Having released albums for now over twenty years, Bruno Sanfilippo can be considered as a pioneer of the (re)discovery of music combining classical intruments and modern experimentation. Here’s a talk with him, on the occasion of the release of his latest album “Unity“.
In recent times, many artists (re)discovered the sound of the piano, not only in a somehow “classic” context, while you’re playing it for over twenty years now: what do you think has changed in the general approach to the instrument?
It’s true that the piano has been a main character in music since its inception, but it’s also true that in recent years has attracted attention the number of new artists who present their recordings with this classic instrument. In the musical genre called “Modern Classical” or “Post Classical” or even in movie soundtracks, some great pianists like Ludovico Einaudi, Yann Tiersen, Michael Nyman or Ryuichi Sakamoto who have evidently influenced the new generation, note that even piano works by Erik Satie or Claude Debussy have regained some interest. The rest of the work is done by the industry promoting the sound of the piano and highlighting the purity that reflects the artist’s relationship with his instrument to the detriment of the music generated by the sequenced electronic instrumentation. Having that said, is there something trending? Probably.
Anyway, do you consider the piano as the ideal instrument to express your inspiration and feelings?
Yes, there was an old upright Pleyel piano in my parents’ house back in Buenos Aires when I was born, so that instrument became a great toy, even today it still is… that won’t change, music and piano are part of my personality in this adventure we call life. Many of my compositions begin on the piano, even if they aren’t finally played on that instrument, it’s very intuitive and inspiring for me, there is nothing to set before, just sit down and play on my keyboard.
Did you have a classical music training?
In Buenos Aires I trained as a musician, both in my piano studies at the Conservatory and attending courses focused on different aspects of music, such as Music for dance, theater and media.
Is there any artist you consider important in your musical formation or at least someone you feel close to your way of making music?
Well, I have always felt inspired by the work of Arvo Pärt, Claude Debussy or John Cage, but not only them, I am open to new things too…
For how definitions may mean…do you think that the one of “modern classical” could be appropriate for nowadays minimal approach to piano mixed with electronic music?
It’s not easy to aesthetically label (tag) music, especially in these times that style diversity abounds. I prefer to leave definitions to the press and the music industry, which logically need it.
What’s your ideal condition for writing music? Where does your inspiration generally come from?
My studio is like a temple to me, even though not everything is a spiritual issue, it’s about my work. Discipline is also needed to achieve a good creative flow. The inspiration comes from everything I’ve experienced, everything I feel, I think that it can even come from my own dreams, I mean those fantasies that happen while we’re sleeping, who knows? Anyway, I think that the creative process is personal, each artist discovers the most appropriate ways to create with time, and in some way, is related to self-knowledge, and not so much with academic schemes.
You’re from Argentina and now long time living in Barcelona: do you think that there is something “latin” enhancing the emotional side of your music?
I don’t really know, I think that it could be a “myth”, anyway when I moved to Barcelona in 2000 I met many interesting new people, and this, added to new life experiences, without a doubt have contributed to an important personal and creative expansion that has led me to a greater volume of projects.
Is there any relation between your music and places or images?
Perhaps the emotional reflection of places or images could be maximized by listening to music.
I think there is a point in the creative process that has something of drunkenness or fantasy, and the relationship between music, places and images, at least in that process, is subliminal, and their perception is personal. Surely the listener of the same musical work has different perceptions of what his creator has made, in other words, everything is taken as a container…
You have been quite prolific in the last years, both on the classic and on the experimental side of your work: is there something different in the way you composed, for instance, “The Poet” and the latest “Piano Textures” volume?
It’s true that from my beginnings until now I haven’t kept a very defined style, sometimes by simple concern to experiment, and other times; by sticking to the instrumental limitations that I have suffered in certain stages of my career-life… in fact I have a good handful of albums of electronic source and field recordings released last decade, that are not very popular now, they’re not in the digital platforms, they have only been released on CD by American labels. Anyway, I think that beyond the sound sources I use in each album and the different colors they present, the important thing is that I enjoy making music, and if my works can move emotions, then everything is perfect.
Is there any musician you would like to work with?
Right now, I would probably like to experiment along a creative and not very formal cellist, but this is not a priority.
How do you usually relate to the music as a listener?
I listen to a lot of music in my studio on my hi-fi equipment, both on vinyl and cd. I usually listen to an entire album, I like to appreciate the concept “album”. I use the headphones only to work, and I listen to the Spotify new releases that interests me too. I listen to a bit of everything, I’m still discovering some gems of old music, from different cultures.
After many year of focusing on minimalism, do you think that the combination of classic and electronic music can also be open to more rich and complex sounds?
Since you mention it, I think that minimalism as itself doesn’t exist nowadays. That happened at a certain historical moment, but beyond the names that certain music can acquire, I think we are living a rich and complex moment in diversity. This diversity exploded in the ’90s, due to different circumstances, and its expansion led to what I call the “cloud age”. You see, there are practically as many musical genres as there are artists … that didn’t happen in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s. You would turn on the dial of the radio and they always played the same of each genre; and not because of trend, but simply because there was no massification. And in any case, do you remember Symphonic Rock? Maybe it was a lot more interesting than the current trend, which is based on identical patterns.
Is there something you like to tell about your latest album “Unity”?
“Unity” has been released on February 16th under the Russian label Dronarivm. I have been working in this project for the last months to shape it, and there are two moments that are transcendent for me; the moment that I consider it’s finished, and the moment it’s published. I think the press-release of Dronarivm could describe it better than myself: “Unity, is an emotionally evocative collection that moves the listener through moments that exalt the senses. Through cyclical and minimalist sound, the composer creates visceral experiences that are both ethereal and hauntingly beautiful.
(full English version of the interview published on Rockerilla magazine no 451, March 2018)