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15 Questions to Luca Formentini

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am fine thanks. I am at home, on the hills south of the Garda Lake, where I produce my music and my wines.

What’s on your schedule right now?
I am finishing the details of my next album, which will be published in the Autumn. It is the live recording of a concert I had in Germany in October 2006 with a quintet with Markus Stockhausen (Trumpet), Tara Bouman (Clarinet), Deborah Walker (Cello) and Vera Fischer (Flute). It will be called “Flowers of Now”.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

There is so much music out there that it's difficult to talk about a crisis... Maybe that is what you mean: Too much music ? This makes me think about a sentence I heard this evening, it goes something like this: “someone said that it's thousand years we are all making a mistake; we are facing the world via a sensorial attitude instead of simply feeling it”. If there is a crisis, there it is. I can hardly feel anything in most of the music I listen to, but it's the same in the most human acts I am encountering of lately. You can find a very deep analysis, a search for detail (sometimes), a conceptual and reiterative attitude of the concept of the tool for. One thing is true: Music always represents what we are. Unfortunately what we are is not very thick and deep and aware. And we don't dream. And we still see emotions as something for the weak ones.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Well, I don't know. Is there a tradition in trying to express emotions ? I see myself as someone who is looking for a deeper way.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What “inspires” you?
Everything that makes me wish that it can continue to happen. You are making me think that the most powerful inspiration gets its energy from trying to make a feeling stay longer. Playing with certain musicians is also a great inspiration, especially when they are taking me to places that I wouldn't be able to reach when I'm alone. These explorations are precious presents that leave consistent traces in me.

How would you describe your method of composing?
Intuitive? It doesn't necessarly mean improvisation.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
This is very interesting, I've never thought about contraposing these two terms. What is needed to make a composition? Is sound in itself enough to be called a composition ? In which way do sounds have to differ and develop to be allowed to be called a composition? Pitch, timbre and time. How many sounds do you need to express an evocative potential ? Is texture hiding a melody ? Nice question you are asking, I am sorry not to have an answer. But sometimes a lingering question is more useful than an answered one. I think this is the case here.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Ever since I started playing, I mainly use improvisation to compose, I think it is the best way to explore. Sometimes this brings me to an idea that becomes the main theme on which I later play other layers or it becomes the basic root which I use to develop a complete structure. Often, there is no trace of this root left at the end. I improvise or, more precisely, I go through intuition, to find the most spontaneous way to bring out the music, or to let her reveal its direction. Composing is composing, it doesn't matter to me which way you do it. All the meaning is in the result.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?

I think to this like a painting in which there is a different way to use colours or tools or perspective, never seen before but completely coherent and functional to the emotional intention. Substitute painting with playing, colours with notes and noises, tools with sounds and perspective with space, then add time but leave emotional intention.

Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
I've had many chances to play on silent movies, in art galleries, or in video/visual art situations; there can be some magic in this. I remember when I played on “The passion of Joanne d'Arc”, the old silent movie by T.Dryer, there was a moment when I cried. The strength of the music combined with the movie was incredible. I think music has the role to push the listener against the image and keep him there, alone with himself. It is an act of love. I am pretty violent on this, but I use soft sounds to caress your back. The interesting thing is that visuals can distract the listener from music. This is not necessarly bad as there is always a certain “resistance” to open the unconscious to external stimulations, especially when they are as abstract like music is. While visuals are keeping listeners busy thanks to the confidence they have with what seems more “controllable” to them, we can sometimes let music grow in them without any conscious resistance. The best multimedia experience is available and accessible by anyone: Tt comes from our sensitivity and depends just on our availability to lend our senses to the evocative potential of the music.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Building a different place. Tricking the audience’s sense of time and maybe losing it. And, once again, to be trapped by your emotions. These are the feelings that show a good performance. These are the feelings I would like to offer to those who come to listen to a gig. When I perfom I usually try to feel myself as a humble medium, like music is.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
We could talk about this for hours. There are many reasons that can bring someone to play music; are there good reasons and bad ones ? I am a little scared about thinking about the reply and I'm not sure how useful it would be to explore this theme. We could come up with the result that a lot of excellent music had been done with no reason more than the will to play it, so we may risk to miss something precious just for a matter of justification. I think that a musician has to be honest both to himself and, even more importantly, to the followers of his music, but I am afraid this is another point that would suffer when applied to the real world... The more I play the more I understand there is a social meaning in what I do. It is not the driver of my playing, but I do find that it comes up more and more. In fact, we can say that “Subterraneans” was an album which is playing with the various level of shade and the will to go deeper, hoping to encourage the listener to explore its deepest side. “Tacet” goes on taking another angle; it is about recreating the sense of the interval, the sense of flowing. There is no scream, there is no conceptual thesis, there is a silenced voice suggestion, an offer to take the listener’s hand to bring him to feel a different level of silence. To make him listen to his own voice.

I'm not sure these thoughts already existed when I started to work on these two albums but I am sure that I have gotten aware of what I was trying to express when I was in the middle of the process already. This is another thing I love in music: sometimes you do one thing without fully understand it, thing that can happen later.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
With the commitment of people that make this music considered more “normal” than it is. What you are doing on Tokafi is an excellent example. The real problem is that many people see music as a leisure to let them feel lighter, they really don't need or want to listen to music which requires the listener to “be there” as an essential part of it. I decided not to make music my source of living for this very reason: I want to be free to make just the music I want. Unless you are very, very lucky, you can't do this if you eat with your musical activity. I want to protect the sense of music, to let it continue to have the incredible potential that it has on me, making me feel so lucky for this.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I have created and directed a festival that went on for 6 editions. It was all dedicated to solo guitar players. Each edition consisted of 3 concerts, each of them was made by two solo sets by two very different musicians. The goal was to trap listener and make them listen to a completely different music the same night they arrived to listen to their favourite one. So we had a blues man playing the same night as a classical guitar player, a free improvisor playing the same evening after a fingerpicker and so on. I had a great time then, many people had been going out from the concerts with a sense of doubt, which was a great achievement for me. In Italy we suffer from music classification in “genres”, many people keep listening the same kind of music for all of their life, they never look back, they never consider the possibility of a “lucky accident”.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I am trying to understand it. When I get the idea, it immediately changes, so I may say that I am chasing moving feelings.

Subterraneans (Auditorium) 2003
Tacet (Extreme) 2007


Luca Formentini
Luca Formentini at MySpace

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