[Interview] Alessandra Celletti

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A few days ago, I had the honor of interviewing Italian pianist Alessandra Celletti, one of the most creative composers active today.  I came to know her work thanks to an old business partner named Michael Sheppard, who became her champion until his passing a few years ago.

Without further ado, here is Alessandra:


 

Though I know you from our conversations, can you tell us about yourself? Who you are, your background?

I’m a musician, and naturally I love music. But, first of all, I love life. I love nature, the sea, the trees and the flowers, I love all people and animals as well. I like to come upon new things. The relevance of music is that it gives meaning and emotion to everything. I’ve been playing the piano since I was six. The piano is my life, but I also adore singing. Singing is happiness. I have a classical education, but I am too curious not to look for other musical experiences, so I’m always looking for something new.

What inspired you to be a composer and pianist?

I’ve always played the piano. I started my career as a pianist playing classical authors: Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Ravel… but at some point I felt the desire to transfer my personal emotions into music by composing myself. It felt like a natural passage.

Which composers or art movements have left a lasting influence in your compositions?
Erik Satie is my first love and I think of him as one of my milestones. I was swept away by the purity and freedom of his search. Then, I appreciate the intelligence and lightness of John Cage. But I am also into punk music, electronics, rock and, sometimes, even pop music. I love painting and the commixture of colors. For me, music is also color. Not for nothing my last album is a blue vinyl titled #cellettiblue, inspired by my favorite color. Blue, for me, is the color of freedom. Just look at the sky and you’ll understand.

How do you go about planning for and making a new album?

I had several producers for my previous albums: here in Italy, in England but also in America. I was lucky enough to have Michael Sheppard of Transparency as a producer. It was a very special human and artistic relationship and I miss him so much. Before he died, he told me that he would be in every note I played and sung… and, indeed, I can feel his presence. I want to make you party to a secret: I always think of Michael when I compose a new melody. Right now I don’t have a record label that produces me, so for my new project I resorted to Musicraiser’s crowdfunding. I really like this personal contact with my audience

What inspired this latest album?

To put it simply, my love for animals. I’m working on six songs dedicated to the animals that had a special role in my life, tangible or symbolic. Among these is Pedro, a cat to whom I am connected in a magical way. And a donkey that I fantasize becoming my husband… And, last but not least, my mother, who I consider the sweetest and most wonderful of all the animals that filled my life. It is, obviously, an affectionate dedication to the person who gave me life and who flew away just a few months ago.

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Are you collaborating with anyone else these days in terms of live performance or studio collaborations?

Yes: a while ago I’ve discovered Paola Luciani and I’ve literally been bewitched by her animations. Luckily for me, this internationally recognized artist hasn’t lost the purity of her artistic expression, so I proposed a collaboration, to which she graciously agreed.
Now she’s drawing and animating her paper clippings according to an age-old and very peculiar technique. Ath the moment she is working on the donkey song and she will soon finalize the animations for the little cat Pedro (or maybe for a little bird)…

How do you feel about the state of the music business?

It seems so difficult for artists to get exposure outside of working with a major label.

How do you manage to do so well?

I simply dedicate myself to what I do with commitment and love, thinking of people with affection and trust. And – this will probably surprise you – I’m even confident in the future of music. Modes and media change all the time: vinyl, cd, streaming… but, basically, nobody can live without music.

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What projects are you working on? What should be expected to see from you in 2020?

As I said, I am working with Paola Luciani on the “Love Animals” project and I very much hope to be able to make it with Musicraiser’s help. Then, I’d like to do a lorryload of concerts and play my piano and sing these sweet songs to everyone. Even if they are dedicated to animals, they are all love songs.

https://musicraiser.com/it/projects/15090-love-animals

[Music] NUM – False Awakening

Only a fool would believe we’re not living in a great time for music.  The world of pop is banal, and should only be seen as entertainment.  Actual music, that which is trying to continue breaking borders, bending (or snapping) rules, is doing quite well.

Iranian-born composer Maryam Sirvan has been featured on the blog before, having her powerful solo album reviewed here, but this is a newer release where she teams up with fellow composer Milad Bagheri and saxophonist Rezo Kiknadze.  Few composers of this stripe are able to combine the intellectual rigors of electroacoustic music, especially that of the INA-GRM variety, with the gritty, ghostly feel of 20 Jazz Funk Greats-period Throbbing Gristle.

This is a brilliant work, and I hope to see more composers appearing out the of Caucasus soon.

[Music] The Ed Palermo Big Band – Eddy Loves Frank


 
Judging by the quality of the music and the fact that this is Ed Palermo’s third full-length album dedicated to Frank Zappa’s avant-big-band interpretations, I think that the album title is apropos.  Eddy does indeed loves Frank!  From his Bandcamp site:

Ed and his amazing 16 piece band (+ guests) return with his third album of his distinctive, big-band interpretations of the great 20th century composer, Frank Zappa. This body of work has won them huge acclaim from both new and old fans of the music and they even appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition for a short feature which was heard by millions of listeners in 2006. For those not already familiar with Ed’s colorful, jazz-based arrangements of Zappa’s compositions, Ed has led a big band for 30 years (!) and has had his band performing the music of Frank Zappa for 15 years. Many years of playing these pieces in front of hugely enthusiastic crowds have honed the band’s skills interpreting Zappa’s beautiful but notoriously difficult material to where they are able to perform these challenging charts with apparent ease. All of these musicians are high caliber, hugely talented NYC professional players, and most of them have been playing this music for a decade and a half with this group, not because it is a good paying gig (it isn’t) but because they all admire and appreciate the genius of Zappa’s work and they love having the opportunity to be able to perform these terrifically exciting charts.

“Wonderful, breathtaking, fantastic, exhilarating, great sound, great production, great musicianship…I run out of superlatives…”
– paradoxone.uk

“Palermo developed these charts during years of live shows with these musicians, and their mastery of the material shows in the performances, which turn on a dime yet feel fierce with spontaneous invention…. Palermo’s arrangements and these performances are precise, dedicated, raucous and incisive—just like Zappa himself.”
– JazzTimes

“Palermo uses Zappa’s compositions as a framework for inspiration, rather than simply trying to recreate what is already available on CD.”
– allaboutjazz.com 

 

[Music] Santiago Fradejas – The Box You Sleep In

It’s a very happy occasion when I get to review a new album by Santiago Fradejas!  Our friend, guitarist and composer now based in Barcelona, Spain, comes at us with another disc full of soundscapes which sit well between the more mellow compositions of John McLaughlin, the usual powerful post-Industrial soundscapes, and maybe because I have been listening a lot to him lately, some bits that would not sound out-of-place in a Charles Mingus album.

[Music/Literature] “Poetry About Everything, Words About Nothing”: a consideration on Edwin Morgan and John Cage’s approach to creativity. — University of Glasgow Library Blog

Guest blog post by Eli Coderoni Rigamonti, MLitt Theatre Studies, on placement in Archives and Special Collections. This article aims to draw a connection between artists Edwin Morgan and John Cage, focusing on their common interest for Modernist techniques, and their view on art and perception. Sometimes authors who never had a chance to meet […]

via “Poetry About Everything, Words About Nothing”: a consideration on Edwin Morgan and John Cage’s approach to creativity. — University of Glasgow Library Blog