My compositional path (so far) goes through four aesthetic phases, the “romantic” one (1992-1995), the “surrealist” one (1995-2004), the “heroic” one (2002-2008) and finally the “cathartic” one (from 2010). During the first years of my artistic career, my compositional research sinks its roots in the classical tonal tradition and therefore turns towards the past, then it evolves, opening new perspectives for the future, in the direction of those who will later be the aesthetics of catharsis and the technique of pan-modality, formalized little by little between 2005 and 2013. The basic principle of my conception of contemporary music is the rejection of the “progressive” idea of musical novelty, according to which the only value criterion is the “new”, and the only way to find the “new” is to always go “beyond” and “forward”; on the contrary, I argue that the criterion of fundamental value is the “beautiful”, that it can and must be found both by traveling through old ways, and by looking for new ways, and that new ways can also be found along roads left unexplored in the exasperated race to the novelty undertaken by contemporary music in the twentieth century. Indeed, precisely in the fourth phase of my aesthetic evolution, the cathartic one, I come to formulate a new aesthetic theory and above all a new compositional technique, which surpasses and synthesizes the dualism between tonality and atonality.
1. Romantic phase (1992-1996)
The obvious question is: what sense is there in writing stylistic exercises, composing pieces using an aesthetics of the past? The answer is that music is timeless and that there is no aesthetics that is “better than the others” or that you have to follow and use. It is true that, in any particular historical period, it is possible to find an aesthetics that is more current or representative (that better reflects the “spirit of the time” and the current cultural situation), or more innovative and fertile than others. It is, however, necessary to be careful not to conclude that this aesthetics is “better” than the others. Very often composers (in particular those in the second half of the twentieth century) use this false argumentation to try to show that their pieces are superior only because of their being written according to a certain aesthetics. In reality, different aesthetics are expressions of different conditions of the human spirit and of an individual’s spirit, and so any single person in any historical or cultural context may find affinity with any kind of aesthetics. Consequently, a musical composition’s worth is not necessarily linked to an aesthetics that is innovative or up-to-date, but good music can be written even according to older or old-fashioned aesthetics, in the same way as very bad music can be written according to very new and up-to-date aesthetics.
In short, a composer can direct his creative work along two paths: he or she can try to define and use new aesthetics, or still write good music using older aesthetics. The second path has been followed by great composers throughout musical history, giving rise to undisputed masterpieces; one need only name, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninov and Morricone. In writing my romantic pieces, I, too, have complied with this tradition.
2. Surrealist phase (1995-2005)
After experimenting with romantic compositions, I tried to personalize my musical language and aesthetic position. I therefore followed the first path referred to above; that is, trying to find new, fertile technical means and aesthetic perspectives. The result was what I defined as “musical surrealism”. Surrealist principles consist, roughly speaking, of presenting elements and objects, in themselves recognizable and clearly defined, but whose meaning and context are transformed and transfigured through unusual-irrational-subconscious-subjective combinations, associations and visions of reality, rather than ordinary-rational-conscious-objective ones). I have always regretted that, after impressionism, there was not a real surrealist movement in music, as there was in art. Some composers are, in fact, often associated with surrealism; composers such as Erik Satie, Pierre Schaeffer, Robert Caby, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, for the reason that they use certain techniques that are typically surrealist, such as irony and paradox, unexpected and unusual contrasts and methods of writing that are automatic or mechanical. I try to realize surrealism in a different way, more similar to the visionary style of Dalì than to the “mechanical” or “paradoxical” techniques mentioned above: the “recognizable and clearly defined objects” are melodies and musical ideas, their translation and transfiguration comes from their collocation in a non-traditional harmonic-formal context.
The musical language I used to realize “my” surrealism in music is an evolution of impressionistic language, in which I try to systematize particular types of complex chords (up to elevenths and thirteenths of various types) by defining the structure and the different ways of combining them; in fact, I have united the most “extreme” aspects of Debussy (who mainly connected chords in non-tonal relationships, but used harmonies that were not particularly complex, such as perfect triads, and seventh or ninth chords) with those of Ravel (who mainly used more complex or more ‘impure’ chords than Debussy, but which were generally connected with more tonal relationships). The result is complex chords in non-tonal relationships.
3. Heroic phase (2000-2008)
The “heroic” compositions were influenced by my desire to get away from the mainly dreamy and intimate character of the “surrealist” pieces, and display a more dramatic and powerful nature. If the surrealist perspective implies that an artist is rather detached from the real world, the heroic viewpoint sees the composer questioning his position in the real world and the purpose of his work: following a typically romantic concept, the artist’s works reflect the contradictions and difficulties of the real world, and his exemplary efforts to deal with them and resolve them. In fact, the “heroic” composer today must combat the two nihilistic stylistic positions of the 20th century, namely the aesthetics of naïvety and the aesthetics of malaise, and surpass them by means of music which makes people feel again that they are tackling the difficulties and overcoming them, not merely speaking out and criticising them (aesthetics of malaise) or remaining quiet and ignoring them in a self-satisfied way (aesthetics of naïvety). These aspects were not formally defined until 2007, nor were the concepts of the “aesthetics of malaise” or the “aesthetics of naïvety” or the “heroic aesthetics”; in the meantime, these terms have been used here to describe the works that, although not written under the “flag” of the heroic aesthetics, already shared the same sense and idea.
As concerns the musical language and technique, a greater freedom in harmonic vocabulary and a more intense use of chromaticism are added to the elements described above for the surrealist compositions. In fact, the language in itself is not substantially different from the “surrealist” language, proving that a technique and a aesthetics do not necessarily imply each other (the same aesthetics can be created using different techniques, and the same technique can prove useful to express more than one aesthetics). Here, however, the language is used differently and deliberately to create a greater sense of drama and greater expressive intensity. These heroic compositions also contain my first examples of modal writing, and pre-announce my technique of pan-modality.
4. Cathartic phase/pan modality (from 2010)
The aesthetics of catharsis, and the technique of pan-modality which is its technical counterpart, have been elaborated little by little from 2005 to 2013. Since the project “ars modi – the art of the mode” is the concretization of catharsis and of the pan-modality, I consider in the cathartic phase only the works belonging to the project “ars modi – the art of the mode”. Here you can find the current texts that describe the aesthetics of catharsis, the pan-modality technique and the ARS MODI project:
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