Eugenio Becherucci: Guitarist? Musician? Composer? How was born your love and interest for the guitar?
My vocation is undoubtedly that of guitarist. In my family with Spanish-Italian origin, guitar is a very loved instrument, and I was driven to study it by my brother Antonio, but I was also encouraged by all my family. Actually my first musical experiences date back to when I started singing in a parish’s chorus while at home I enjoyed myself a lot imitating great guitarrist on my guitars toys. I remember very clearly the first recording experiments with rudimentary equipment like a Geloso tape recording, where I sang and played with my brothers unlikely urban blues … then came the first groups, which we rolled our bones with electric, acoustic and classical guitar on a varied pop and rock repertoire, not forgetting some original song. This up to 14 years, when I was struck by listening to the “real” guitar (a recording of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo played by NarcisoYepes: listening to the Adagio in family, the attack of the orchestra after teh long cadence moved every my mother to tears) and I decided that it would be my instrument. At the time I attended a parallel course of classical guitar and violin, but I was so excited about the six strings that I did not hesitate to choose … Since these early approaches it was present in me a strong need for creative, so I can say that I was born guitarist-composer, I still have all my music books of those times where I had the good habit of handwriting exercises and songs to learn, and are full of notes and sketches of small pieces that I had to compose. These days, we are in the early ’70s, I remember the omnivorous curiosity that drove me to explore the repertoire, so that in two years I had read a good part of literature for guitar then known, and that out of the instrument it pushed me to listens to music to 360 degrees, but even then with a strong predilection towards the modern and contemporary but also with a special look to ancient music … I remember listening in awe to the Cantigas de Sancta Maria or masses by Guillaume de Machaut , along with Gesang der Jüngling by Karlheinz Stockhausen or Musica per archi, percussione e celesta by Bela Bartok
As a composer, what are the current styles in which you recognizes the most?
It’s always difficult today, with the wide variety of styles and attitudes and languages in the musical scene to able to incorporate ourselves into a school or a current. After studying composition at the conservatory with Mauro Bortolotti (a pupil of Goffredo Petrassi), my experience as na author was guided to the largest freedom from the academic boxes, albeit with the knowledge that a path of knowledge was just beginning. It was a period of transition, in the late ’70s, which was passing from the Darmstadt avant-garde radicalism to more relaxed positions. My example was Petrassi, which today can be considered almost a classic, but in his creative period had shown that a modern language to be alive and present, must have the strength to innovate and evolve, and can not and should not be only self-referential, or be enslaved to ideas and rules that have nothing to compare with art.To return to the question I would say that I’m an eclectic composer, with a special look at minimalism, musical style that has always fascinated me
I haven’t a rigid schedule of work for composition, in the sense that my system can vary depending on the circumstances. I never use immediately the computer if I am working on writing, rather I prefer to take notes (often hints, fragments of melodic ideas, but also descriptions of climates sound) which then I will develop the piece. Another thing is a more “material” approach which means working on the modification of sounds using machines, or study of sound groups acoustically produced, in which case the work be separated from writing. Typically, what intrigues me is to create different levels of expression, even in the same track, where different languages live together, from atonal improvisation to noise from tonality to mode, to electronic processing .. An example of this procedure is the Concert for Garcia Lorca in 2002, for guitar, strings and audio track
Even the piece Contrasto, in 2003, for two guitarists playing and singing, has a climate like this: http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=ylNSl37K4PE In Invisible Cities for ensemble, 2006, I tried to create suspended pages in a timeless dimension, at once ancient and modern, and inspired to the writing by Italo Calvino, who seems to have realized that along with his words could also arise with sounds with similar archetypal quality. In many of my works my research has been to give a musical shape to a literary suggestion, in the case of the Concerto the poetry by Garcia Lorca, in Contrasto a Lauda by Jacopone di Todi, in Invisible Cities a Calvino’s text, in the Indian Night a poetry by Tagore. About this music, in addition to that for solo guitar, there is also a version for soprano and ensemble. In composing, I try to work on three distinct levels of perception, the instincts, the sentimental and the rational, so that every person who listens, regardless of age, education, preparation, may find items of interest, although that doesn’t mean that my music is built with the criteria or the stereotypes of a commercial product, since it is totally out of this logic. I try to apply this method of work to all my musical activities, for example teaching or interpretation.
Berlioz said that composing for classical guitar it was difficult because the composer have first to be a guitarists, these words were often used as a justification for the limited repertoire of classical guitar with other instruments like piano and violin. At the same time I think that the the growing interest for the guitar (whether classical, acoustic, electric, MIDI) collected in contemporary music has changed the importance of Berlioz’s words. As a guitarist and a composer do you think that these words are even true?
The composer’s figure in the XIX° century was very different from the actual one, they existed a good number of guitarists composers outside of whose entourage hardly tried to create new musics for our instrument. In fact the same Berlioz, that also played t, composed only some romance with guitar’s accompaniment …. in that period the great authors were projected toward the symphonic dimension the great orchestral sonorities which our instrument decidedly results extraneous. In the ’80s I have had the opportunity to deepen this particular matter comparing entirely me with a particular literature, the one for guitar and piano, often playing in duo with my brother Cristiano. If we exclude pages of authors as Carl Maria von Weber, Jan Krtitel Vanhal and few others, belonging to the genre called Hausmusik, music to be played in the house, this type of compositions was in the XIX exclusive appanage of guitarists as Ferdinando Carulli, Mauro Giuliani, Anton Diabelli and other smaller figures. If we go then to see the treatment of the guitar it results conventional and few interesting in music produced by not guitarists composers, and it is curious to ascertain as the guitars parts in hight concertistic level as those by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Ignaz Moscheles were avowedly written by Mauro Giuliani, that at those times was resident in Vienna and collaborated with those pianists.
If we look at the classical repertoire there is not doubt that the gap towards the other instruments is nearly incolmabile, because, despite in the immense nineteenth-century repertoire for guitar we can also find examples of good music, instruments like the violin or the piano are full of great music. Besides the knowledge and the development of the instrumental technique for guitar was different, that in the XX° century and then in the actual one has had an important progress. From the end of the XIX to today the languages are changed and the accent is set more always on the timbre, on attenuate sonorities, western music has begun to explore exotic worlds, the popular cultures, so that the guitar, in this new optics, has had great possibilities to be valorized. There is besides to say that the XIX’s models of writing are not the only ones used by the composers today anymore: there is today certainly also, as in the past, a fed number of guitarists composers (among which I enumerate myself), but the technique and the potentialities of the instrument are also very well known among not guitarists composers. If to this we add the endless possibilities of combinations and the sonority that today the electronics applied to an instrument as the electric guitar offer, the applications become larger enormously.
Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?
Here we touch an aching key, in the sense that it’s true that today the composer risks to live in splendid isolation if he doesn’t find the way to insert himself in a channel that permits him to let pleople know his music and therefore to perform it. There is the world of the contests of composition that can be a good showcase, besides being published by an editor or a recording label that takes care of the diffusion of his own works is also fundamental. I don’t know if it’s a good thing that the composer (as also the interpreter) becomes an agent of himself, but today it seems that this is the general trend, considering that a powerful advertising mean as internet is practically to the course of everybody. We can certainly appreciate the possibilities that technology gives to musicians about communication, above all if we reflect about the fact that it has facilitated enormously the diffusion and the promotion of an artist. There is however the reverse of the medal, that is then the other face, that bad, of the globalization: this mare magnum of messages, videos, clips, audios, emails, risks to submerge and to drown you even more in a painful isolation if you don’t have behind a more solid lay-out.
As it regards me, I have had the fortune to be placed side by side by a group of good musicians, the Logos Ensemble, with which I have had the possibility to realize and to perform my compositive projects during the last 20 years.
I have noticed in recent years, a gradual rapprochement between the two aspects of avant-garde music, the most academic’s one and the other side the one brought forward by musicians far away from the classical canon and from areas such as jazz, electronics and extreme rock like Fred Frith, John Zorn, the New York downtown scene and some electronic music labels such as Sub Rosa and the Mille Plateux influenced by the thought of Deleuze and Guattari. You have played with Otomo Yoshihide, one of the most important man in the avangarde and non accademic improvvisation. What do you think about these possible interactions and do you think that there is some place for them in Italy too? How was born your experience to play with Yoshihide?
Naturally I think all the possible best for of these collaborations and I wish that a lot of new ones shall start also in Italy. The problem is only to find the availability of these artists, generally all with a rather intense booking. The experience with Otomo Yoshihide has been thrilling, because it is matured after a long period in which with the Logos Ensemble we worked duly in sessions of radical improvisation, therefore as group we were ready to compare us with this sacred monster. The Logos is now an historical group in the panorama of the contemporary music, and in a first phase of its activity has worked a lot in the field of the academic avangarde. Years passing, pushed above all from my brother Cristiano, piano and keyboards, (with which have an artistic association starting from the infancy) we had the strong demand inside the group to cross more original and detached by the classical canons roads: so were born so the shows “Zapping”, devoted to the music of Frank Zappa and his sonorous world, Sounds Medioccidentali, Ipervlx, the collaborations with artists as Otomo, Elliott Sharp, and lately Desert contemporain, with the berber singer and polistrumentist Nour Eddine. The show with Otomo Yoshihide consisted in an improvisation of a hour and half during which each of us has had the privilege to converse with this extraordinary musician. Only for the first piece of the concert, of the duration of about 10 minutes, had been arranged a small graphic lay-out related to the intensity and to the frequency of the instrumental interventions: this time has served for listening to us, to feel the timbres and the attack of all the instruments and to understand whether to interact, for the rest of the performance we have gone on as if we had played for a long time together. You can listen to an abstract of this concert: http://www.4shared.com/file/72334987/db9a2148/01_otomo_logos_.html
It seems to me that there is a small music scene about classical guitarists dedicated to an innovative and contemporary repertoire, as well as you come to my mind the names of Marco Cappelli, David Tanenbaum, Arturo Tallini, David Starobin, Elena Casoli, Seth Josel, Marc Ribot who played John Zorn music … shall I speak about a music scene? Are you in contact with these musitians? Are there other guitarists you know and that you can suggest us that they move on these innovative musical routes?
Because of the very independent and heterogeneous way with which each one lives and creates his artistic path it’s not easy to establish a contact among artists with similar tastes, even if, even in different roads, at the end we work on very similar musical scenes. Obviously I almost know all the names that you have sued me, but apart Arturo Tallini, I have not collaborated with any other of them. Among the guitarists that don’t show up in that list I would talk about certainly the Belgian Tom Pauwels, the Italian Angelo Colone, the American Dominic Frasca and naturally the German duo of Wilhelm Bruck and Theodor Ross
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possibile to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
The frequent contacts among musicians of different extraction are able whether to vivify, in the long time, also a plastered environment as the classical one. We have by now examples of it in all the concerts seasons, and these are not only strategies to attract a vast public. In the tradition of the western music improvisation has always existed as routine, even if little by little writing had the upper hand. It would be healthy if in the conservatories and in the schools of music was founded a course for improvisation, that for me is of vital importance for the real knowledge of the instrument and to start the creative push presnt in each one of us. In my compositions I like to alternate a defined writing with aleatory parts, structured more or less, and I draw a lot of ideas from improvised moments on my instruments, but also on other sonorous objects as percussions, small breath instruments and, naturally, the piano.
The feeling that I have listening to your music is that … you can play anything: whatever the repertoire, the composer, the instrument you are playing, you always dimostrate a total technical and emotive control. How important is working on technique to achieve this level of “security”?
This question makes me remember the first years of study, in which I exploited every useful minute to practice me on the instrument, to listen to music and to read, the morning before going to school, before the time of lunch, to the afternoon once hurried the formality of the scholastic assignments, the evening later dinner .. . I shall say that the music and the guitar filled me the days, even if some girls would have preferred otherwise …
The acquisition of a solid technical base is fundamental to face all the types of repertoire. It needs then that this to know how to do is not to crystallized, but also used to better suit for the proposals of the new music, that often transcend the limits of the usual technique. Sometimes it happened to me to have to invent some little orthodox solutions to resolve particularly tiresome passages, or straight techniques that put aside from the tradition of the classical instrument, as it happens in passages as Ko-tha by Giacinto Scelsi or Memoria by Fausto Razzi, in which the approach is totally percussive. The other fundamental requirement is a great passion for your job, that brings yourself to spend lot of times of the day studying. It’s clear that the job done in the first years of study is essential: it is as with the language, once acquired the alphabet it is not necessary to spend the whole life to spell it, but it is clear that the language must be practised, otherwise we shall forget it..
We haven’t also to overrate the fundamental contribution about the acquisition of the control of the technicians on the instrument however, because it is very important to get a musical vision of the music that we want to interpret, therefore the analytical, historical, stylistic approach.
Talking about you in his interview on the Blog, Arturo Tallini said ” Eugenio Becherucci, that has played the whole playable.” How was born your collaboration with him in Suoni Inauditi?
I am very happy about the collaboration with Arturo Tallini, of which I have more every day the possibility to appreciate his human and artistic qualities. The idea of the project Suoni Inauditi was born around a challenge for both of us, however pleasant for persons like us that like to risk, even if the game can sometimes result very binding. When I have met Arturo I knew I had in front of me a complete artist, but with a desire to experiment not common to everybody: this is the reason why I have immediately proposed him to work together with a project of avant-garde departing from the unbelievable passage of Helmut Lachenmann, “Salut für Caudwell.” This monumental work sets the interpreters in front of problems of execution that can appear insurmountable if you haven’t the firm wish to complete the job to every cost, thing we have sweared when we had the chance to listen to the piece. I knew this work from the beginning of the ’90s, when I had played it in concert for a couple of years, with the good colleague Antonio D’Augello. Unfortunately the chances to play it were always less, therefore the music was put aside. Later around one decade the meeting with Arturo has allowed me to put my hands again on this music, around which we have built a project, with the piece Ultima Rara by Sylvano Bussotti together with one composition of mine, Contrasto su una lauda by Jacopone da Todi.
Suoni Inauditi is a stimulating trip inside the body and the soul of the guitar, in which the classical role of the performer is entirely by now old, the ancient figure of the “virtuous” completely review in an actual key, and where the two musicians become of time in time actors, mimes, singers. Also in the approach to the guitar there is few already felt: during the concert just try to close your eyes, and forget for an instant the technical transcendence of the performed scores, and try to imagine who and how is producing determine sonorities…
“Suoni inauditi”, with all the semantic implications that this adjective suggests us: never listen to, in the sense of new, but also in the extreme meaning of absurd, amazing, that cause wonder…
With Arturo we also have currently another project, Acoustic Counterpoint, that includes, besides contemporary music, among which Steve’s Reich Nagoya Guitars, Baroque music as the Italian Concert of J.S.Bach in a transcript of the same Tallini and also works of the most traditional repertoire as the Sonatina canonica by Castelnuovo Tedesco
I wanted to devote them to my child that would have been born in between one month: some of the select themes are like Christmas carrols and they have, in their popular inspiration, almost a childish taste. I always liked these simple but elegant melodies, known through the arrangements of Miguel Llobet, that well reflected the character of the Catalan people, as I had known it from my grandfather, the painter Francisco Urgell. What was born as a simple, however precious, intimate and family cadeau, turned then into a real project following the meeting with the violinist Antonio Cipriani, that encouraged me to write a number of fantasies to be able to propose them in concert and to be recorded. Despite then the numerous appointments as manager of orchestra for Cipriani has brought him to space out the collaboration with me, I have not given up also proposing this project with other violinists, the last of which, I currently collaborate, Lucio Santarelli. The fantasies for violin and guitar on Catalan popular themes are real original compositions, in which to the ancient theme are united other sections as introductions, other melodic themes, interludes and solos that put in prominence the cleverness of the two performers, always trying to maintain the simplicity and the spirit of the popular song. This disk will be distributed together with the scores of the passages by the Edizioni Sinfonica di Brugherio (MI), with an interesting publication CD+book.
In 2001 you have published the soloist disk “The guitar music of the next age”, why this title and how was born that project?
The idea of this title came from the publisher, but it is not difficult to explain its meaning, also considering compositions contained in the CD. Literally, “musica per chitarra per la prossima era”, doesn’t want to create an expectation of avant-garde music, neither of “new age”, if we look at the publishing line of “Sinfonica” that has published this record and the music in it contained, we see that it’s based on a selection of authors that have generally in common a type of writing solidly anchored to the tradition.
It rather mean that, in the artistic line that this publishing house proposes the music of the future has and must have strong bonds with the past. (I underline that this assumed doesn’t have for me the crisma of the absolute truth.) I have known at the end of the ’90 the artistic manager of Sinfonica, the valid guitarist Bruno Giuffredi, and we have thought about this collaboration: some of the authors of the musics of the CD as Nicola Jappelli, Marco Gammanossi and Franco Cavallone, have affirmed themselves internationally in important contests of composition, which shows that the selection of composers and musics from me operated for the record had some solid comparisons. In this record has been offered then to me the chance to record my first two musics for alone guitar, Tema con Variazioni, of 1993 and Notturno Indiano, of the 2001. The CD is purchasable ondine on the site of Edizioni Sinfonica:http://www.sinfonica.com/italian/cc_per_collana_1.php?coll=CD
I propose you a game: I reveal you some names, that I think are closer to your musical ideas, and you tell me if I have guessed there and what they mean or have they meant for you?Let’s start:
– Julian Bream
– The Indian Ragas
– Italo Calvino
– Frank Zappa
– Igor Strawinsky
– Steve Reich
Julian Bream: he is surely among the great guitarists of the ‘900 the one that convinces me more, both for the choice of the repertoire, always with a great attention to the contemporary music, both for his interpretative ideas, because hee has always known how to give his own version of his repertoires coherently performed witho a respectable stylistic vision.
The Indian Ragas: the experience of the voyage in India when I was twenty years old has been for me indelible, both on the human and artistic plan. In 1978 I had the fortune to make a tour in that extraordinary country, with concerts in the principal cities of the subcontinent, and I had the possibility to come into contact with that civilization and its unbelievable music … many years later I have played in concert a transcript of a raga by Ravi Shankar for guitar, keyboard and percussion: I had listened to this piece in a disc that the Indian sitarist recorded with the violinist Yehudi Menhuin. In my Notturno Indiano, in 2001, version for soprano ensemble, the lyrics are taken by a poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, therefore it seems that my report with India and its art continues in the time…
Italo Calvino: for me a big genius of the literature of the XX century, and the reading of his works is for me always satisfying, you can find in them modernity, audacity and fanciful inventiveness, but also constructive and stylistic wisdom, the deep knowledge of the language … on his Invisible Cities I am creating a musical project, that consists for now of three musics for ensemble but I think to widen it up to make it autonomous as it program from concert with narrating voice, or for a recording.
Frank Zappa: he is the great musical myth of mine, I have always loved him and followed him since the first recordings, I have listened to him also in concert several times with his group the Mothers of Inventions. I like his genius, his inventiveness, his sarcasm, but also and above all the extreme seriousness and competence with which he faces in his compositions all the musical genres from the simple ballad to the atonal or serial piece. This love has flowed in the shows “Radio Zapping” and “Zapping” realized since 1997 to 2002 with the artistic and effective contribution of my brother Cristiano, which I took care of the musical arrangements and performing on electric and classical guitar. To have more particular on these shows you can visit this link:http://www.logosensemble.it/radio.html
Igor Strawinsky: impossible to deny the greatness of this author, that for a long time arouses in me a deep admiration. Some of his works have been fundamental for the development of the modern music, let’s think only about his Le sacre du Printemps or to the Symphony of Psalms. He is a composer that I have studied a lot and of which I have transcribed also various works for the Logos Ensemble on the occasion of the shows devoted to Zappa (don’t forget that Zappa declared several times than he had been influenced by Strawinsky, and who knows the two authors is able to ascertain it.).
To listen to one arrangement of mine of Ragtime for the Logos yuo can visit this link:http://www.4shared.com/file/72332857/4a9d6aee/02_Ragtime_Stravinsky.html
Steve Reich: The meeting with Steve Reich and his music goes up again to 1990, when to the Festival in Cambridge where I had been invited to play with the Logos Ensemble I listened for the first time to one of his masterpieces: Different Trains for quartet of arcs and audio trace. It entangled me a lot the ability of this composer to create with few ingredients a strong dramatic effect, and since then I have never remised my listening with his music, I have played numerous times Electric counterpoint for guitar and audio trace, and in the actual program with Arturo Tallini we play Nagoya guitars and Clapping Music.
What do you think about the discographic market crisis, with the transition to digital downloading in mp3 and all this new scenario?
This passage from the cd to the download is not necessarily adverse, also because we cannot opposed ourselves to the strength of the events, and the technological development also brings us among the others this innovation. However I’m of the idea that to taste a good recording the digital support is as irreplaceable as for quality of listening. Certainly the fruition of the music online is always some hasty, often the computers are not endowed sufficiently with faithful loudspeakers, and I think it isn’t a good thing for our auditive apparatus always listening with the bonnets inserted in our ears … let’s say that these listening can be a taste of what you can fina in a cd .. it’s true and undeniable that however for the artists that are out of the majors the mp3 it is a precious resource for the diffusion of their own music… this it is the right side of the medal.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
Five are very few, anyway .. Mathaus Passion by Bach, Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart, Musica per archi, percussione e celesta by Bartók, Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky, The Yellow Shark by Frank Zappa.
What are your five favorite scores?
Shall we talk about guitar? Then also here Bach (the complete works playable for guitar), The Douzes Etudes by Heitor Villa Lobos, the Quatres pieces breves by Frank Martin, the Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten, Suoni Notturni by Goffredo Petrassi.
The Blog Chitarra e Dintorni is read by several students .. any good advices to give them?
Being able to live just playing classical guitar risks to be always a more distant finishing line and difficult to reach today if you are not endowed with great determination and clarity of the objectives to which you aim for your own job. If you want to play concerts is essential to have a repertoire that follows the more possible your own inclinations, but that also show a new and original proposal.
It needs therefore to have courage and to go outside of the usual schemes exploring the repertoire of the whole historical period. Create new ensemble for chamber music, that generally offer more possibilities to work then playing alone. Studying we come in contact with the most different musical writings, from the ancient music up to the avantgarde, but to whom was unprovided of a deepened training on one particular period I would advise some courses of specialization, today conservatories and private institutions have a very rich and variegated offer in this sense. My experience with the students shows me that those who has succeeded in starting a good career have often follow strange and new paths … it’s true that if there are good skills you can always follow the international contests, those however allow you a reality throwing in the musical world, rewarding you with many concerts over that with money.
With who would you like to play?
Everyone has a dream in the drawerl, and not always realizzabile … infact my desire would have been to play with the group of Frank Zappa but, when it would have been possible I was too much young and untrained, and now is simply impossibile. Back to the real world I must say that I am rather satisfied of my job, but if I had to express a particular desire perhaps it would be to play with Steve Reich, Leo Brouwer, Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti, at least they are still alive.