Your first soundtrack for a film is documented back to 1968 when I understand that you worked for a newsreel documentary film titled THE STUDENT MOVEMENT which was directed by Silvano Agosti. How did you become involved on this project?
I was a student who actively participated in the occupation of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. When formed a group of filmmakers who wanted to witness the events of the student movement I went there and it was quite natural that I were to take care of the musical part.
The first soundtrack that I bought of yours was FLAVIA, and I have to say it is a score that I am always returning to and each time finding something new and fresh. What size orchestra did you utilize for this score and is the vocalist Edda Dell Orso?
The orchestra was made up of a group of strings – 12 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and two double basses – plus a small group of woodwinds and percussion, and, if I remember correctly, a piano. Yes, the vocalist was Edda Dell’Orso who worked on many soundtracks from Italy including Once upon a time in the west by Ennio Morricone.
You were born in Rome in 1946,at what age did you begin to become attracted to music and were any of your family musical at all?
I have always been attracted to music, at three years of age I began to play with a small toy accordion. My parents were amateur lovers of music, but almost exclusively to music read, as it was then. Today we would say Pop.
What musical education did you receive and were there any specific areas of music that you concentrated upon?
Most of the aspects of my musical education are detailed in the book”The music is dangerous, “which I published in February. As a boy I was fascinated only by the so-called classical music, as an adult I began to get interested in jazz and pop music.
Your music is always original and innovative, are there any composers or artists that have had a profound influence upon you?
I will try to answer, I think mostly composers such as Ravel. Handel, Ellington, Piazzolla, Shostakovich, Morricone, Rota, Schnittke and also the Beatles
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is a wonderful movie and its music is such an important part of the story, it is dramatic and also fragile, did the director Benigni have any specific instructions for you when he asked you to write the music?
Benigni was able to move me, to involve me, to make me understand the meaning of the film, and I drove magnificently to find solutions for a musical drama that were at times difficult and delicate.
You worked with Federico Fellini, was he actively involved with the musical score and how it should be placed etc?
Fellini with collaborators, with the musician was as a medium: you had on the road so irrational, emotional, almost incosciente. Poi work in his films but also required a lot of effort on the professional level, of the trade.
As far as I understand, the composer Manos Hajidakis gave teachings on the orchestration. Do you think that the orchestration represents an important part in the process of composition?
I’m of the school of Morricone, I compose and orchestrate the entire musical score for a film, writing the score in pencil in all its details. Resorting to an orchestrator would be for me a ‘autoviolenza’. But there are excellent musicians who get insulted by one or more arrangers: everyone has his habits, his way. For me, the colour, the choice of instruments, the details are essential tonal music for the cinema.
When composing for a film, how many times do you like to see it before you get a clear idea of where the music should be placed and also what style of music that is required and suited to the project?
The time, well there is never enough time as far as I am concerned, I would prefer to have a lot more time to work on every score. But in reality, the time given is always a short one, there are a few exceptions, but normally the director wants the music quickly. I am compelled to write always in a hurry: it is the rule of cinema, especially Italian cinema. However, I try to work on the very first script so I can then go to the first spotting session with at least some ideas in my head.
You have also worked in Theatre, what would you say are the main differences between theatre and cinema when it comes to music
In the theatre, the music is as an actor it takes to the stage, it shows the musicians playing. It is quite different from scoring a cinema project, because in film one must “play” often on tiptoe, without violently intruding on the image or story: the public must not be aware that music has entered, or ends. So maybe I prefer the theatrical work.
Have you a routine when composing for film, maybe starting with a central theme and then building the remainder of your score from this or do you work on smaller cues first and derive your central theme from these?
Usually I like to identify two poles of expression, as in sonata form: then, around this dialectic, I like to build all the music, even very brief interventions, made up of one or two notes.
Many of your film soundtracks have been issued on a recording of some sort over the years; when a soundtrack is to be released do you like to be involved in the selection of music that will represent your score?
When this is possible I do like to do this, but often, now, out of the publications referred to ignore the composer. If I could, I would devote myself to the cataloguing of recorded music, to distinguish those that I like and put the index for those that do not convince me. But it would be a huge job, and probably useless.
When working for a soundtrack uses the piano, keyboard, or the computer?
The piano, but especially the pencil – and rubber.
What do you think is the function of music in the film?
This Changes a great deal from film to film. It depends on the aesthetics of the author, i.e. the director. Just think of the difference between the music in the film Chaplin, in one of Bunuel, in one of Leone, one of Fellini … In this topic we could talk for hours…
You have composed many soundtracks for the movies of Bellocchio. Was he actively involved with the music, or were you left to create the music freely?
Bellocchio, is a very present director in the musical work and taught me a lot of this magical alchemy that is created between images and sound in a film sequence. I really miss those times, Chioso perhaps because we were younger …
You have also worked for television, and have contributed music for a television series. I am told that you are not a big fan of the television or at least as it was a few years ago. What is your opinion on television work and has it has changed in recent years?
No it has not changed: the television viewer, the consumer’s home, is not my thing. When I write for television – it happens often – I do not think of the television viewer, because I suppose a spectator of cinema is a spectator who for most of the time follows closely in silence what is happening on the screen. There are no phone calls to interrupt, no eating or even dozing off on the couch during the screening …
You have worked in many different genres of film, is there a particular area of film or type of story that you prefer working on?
I am happy within in any genre I really like to go from one to another. However I’m sorry that I have never written music for a western!
My thanks to Maestro Nicola Piovani for his time and patience, and also many thanks to Daniela Bendoni, for all the assistance in making this interview happen….