Fantasy Notes Interview with Italian composer Tiziano Bedetti

What does music mean to you personally?

The music is an universal language that allows you to communicate with others people, breaking down any social, cultural, dialectical and geographical obstacle. It is probably the only authentically democratic thing we have within everyone’s reach. Personally, the music takes up a long time of my day between composing, teaching, studying, researching, listening and reading; it is always a form of inner improvement and enrichment, reflection, sharing and exchange with people.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Yes, partly I am agree, music is definitely fantasy and imagination; the pedagogy should incites the capability of musical fantasy in the students and help to emerge their creativity, teaching them to image the music with the own internal ear. But we can not reduce the music only to a fantasy’s issue: in the case of a musician who performs a piece, he would not be able to properly read a score without practice and know well the technique; either, for a composer who writes a new work. In fact, in the composition writing, beyond fantasy, there is always a good component of rationality, where craftsmanship is indispensable for verifying and correcting the first unrefined material. Craft differentiates the professional from the naïf and the musical amateur. The self-criticism sense allows the author to make of an extemporary idea dictated by his inspiration and improvisation, a solid work by an accomplished sense, able of an independently “life”. In the writing of a piece, the stage of control and verification depends on the expertise acquired by an author, for this, it is important for a beginner composer, learn deeply the composition subjects, just so in the future, he can have more expertise to verify and correct his scores. As the painter J. Braque said:<< I love the rule that corrects the emotion and emotion that corrects the rule>>.

If you were not a professional musician, would would you have been?

When I was a child, I had a certain predisposition to the drawing and I wanted to become a painter. So that, at eight years, I even wrote to Salvador Dalì, sending him my first “surrealist style drawings” and asking if he could give me some suggestions! … I also tried to meet him in Spain but by then, he was too old and sick to be able to receive visits …it was a great pity! Meanwhile, I began to pass on the music that, later, became my first interest. Coming from an artistic environment, I probably would have remained in that creative field, perhaps embracing seriously painting, graphics or design … I wonder!…

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

It is not only the public that ages but it is the “music system” that risks to be self-referential, too closed in itself, in its rituals and habits. The Conservatory and Academy courses develop an excessive “contest mentality” in a student by bringing him to work on technical perfection, at the expense of creativity and a deep knowledge of music that forms him as a true “master of himself”; I often see students repeating repertoire pieces like “parrots”, showing great technique but then… they don’t understand the composer’s thought, they have any idea of the harmony, form, counterpoint, they are not authentic musicians but they are “imitators”, copies of someone else, living in a world full of superficiality, lack of culture, and a frivolous cult of image ….This mentality can lead to great flattening and cause many frustrations if those musicians that does not reach the goal of winning at all costs the major musical competitions. This may influence to much a student whom should be taught to reason with his own head, trying to develop a different ways of making music, especially in relation to the others, because making music is a social activity that allows to be in touch with people and grow humanly. A society that is only tared on the competitiveness (so if you are not the first, you are an excluded) loses the true meaning of making music but also the “sense of life”; the world of music is full of musicians who do not feel to be up because they did not win that important competition, because they were not engaged by that prestigious agency, because they have not recorded a cd for that famous label, because they have not become quite famous and consequently, they may discharge their frustrations into the others: a society based only on competitiveness, appearance, cult of image and empty contents, is a society that does not go to nowhere, destined to create everyday anthropological disaster!

The second problem is of an ethical nature, the world of music and entertainment, in general, is very often in the hands of a small “establishment” that imposes choices and interpreters (sometimes very disputable choices) and which is not capable of renewal. They impose, from the top, an artist as an unquestionable truth, but at the same time as export goods, creating a fetishism and idolatry. But very often this choice is not arrived from the people in a democratic way, but from an oligarchy (not democratic neither aristocratic). We have often the case that an artist, enaught rich or well recommended, is a good investment because put in pawn his money, in this way became in few time a star!
Very often, we have to deal with accountants, managers who think more about how to make their business and earn always more with already well-know artists, rather to notice the world around them: the name is the guaranty of their earnings, an unknow young talent (withouth money), no! It is not good, young talent people have the right to have spaces to perform, many good musicians have lost their enthusiasm and interest in music, often changing job because they have no space to work! There is a whole system that would be renewed beginning from TV and radio programs that should do a big educational promotion and diffusion of classical music; instead, it has always less and less space, many orchestras and theaters are closing, young artists are not paid or they have only engaged into a theatrical seasons when they are too old. Same thing happens into the field of publishing, a profession that, for the myopy of certain people, is disappearing: many editors, often conditioned by politics and wrong choices, are closing their activities because they were not able to follow the changing of this time and the society….a piece of historical firms is going to the devil, some people, instead to hold salon, should do an examination of their’s conscience, confess, and act a “mea culpa”! At the end, criticism …. we are not talking about the later category where for many many years we have had those who dictated law, constructing and destroying the careers: there are authors, unjustly left in the shadow that still cry to “vengeance”, because snubbed by criticism and publishers. But now, people, thanks to internet, begin to understand, select, research, and find out how things really are, they realizes the lies that have been passed on as truth, the falsification of reality and deceptions done.
Why is there no more space for everyone? If there is more democratic space for everyone, since music is the most democratic thing we have, there would also be more public that would interest in classics and concerts and more potential music users. But what the national televisions do? Instead of making culture and spreading, they lower the level and quality of programs, put the concerts at improper night shift, so classical music becomes a more and more restricted circle, as if it were a something “forbidden”! Television is became a surrealistic anachronistical waxworks! Hey, friends, let’s go to occupy more space, this we are entitled to!
This way to schedule the tv shows, according to the logic of the audience, must be completely eradicated. But do you think the people who make up the audience are really stupid? Today, people are educated, well informed and not like to be tease. In addition, the conductors, musicians, critics and industry operators should have an another way of making and overcoming those “dated” rituals. In my opinion, knowing how present a program directly to the people, acquaint more the public (as Leonard Bernstein knew how to do), inviting the young audience to follow the classical concerts and showing them how to construct a representation, involve them in workshops and educational activities where they themselves are protagonists, is crucial. It is also decisive to search for a new and intelligent repertoire, different programs, not the usual music, this would also benefit the rediscovery of unjustly forgotten authors. New forms of comunication are decisive, in addition to the traditional concert, to raise interest and cultivate a new audience and educate persons to the taste of the beautiful. I’m confident because there are so many young people who are interested in music and surely over time, they will know how to change this widespread mentality and rewrite the history of music over the last hundred years, putting all the missing mosaic tesseras in place.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

The role of classical music, in every era of history, has taken many nuances in different contexts. Now seems we are come back to a “pre-Gutenberg era” where composers manuscripts are spreading withouth editors and in a “pre-radio and television era”, where live performances come back to be the most important thing. In the past, music was almost exclusively tied to the commission of the church and the aristocracy; printed books were a prerogative of few and who had the possibility to buy them. The advent of opera theaters and public concerts opens the music to a wider and heterogeneous audience. As time passed, with the development of publishing, buying a book become easier and within everyone’s reach. In the 20 century, with technologies for the reproduction of records and compact disks, classical music become part of an industrial process. Today, music has exceed any barrier and filter through media, radio, internet TV, I pods and mobile phones. Certainly, the classical music has an important role today and can create new communities of sharing and aggregating through internet, bringing people closer to its world: this is, definitely, a great opportunity to educate listeners, give incentive, create interest, I think it all this is very positive. In addition, music can help people to develop greater sensitivity, grow on the human plane and improve themselves; it is well-known by scientific studies that, at young age, music help to create a mental space and cognitive processes. In some of the poorest countries, music can still be an authentic form of social redemption, if we think of the Abreu system in South American countries and some recent projects of youth orchestras in the most difficult areas of the Middle East. But even in Europe, in the periphery of the cities, music can help to redeem young and remove them from the street, the drug, the underworld and violence, from the negative influences of the “bad masters”.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

I think classical music today needs to shake off all those conditioning, rituals, all those ideologies, “encrustations” that have characterized and labeled it in the last fifty years. As I said before, a certain way of thinking from the agencies to the theaters, festivals, competitions, editors, record-companies and criticism did not benefit the music, for too long closed in itself and made an “asphyxiating”, “under cellophane world”, labeled “as a supermarket dish“ (for example, the division into classical, ancient, jazz, pop, rock kinds for the sake of trade .…) Music does not have labels and divisions, there is good music and there is bad music. Anyway, a lot of ˝well packed trash˝ goes today into the publications, records cd, tv, radio broadcasts… Since we have heard too much of unpalatable and insipid dishes, now we want to return to the “Gasthaus” (tavern) and enjoy real food! We have said that an interpreter should go out of Academy and seek new ways of making music, being more communicative. Also in the composition, a musician should learn to think with “his own head” and not be conditioned by what is required to demonstrate in that contest or to wink that publisher or critic and what they expect of him.
Unfortunately, I find that there is so much “art” and so much “less authentic music” and so many authors seeking compromises, putting togheter collage without personality or hiding their shortcomings behind complex, farraginous systems that only them understand. This because? Because many arrogants, taking command posts of public life, wanted to make “tabula rasa” of the culture of the past, which became an unnecessary burden to be eliminated; so, for somebody, also the teaching of composition became useless, thus precluding to the unaware students the possibility of self-criticism, understanding of history, becoming “masters of themself”, in accord with who wish create a society of “rag dolls”, easy to control. Without the past, there is no future; without thinking people, where is no planning; in the last fifty years, we have seen experimentation in such absurd contemporary music, an masochist ars subtillor with scores full of pictograms and drawings, untill the extinction of sound in silence or the liquidation of the individual creativity pro machines and artificial brain. Even today, we can find strange characters who speak incomprehensible languages, have their own circle of “adepts”, able to package fiascos and eat state subsidies, that could be terrifying surrealism, instead is a reality! Compliments!
Until recently, a composer to make himself known had to go through certain filters, such as the music contest and the publisher. If you did not write with a style that is geared to a kind of technicality that was compliant with the jurors of competitions or editorial boards, you risked not having any space. This is not democracy, it a kind of totalitarism! In the history of music, the most courageous authors went against the rocks, did not care to please the system-critical critique (even at the cost of isolation), just to think to Eric Satie and his pungent words about those music critics who they denigrated his scores! …. Fortunately, today there is internet, music spreads without censorship, try to gag the composers again if you can!

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Surely the composer should be a creative and not one who plays only with systems, numbers, tables …. Olivier Messiaen said:<< I also did the combinatorial, I also did musical research, but I always try that this does not to be bad for the sound quality […] is not enough for a work to be interesting, it has to be interesting, it should be nice to hear and it must be touching. These are three different qualities … >>.
Music certainly has many affinities with math but it is a creative language. Stravinsky said:<< A “experiment” means something in the scientific field; does not mean anything in the musical composition. No good composition can simply be “experimental”; or it is music or it is not >>. For me, creativity is a good substance of the piece I write, the other part is the result of a work of reflection and filing, craftsmanship, what is part of experience.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

Classical music, not reinvigorated by the suggestions of our time from the inside, has ended its social function and becomes a “sound museum”. Demolishing the fences help us to understand the evolution of music throught the popular idioms, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Dvořák spoke current common language combining cultured competence with popular. As I said, I do not know what is the sense to perform the same repertoire: the great conductors or interpreters of the past have always performed a lot of new music. The interpreter had the curiosity to play the music of his time and to be the first user and supporter of the new music. But let’s go back to the first problem, who is really prepared today to deal with the reading of a new score? Who knows how to understand and analyze the new scores with dexterity, to deal with any repertoire with ease? Instead, coming back to the concept of “caste” division (the classification of genres and skills to distinguish between classical, ancient, contemporary, light music) it more easy, for somebody, see the things with the blinkers and restrict the field. But, music is not classifiable with a tag as into the supermarket.
A great challenge for the composer, too, will revitalize his art through a careful analysis of society. For whom am I writing? Which messages do I want to send? Am I playing my time?

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite pieces (written by you) How did you start working on it?

The String Quartet No. 1 “Dance” was my “first work” of a certain importance in which, even after nearly twenty years, I recognize me; commissioned by the american patron Lawrence Dow Lovett, may be the first authentic manifestation of my aesthetics. In this piece, I began to investigate the influences between popular music and classical language, shalling treasure of the lesson of the great composers who wrote for quartet from Haydn to Beethoven, from Mendelssohn to Bartók, from Dvořák and Janáček to Erwin Schulhoff. Precisely to this last author, I feel close to his thinking, continuing to pursue some of his intuitions bringing up-to-date. Schulhoff had well understood, since the beginning of the twentieth century, what could be the antidote at the wear and tear of musical language, renewing his music not with abstract research and combinatorial systems but through an evolution of the mitteleuropean tradition, achieved through the incorporation of elements from the emerging popular folklore (jazz, blues) and dances of his time (fox trot, charleston, tango). Schulhoff tried to update the music by searching for a new “common language”, not with an esperanto artificially built by a certain type of the avant-garde (which had to replace the previous language and shine in the coming centuries) but using the idioms and neologisms spoken by everyone: his was a democratic vision of music (also the philosopher Theodor Adorno former spoke about a “wear and tear” of contemporary music language, well fifty years ago!…) Schulhoff had the right concept of music, directly handed by Dvořák, who soon discovered a great epochal social change and the dawn of the rising popular music “From the New World”.
On the other hand, Carl Orff himself asserted that “music is renewed through the dance”.
In addition, the swiss composer and teacher Jaques Dalcroze, who hoped for a renewal of musical rhythm and dance, were equally interesting for me, recognizing how much they were indissolubly linked to one another. Even today, few people understand the fundamental concepts of music and these subtle mixes between cultured and popular that have always characterized it. For an author, attempting to “take the plunge” requires an absolute mastery of the profession, a good deal of courage and creativity; what that many composers no longer have, trying to write in an “actual” style of “avant-garde manierism” that can still please some commissioners in the competition juries and obtain approval by the establishment, but is certainly, not the future of the music.
Also in my Trio for Clarinets, written for the professors of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, there is a search in the sense I said before, where the rhythms of popular music (in this case of South American folk), dialogue with the spirit of “classicism”, represented by the initial theme, thus combining the sonata form with a current “talk”. In this piece, there is also a special attention to the counterpoint which sees in the second part the develop of some canons and in the last movement a double fugue (indeed, the Adornian criticism to the industry folk music, characterized by an euro centric vision of history of music appears now old fashioned and surpassed by new position of the researchers Richard Middleton, Franco Fabbri and Max Paddison). I also would like to quote my Venetian DNA, where Venetian identity emerges unexpectedly with a new force. This track has always been very successful with the public and the interpreters and has been performed in different versions in many countries of the world, including Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France, USA, Japan, Mongolia, South America, Italy etc. Finally, I would like to mention the Fantasia Caucasica, written for pianist Ketevan Sepashvili and commissioned by Tino Zahedi, deep connoisseur of Caucasian traditions and ethnic music; there, I investigated popular worlds not well known as the folklore of the Ubykhs, of the Adyge, Circassians around the Georgia drawing closer to some research on the traditions of the Caucasus once made by Kachaturian, Prokofiev and Mosolov

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Surely, the combination with different disciplines helps to better understand music in relation to other arts, the context and environment for which some compositions have been written. In fact, I could not think to Debussy without Monet, Hokusai and the Japanese prints, to Scriabin without Kandinskij, to Schoenberg without the artistic current “Der Blaue Reiter”, to Stravinsky without Picasso, to Anton Webern without Mondrian, to Morton Feldman without Rotko to Ligeti without Brancusi and Maurits Cornelis Escher, to Steve Reich without the optical paintings. Art feeds itself of an other art, it is a testimony of its own time and is intertwined with a thousand suggestions, from painting, to poetry, to dance, to philosophy, to nature, etc. A musician has to be fed on readings, frequentations in the field of poetry, literature, philosophy and figurative arts. I find that Moving Classic TV is really a beautiful innovative project that gives space to the creativity, open to all musicians without barring, aimed by a democratic sharing of experiences and music.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

If I would suggest to a young people who want discover classical music as starting to get an idea, I would recommend to watch Leonard Bernstein’s music lessons for American television broadcasts and reading his book, “The Joy of Music.” I would also like to offer listening guides and understandable analyzes even for non-professionals, sometimes even starting a collection of discs or cds through an encyclopaedia on booklets also purchased on a newspaper kiosk (in Italy we have often magazines sold with compact discs enclosed), can be a simple starting point. I would like suggest to create some selected listening from the music repertoire and then, based on the favourite historical periods or authors to deepen through more demanding readings, monographs of composers. If you discover to have predisposition and attitude, you can start practicing one or more instruments, it is never too late to do so: music has no barriers or borders.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

Classical music, in the various ages, still has an “appearance of consumption” as it is enjoyed by a certain audience; with the advent of the press, it was possible to buy the composer’s scores, with the emergence of the opera theater, the opera became the first “entertainment” industry well before of the cinema. In the last century, it became part of a wider consumption, we think that the records of the tenor Enrico Caruso have become the first “hit parades” of the classic, with millions of discs sold. Subsequently, most of the known repertoire of the classical music will be recorded. Today’s technology has also led to a decrease in sales and profits as consequence of downloading music for free, copying sheet music, duplicating discs or downloading them directly from the internet that it has become very easy.
This relationship of sale and consumption has always been in the classical style, the great composers can create masterworks also for a popular audience (Mozart’s Magic flute, for example). Selling compositions today, in the sense of recording a cd or publish a paper book, has been surpassed. I started to make a name for myself with the classical printed publications
going to knock the door to the publishers. Then I recorded CDs, finally I put my music on the internet and had an unexpected worldwide disclosure.
I think today it is very important for a composer to make a name for himself with the spread of his music in concerts, media, radio, digital platforms and portals, beyond the search for immediate profit.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

My kind of audience is heterogeneous, you can find the classic music enthusiast of all ages but not only, who has the curiosity to listen to the new music, to get interested in an event. I’m glad that my music has been appreciated and performed in the most disparate places and listened by many people. Expectations are to continue writing to the audience and the interpreters, to create a new repertoire because it is amusing working for good and gives me satisfaction.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I’m working on a new ballet with Olga Aru, choreographer and first dancer of the Moscow Ballet. A preview has been staged this year in the state of New York, and see an Italian premiere, in 2018. I continue to write various kinds of music for different chamber organics, transcriptions and elaborations of my previous compositions. I have in mind also a new cycle of songs for voice and instruments on various poetic and literary texts of past authors but also contemporaries like Mario Fratti, Italian-american writer and broadway author. Yes, I do, I always experiments every new piece I compose….but using “common sense” and good taste. The Italian composer Goffredo Petrassi also said: << The piece is not necessary good if it uses complicated procedures, counts the result >>.My old teacher Bruno Bettinelli said that a composer must have: <<The rigorous sense of a dignity that allows him to reject completely compromises of all kinds, even at the cost of being isolated and out of the influences of certain “circles”, or “clans” of dubious extraction>>.