WITH MASSIMO NATALI
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 Massimo Natali. The pianist takes some time to tell us about himself and how he is developing his post-minimalistic language.
Massimo, tell us about yourself.
I am twenty-four and I studied piano in two Italian conservatories of music. During my experience in Pesaro, I discovered the American composer Philip Glass; after this discovery, I always tried to combine classical and contemporary composers in my concerts. The next step for me was then to start composing my own music.
What is the story behind Nobody’s Home, your latest release?
Nobody’s Home deals with the weakness of memory and the attempt to face the loss of a loved one. I try to remember loved ones and past situations by going to the place where they used to live; the people are no longer there, but the place and objects remain. Returning after many years to an empty house and looking at the same objects gabve me a sense of melancholy because the past cannot return. Memories are vague and confused. I was afraid to go back to that place, but I had to do it to accept this loss and move forward.
How did you start composing your own music?
I have always played the piano and I have always wanted to compose, but I really started only a few years ago when my grandfather—who was my mentor in music—died. Composing seemed like a new way to establish a contact with him; this was a very strong push.
How would you describe your music and your approach to it?
I always try to compose starting from existing experiences. I have to hear whether the song expresses a clear and understandable language, and this happens when I manage to focus well on the mood I want to convey.
Tell us about your creative process—how do you operate?
I usually try to identify a mood and sometimes adapt it within a theme, more often through a rhythm or in a series of chords. Starting from this minimal core, I build the architecture of the piece which can literally be a composition of individual blocks. However, I have no limits about my creative process: it has happened that entire pieces were born of a single improvisation; each piece is a world of its own.
What about minimalism—your music demonstrates a real passion for minimalism and post-minimalism. How did you develop your musical syntax and vocabulary?
When I was studying at the Conservatory I focused a lot on Bach's music, which I had a great fondness for. Then I discovered Glass and studied his piano music and his works for piano and orchestra. During the process of composition I look for order and rigour—and that often results in the need to add a third or fourth voice, also on the piano; I learned that from Bach. In Glass I found a contemporary harmonic language and a compositional pattern technique that inspired me a lot.
The piano seems to be your instrument of choice—are you looking at composing for other instruments?
I have always lived music through the piano so it is definitely the musical instrument I cannot do without. However, I do not exclude writing in the future for other instruments as well.
So after Nobody’s Home what’s next?
More piano music of course! I already have some ideas to develop, and then some experiments that I will publish if they are successful; I want to follow other paths without changing my identity.
Thanks very much Massimo. Last one for the road—one book, one album, one film—tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
I am reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; a choice of album, I would say Ghosteen by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; and a movie: Roma by Alfonso Cuarón.
Bouncing on Massimo’s words; A great way to understand Glass’ musical language is the study of his twenty études for piano! Read my review of Nobody's Home.