Welcome Doug and thank you for this interview.
What are currently your main compositional challenges?
I have to admit that I have very few compositional challenges. Of course, I am in constant search of development in the way I express my ideas — but as you push one door, another few stand in front of you. I feel that the real challenge resides in bringing my ideas to life. I write music for very small and simple ensembles because of the tools I have available. I would like to write for larger ensembles and orchestras, but the frustration of having my work solely on an inanimate page is too important.
What do you usually start with when composing?
Composing is to me all about structure. Although my brainstorming phase is full of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic fragments, no music piece starts without a definite structure. It is my blueprint and the most exciting phase of composing; the foundation of any work. It is written — with words, as opposed to notes — and there is a lot of analysis at this stage. I cannot start implementing sounds if I do not have a sense of direction. That allows me to write my music in a very non linear way too, starting perhaps with the end, then the beginning and a middle section etc. This is how I slowly build the piece, brick by brick.
The second volume of “Studia” has recently been released, can you tell us something more?
Studia is a collection of twenty-four contemporary études for the piano. I decided to separate the release in two volumes as I felt that there were two faces to the studies. This second volume feels a lot more mature and perhaps less obvious in the musical devices that I use. In the first volume, it was more about my evident influences, the ones that I relate to the most. In the second one, it is more about the under layers, the influences that are hidden. The most interesting though, is to rearrange all the studies in order, and listen to how they all relate to each other. I have actually compiled a playlist that does that, and provides the listener with a story-like approach to Studia. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5SxZe0YcCukiyfm1QE4sI8?si=D0ZSaUutSuKSqtLjF-AZ3w
How do you see the relationship between timbre and composition?
Well, timbre is one of the elements or devices that is available to the composer. Because of the nature of most of my music — which is mostly piano based — it is not my main focus, as opposed to melody, harmony, rhythm or structure and form. However, there is a particular timbre that I associate with the sound of the piano that I want to reflect. In Studia however, the sound element was very much up to the performer — Angelo Villari — and as a matter of fact there really is a particular colour to the piano, especially on the second volume of Studia, that is not very common in my works.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
It is important for the audience to understand the processes and ideas. This is very true. Deducting them is something different though; it implies that the audience is educated and this is really not something that interests me. I feel that as artists our role is to show the non-artists and guide them, therefore I do not expect anything from my listeners aside from genuine curiosity. I am very aware of this and I always accompany a project with a short explanatory text, and a lot of my social media activity is based on the education and understanding on my works — I actually created a theme of social posts entitled Miscellanies, that describes some of the ideas in my works.
What’s a typical work week like?
Well, it is very much about adapting. I split my life between music and hospitality — and the rest — therefore each week differs. I am very disciplined and there has not been a single day for a long time now, during which I have not created music. I strongly believe in daily learning (in) and creating (out). Most of my time is spent in front of a computer rather than an instrument, as it fits my unstable lifestyle. Ideally, every moment of the day should be filled with art, one way or another.
What is most challenging about what you do and what is most rewarding?
I guess the biggest challenge about composing music is the balance between patience and ambition. I am really eager to work on projects of larger scale and scope; at the same time I do not feel ready — in the sense that I feel the need to keep developing my artistic knowledge — and do not have the correct tools in order to create full scale projects and bring them to a satisfying completion. This, and the daily discipline of creativity and the less exciting administrative side of the job. Patience in music is really a virtue.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My goals are simple: Learning and creating everyday. This is my vision of artistic success.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Where to start? Well, music is a language, and there is not much sense in writing music if there are no ears to hear it, therefore I am very grateful about the support that I have received during the last couple of years — both from the people that I worked with, and the people that have in a way or another reacted to my work — and I am very optimistic about the future; it is going to be a very creative one.
We thank you for your time!