WITH LUCA LONGOBARDI
During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to Italian composer and performer Luca Longobardi, who has just released one of what might be a capolavoro, 1751.
So, tell us about latest release, 1751, what is it about and how was it born?
1751 represents the culmination of a research on Baroque compositional practice I have started in 2017. The study of music is a broad-spectrum cognitive path which through interpretations, reinterpretations, and manipulations of the rules investigates the expressive canons of seventeenth-centuryism. The album is built on two very specific axioms placed together: on one hand the baroque proportion of forms seen in its interplay between parts, and on the other the singularity of melodic fragments that assume, in a macroscopic vision, their own autonomous architectural identity. 1751 therefore sinks its DNA in this geometric reconstruction. This presents the album almost as a large instrumental electronic suite, a single act that moves through an articulated flow of experimentation and formal purism. The album also marks my return as a classical interpreter: four sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti performed on the piano are in fact present in the album, with the aim to stylistically support the original compositions that instead move exclusively within electronic experimentation and sound design.
Baroque music has survived over the centuries thanks to its in-temporal quality; indeed it is a music which adjusts itself well to changes of instruments, performance and canons. Was that something that you had in your mind, particularly with your own approach to music three centuries later?
Baroque music really places the notes at the centre, them becoming melody and fitting into harmony perfectly regulated by numbers and interrelated processes. And although this system seems strongly castrating for the interpretation it is exactly the opposite. The composition was often written without indicating a specific ensemble as a performer or even a specific instrument. Which means that the interpreter had to glimpse between one note and the other what could really represent the best of the performance compared to the composer's thought who left this freedom to the instrumentalist. In my personal approach to baroque compositional techniques, I preferred to use analog or complex instruments such as modular systems to allow myself a similar freedom in timbre and sound design in the live performances of the compositions.
To you, what does baroque music mean, in 2022?
It means freedom of action, construction skills, expressive solidity. Today, is baroque everything that in the most total creativity expresses a thought free to be interpreted without ever being deprived of its uniqueness.
With 1751, you wear the double hat of composer and interpreter. Tell us about how you approached this; from the mindset, the processes and the challenges?
I wanted to represent in an effective and clear way the approach I have in writing the reworks, which are often at the centre of the soundtracks of the immersive shows for which I write. The rework is a process of total assimilation of a piece, of the characteristics of its author, of the space it represents in the artist's production. A profound study that must metabolise a piece of art and must bring to your attention the most evident feature, that imprint recognisable to anyone. In 1751 there are no reworks but the two processes presented simultaneously: on the one hand my approach to the interpretation of Scarlatti's sonatas, on the other my transporting into contemporary compositional structures and sound design the way in which the composers of that epoch composed their works. In the case of Scarlatti there is a real consequentiality of the discourse to the point that in Aria (à la manière de Scarlatti) the melodic purity is typical of that period while the different timbral study is evident.
Over five years of work for 1751, yet multiple side projects and artistic achievements. How have they affected your creative process, has one of them influenced the album more than the others?
Certainly and most of the inputs were non-musical. In the last 3 years I have deepened my multimedia production more and more and worked more and more focusing on immersive production. Although I followed a tracklist scheme outlined right away, the inputs have more to do with the colour of the tracks, their duration, sometimes the orchestration itself. For example, “Mutation #1” is the first track on the album I composed. It was written to accompany Ginevra Napoleoni's performance “Pieghe”. It was expected to be on the album right away but then it was also chosen for the soundtrack of the immersive show on the Vatican which premiered on October, 7 in Boston. I then revisited, enriched, adapted it keeping in mind where you start from and where I wanted it to come from. And this is the compositional sense I was talking about before: the recorded version, with its ad hoc orchestration, accompanies the images to which it is inevitably linked, but if I were to play it live again for a resumption of the performance, it would go back to being interpreted in different way because it fits that circumstance.
Your musical style has quite evolved over the years; how are you driven by change? Is it something that you consciously decide or rather do you let yourself be moved by your own experience?
I follow my expressive urgency, I write and play what I feel like writing and playing. I just think to be as sincere and genuine as possible because I think it is the only way to have a voice of your own.
So after 1751, what’s next?
A very challenging project that is close to being completed and published: it is about Mozart and I had the pleasure and honour of working with a full symphony orchestra, a choir and magnificent soloists. I think there is no better feeling than hearing your own music performed by a multitude of talents.
Thanks very much Luca. It is a tradition now, so last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
Book: Scultori di Suono by Daniela Cascella (there is no English version though); Album: Satsuma Sunday by Elin Piel; Film: I do not watch many films I am afraid…
There is a lot to take from baroque music, which seems to skim through the years unaffected by the times. If 1751 is any statement of its own, it its indeed the one that baroque is still relevant to us, and that more than three centuries after its pinnacle, it continues to inspire and influence artists! Read my review of 1751.