The first question is always the classic one: how does your love and interest for guitar start and what instruments do you play or have you played?
My love for music and guitar began at home, in a small town in Italy. There was a guitar lying around in my house and I started getting becoming curious about it. The whole thing was a bit random, because my mom signed me up for a class at the local library when I was about 12; and I liked it right away and started taking lessons regularly. I played the trumpet for a little bit, but I realized it was too much work to practice two instruments that were so different from each other. I practice piano regularly, not to perform, but to compose and look at and understand harmony differently. I also play the baritone guitar.
What was your musical training, which teachers have you studied with and what impression they left in your music?
I started with some classical guitar studies and then moved to blues and jazz pretty early on. In Italy, I studied with Dario Volpi and Sandro Gibellini. In the US, I studied for about a year with John Schott (in California) and he that was great--. I was also studying with him at a crucial point of my life, when I was thinking about singularly focusing only on music. When I was in Boston, I studied with Jon Damian, who pretty much revolutionized the way I understand and approach harmony for the guitar. I also studied worked with Dave Tronzo and he’s been a great influence on me, not only musically, but also on how to handle being a musician.
How is situation in New York? Is it still the underground music’s cradle?
New York is an amazing city and being here keeps you me alert and creative. There’s a lot of music and a lot of inspiration, so it’s a great place to be if you are a musician (of any kind). It’s getting very expensive and that is not good for us. Musicians have to teach a lot or work day jobs just to make ends meet, and it’s tough to find all the necessary time to spend on your instrument and on composing. It’s also becoming almost impossible to take a band on the road. I have seen a shift in these seven years I lived here. Venues are closing down, everything is moving to Brooklyn (which is great, because I live in Brooklyn), but now even that's getting expensive. We’ll have to see… I think it’s still great, but maybe not as feasible a place for artists as it was 15-20 years ago.
OST Quartet is your last record, can you tell us something about it? What was the project behind it and how did you get in contact with the Italian independent label Setola di Maiale ?
When I started thinking about OST Quartet, I wanted to focus on improvisation, sound design and acoustic instruments. On this record I play a hollow body electric guitar that sounds very acoustic and I use it mostly as a “prepared guitar”. For this project, I really wanted musicians that could go anywhere, sonically and improvisationally. I talked to Eli Asher first; I definitely wanted him on board for this for new project. Then we rehearsed quite a bit with Greg Chudzik and Devin Gray. During these rehearsals I would try to point out the direction I wanted, without saying too much, as I wanted them to feel very free. They really understood my intentions and I am very proud of the result. I like to think this of as some kind of “acoustic sound design”.
My connection with Setola di Maiale was pretty random. I was talking about the project with fellow Brooklyn musician Gian Luigi Diana and he suggested this label. Then I contacted Stefano Giust, who runs the label, and he liked the project and decided to publish it.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
Improvisation is crucial for my music research. I like improvising when I am working on compositions too,; I find that I enter a space where I can try anything or give myself limitations in order to express some concepts I am working on. I also like meeting new musicians through improvising together, especially in a duo setting.
The second question has a rather large scope. We can agree that we can talk about improvisation for classical music, we can think about “ricercare” or the well know improvisational skills of classical composers (Bach, etc.). The conversation can become more detailed if we start thinking about what improvised work means, ontologically, and how improvisation can be found in interpretations of written scores.
.... continues tomorrow