During this interview, I change seat, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to Italian composer Feryanto. The pianist takes some time to tell us about himself and his first album We Are Infinite; an opportunity for the composer to talk about his approach and his views on creating music.
Feryanto, there is very little known about you; tell us about yourself!
My first contact with music happened very early, when I was about four. Sometimes, I think that it was the music that met me but obviously it was the other way around. I grew up in an environment very rich in musical stimulations: my mother could read music, my brother and my sister both played violin, and my father has always been an expert in classical and modern music. Thanks to them I quickly developed myself and my approach to music, as well as my capacity for listening. I had my very first experience of sound on an instrument with and thanks to Maria Rezzo, a great piano teacher who was very skilled at developing a fantastic synergy with young pianists—including the very very young ones. With her pupils, she was able to experience a different way of studying, keeping a solid sound dialog between the parents and the children. This way of teaching music led me to see the study of music like a game. A game that I chose to play for the rest of my life.
There is a very philosophical background in We Are Infinite? How did you approach the translation of these ideas in music?
I like to think that although things have a beginning and an end we can make them endless; infinite. Life at a certain point stops and people leave, but through memories, thoughts, transmission, transcription etc. we can bring them back, for eternity. In music it’s the same; the notes that we have are limited, but through different sounds and through combining different instruments, nuances of colours and tones etc. the creative possibilities are huge, endless and infinite. And on top of all, sound is everywhere: in space with the black holes, the sound of the rain and of nature in general, the silence as a sound event…
Talking about the background of the album; tell us about the influences and triggers for We Are Infinite.
We Are Infinite is a sound landscape and musical journey. The architecture of the nine tracks develops on melodic cells and short rhythmical figures over which the creative speech of repetitions is developed, while the harmonic and tone content evolves to create the expressive spirit of the album—with the help of electronics and influenced by classical and popular music.
How did you approach the composing of the pieces?
My approach is a sort of Debussy-esque impressionism. I always look for continuous sound and colour possibilities; i.e. through games of wave and dialogues between the wind and the sea. I have studied Cage’s works, and thanks to him my music has developed as controlled improvisations; using Gamut’s techniques—where a range of sound indications is defined and chosen, like abstract and modular objects—and then inserted within a piece of music. I put together mnemonic processes linked to the experience of listening and the action of sound. I look for the creation of a continuous musical ground, done through slow melodic undulations aimed at being considered almost as pictorial. I have a conception of tempo similar to oriental aesthetics, expressed by moments that repeat infinitely, similar or equal to themselves and following a circular motion.
What about the recording and the production?
I recorded the pieces of the album during Easter time, in only four days. It was a time of bad weather, and unfortunately the noise of the heavy rain and the street came into the microphones. I was waiting for the rain to stop to record; therefore some tracks have been performed and recorded in one take only and kept as such, because I was afraid that the rain would start again. The whole album was recorded by myself at my music school—MusicAvanguardia. The mastering has been done by my great friend Andrea Cerrato, and the album was released with Blue Spiral Records, from Naples.
Tell us about how you perceive music amongst the other arts.
The relationship between music and the other arts is very strong and has existed for a long time. In fact the language itself is a witness of it; i.e. some terms like tonality, colour, chromaticism, structure, are present in music as well as in the visual arts or architecture. Countless composers have taken inspiration from pictures: Liszt dedicated compositions to Michelangelo, Debussy to Botticelli, Cage to Duchamp and Mussorgsky to a whole exhibition. To me this link between colours and music is absolutely fundamental. My music often starts from a visual image, i.e. a tree or a landscape.
So after We Are Infinite, what’s next?
I am preparing new pieces for prepared piano, and for a trio of piano, bass and percussions. I would like to start a new project involving many musicians, and using instruments to explore new sound possibilities; a sort of orchestration of moods.
Thanks very much Feryanto. Last one for the road—one book, one album, one film—tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
Talking again about my beloved Debussy, I enjoyed a lot reading Debussy’s Daughter by Damer Luce. I love Christopher Nolan and all his movies, in particular Interstellar, though not the most recent. For those who like progressive rock I suggest to listen to Destrier by Agent Fresco. It is also mandatory to listen to Space by Nils Frahm, one of the most interesting composers and musician on the modern classical scene.
Bouncing on Feryanto’s words; Nils Frahm is indeed one of the giants of today’s contemporary classical music, a musician not to be missed! Read my review of We Are Infinite.