grandfather was young, cars and airplanes where still uncommon,
telephone was a strange experiment, the Two World Wars had not occurred
yet, and computers did not exist.
Do I have interests other than music? Oh, yes, several ones: watching and identifying animals in the wild, birdwatching, botany, strolling in the Alps, among fir forests, high meadows, brooks and moors, reading as much as I can, looking to the works of the great painters (Bruegel, Monet, Seurat, Kandinsky, Klee, and my great Chagall...), collecting rare authentic traditional music field recordings, reading or following studies in ethnology, anthropology or folklore, reading good literature and theatre, watching movies by great directors when I have time (almost never), playing with little children and learning from them. I have also a strange attraction for languages, linguistics and ethnic minorities, and for funny tricks based on logic and maths, for music boxes (but I have only one of them) and for astronomy, for mountain life and nature, for the Northern Countries and especially for Norway, for the hardingfele, for the old fairy tales, legends and surviving old rituals and customs, and for the studies about any of these subjects. And I love museums, but also cartoons... (TOP OF THIS PAGE-INDEX-TOPICS)
With many thanks to Roberto Andreoni, David Isaac Barclay, Cristian Floris, Enrico Raggi for their questions and remarks that made me think.