Behind the piano: Giuseppe Califano

Behind the piano: Giuseppe Califano

A while back I posted about the track Mirrors by the Italian composer Giuseppe Califano, and since it’s Thursday today; we’ll dig deeper into Giuseppe and his music making!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am Italian, I come from Castel Campagnano, a small village in Campania, with 900 inhabitants, in Southern Italy, but I have been living in Milan for 10 years now.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5 years old. I learned to read the notes and then the letters! I don’t play other instruments, but soon I will study cello, because it is an instrument that I particularly love.

Tell us about how you started playing music.   
Initially I did it out of duty, I followed my older sister to her piano lessons. I continued like this for several years before having a real vocation, which came by chance. A neighbor of mine gave me a walkman and the seller had forgotten a tape inside the walkman … inside there was the Swan Lake of Tchaikovsky … it was love at first sight, I fell in love with that music and I realized I was lucky enough to already know music and to be able to play discreetly.

How long have you been making piano music?  
The piano pieces arrived as soon as I had my lighting … it was all very natural, with an immediate and instinctive approach. I imagined characters … a swan, a dragon; situations … a storm, a battle; a suggestion … a summer evening, the rain … Accomplice perhaps “Swan Lake”, I always need a story, a suggestion, an image, to be able to write.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
From the moment I had my “vocation” I immediately started thinking about music written by me. In Swan Lake there was a story and someone had invented wonderful notes for that story and those characters.
I started looking for stories everywhere … and at a certain point, passionate about Franz Liszt and the symphonic poem, it occurred to me to read the Apocalypse and write a song inspired by it … I was 12 years old and I think he was in C minor, from start to finish … but for me it was beautiful!

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I really like Max Richter and Peter Sandberg and, among the Italians, Fabrizio Paterlini and Cesare Picco. But above all I love Keith Jarrett and his improvisations.
I also love some rock bands reinterpreted at the piano: Radiohead and Sigur Ros in particular.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
Usually in the days when I’m writing a song I go to the piano continuously to play it to try and try again.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
In this regard, I often think of a phrase by the French actor and playwright Antonine Artaud: “We should read all the books in the world and then burn the libraries”. It is a very theatrical and effective way to say that you need to know the rules, master them, make them part of your luggage and then be completely free. In this sense, the rules are your accomplices, because they tell you how it will end if you follow them. And if you know, then you also know what happens when you go against and at what moment you have to go against. In short, they expect to be violated, because nobody likes to be bored, not even them … 😉

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
In the past I recorded in the studio, but in this lockdown period my home recording studio started to take shape. It is a more intimate, more intimate dimension and I really like it for my piano music.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I don’t like overly strict positions. For me it always depends on the use made of it. Having said that … they are often perfect, but the dimension of live music, of the human component, is irreplaceable.

Anything else you want to share? 
I believe in music as a mission. My motto is “Music is an interference”: music, art, save the world every day, interfering with barbarism, cruelty, emptiness and becomes an antidote to the lack of poetry in the world, in the daily life of people and thoughts. We listen to music. We make music. Always.

And, as always, the question my son asked me once:
Where do all your songs come from?
Thank your son for the most beautiful question … I can’t answer. Certainly from my head, from the heart, from the belly. From what I listen, from the sounds I love, from a desire to experience a certain sensation that I can’t find anywhere else. I know they are born of a necessity, a kind of urgency. Not for the world maybe, but for me definitely. When I write, every evening, in the light of my lamp, I feel as good as now. So I don’t know where exactly they come from. But thank goodness they arrive …

Thank you Giuseppe for being part of my Behind the piano series!

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