I am absolutely humbled and thrilled to have been able to conduct an interview with one of my favorite composers Bruno Sanfilippo. His music has played a major role in my life and I hope that you all may find similar connections with his music. For those unfamiliar, Bruno Sanfilippo is a contemporary composer with a focus on beautiful piano music, sound sculpture and ambience. The music itself will make you cry, feel happy, sleepy, pensive and introspective as the gorgeous passages float easily through the mind/body. His albums could very well be some of the most important works in the genre and it is imperative that music fans of this style spend some quality time with his aural dreamworlds. As far as I’m concerned he is one of the greats and it is an honor to bring you all this wonderful interview!
Hilyard: So, I’ve been wondering and I’m sure many others are wondering what you have been up to lately. Are you working on any new albums? Any concerts to note? I saw that you worked on a song that was nominated for a Grammy! Fill us in on your latest news!
Bruno: Well, I’m always making new music and I’m involved in several projects, it’s normal when you love what you do and you have enthusiasm. Right now I’m recording new material, probably for Piano Textures 4. I have offered some concerts around Europe, but I’m focused mainly on recording in the studio. I’ve composed a full-length play for string quartet, which I haven’t released yet. I also recently recorded an album with cellist Julian Kancepolski, which now is in the process of mastering. Well, the hip hop artist Drake contacted us in order to get authorization to use a fragment of one of my piano pieces for his new single “Started From The Bottom”. He has done a very creative job, was definitely a fun experience.
Hilyard: As you already know, I was introduced to your music with the two collaborative albums between Mathias Grassow and yourself, Cromo and Ambessence. Do you have any plans for collaborations with more artists/composers?
Bruno: I always find it very fun and stimulating to work with musician friends. Basically there are two collaborative works which are quite advanced. One with Marsen Jules, and another with Alio Die (Stefano Musso), both visited my studio in Barcelona for several days. Besides I have planned to publish an album of re-mixes based on a piano piece in which many artists will are involved.
Hilyard: What’s your setup like for practice/recording? Live? You have an extremely surreal sound and the piano sounds absolutely immaculate, any “secrets” you would like to share?
Bruno: I have no secrets, I usually change the location of microphones when recording the piano in my studio. Depending on the features of the song. Sometimes I place the mics near the piano harp, however sometimes I prefer to place them further, in order to capture the surrounding of the room and give some space to other instruments, either electronic, violin or cello. In recent concerts that I’ve offered, I usually carry a laptop and some specific objects to place on top of the piano to change its sound.
Hilyard: I personally feel that improvisation opens up the composer to unlimited possibilities within the realm of exploration and creation. When I write, I mostly improvise and explore and then bring in more structured theory afterwards to better shape my work. I feel there should always be a balance between uninhibited improvisation and structured theory. What are your thoughts on this?
Bruno: I agree. For improvisation to be interesting it must happen within a certain harmonic structure, otherwise it would be a delirium. When I start a composition on the piano I don’t think about anything, I don’t have a preconceived idea, I think the inner silence is a powerful creative source. Then when the idea takes a shape, I stop, then I walk a few minutes around the piano, and that is when/where the mind intervenes to structure things. Anyway, I guess everyone should have their own path to create.
Hilyard: Let’s take a small break from music questions for a moment. What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of music? Art, photography, model trains?
Bruno: I’m really passionate about music; I’m obsessed about learning and growing with her. I live in a house in the mountains, surrounded by nature. I leave the studio to take a walk through the woods or along the beach with my wife and dogs. I usually carry a portable audio recorder just in case I find something interesting to record. I also like reading books, right now I’m reading “The Rest is Noise” by Alex Ross, which is about the music history of the twentieth century.
Hilyard: It’s always interesting to see what music my favorite artists are listening to. What are your inspirations/influences? Who have you been listening to lately?
Bruno: We are witnessing an explosion of music in terms of quantity, especially since 90’s. Fortunately I enjoy many different styles, from Arvo Pärt, Max Richter, Henryk Górecki, to Vladislav Delay, Tim Hecker, Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sylvain Chauveau, to name a few …
Hilyard: Your music is extremely gorgeous and has a very visual aspect to it. Any plans for film/visual projects in the near future? What are some of your more notable placements so far in your career?
Bruno: Thank you for your insight into my music. Well, I made some orders to movies, especially documentaries and shorts, but I have not made music for film so far. Of course I’m always interested in these projects.
Hilyard: What is the meaning behind your music, or rather, what are you trying to convey to the listener with your aural dream worlds? The reason for your focus on this style/sound?
Bruno: Actually I would be glad just to know that my music can convey feelings, naturally any artist would be glad with that. I’m surprised when I get different feedback on the same song, it indicates that each one receives it as a container. About the reason for my stylistic approach, I don’t know, but I would never do music as condescending. In fact they’ve changed a lot throughout my career to this day. I like the electronic manipulation as much as the piano or chamber music. My work is a reflection of my personality, and possibly comes from that inexhaustible and shameless source which is the dream world.
Hilyard: Obviously we all know that your main instrument is the piano, but did you start with the piano or another instrument? Do you play more than one?
Bruno: When I was born in Buenos Aires, there was already a piano at home, and that was my first toy, and I’m still playing with it … I migrated to Barcelona, Spain in 2000, with only a handbag and no money. Soon I could explore only with electronic sounds and record some albums such as; Visualia, ad Libitum, and later InTRO, among others. I was able to approach the piano around 2007, starting the Piano Series Textures and collaborations with Mathias Grassow. Yes, I use a Kawai RX-3 Grand Piano (2001), I also have an old upright piano made in Barcelona (1915), I use this for textural sounds and piano prepared.
Hilyard: As we wrap up I just want to thank you for your time and give you the opportunity to add anything you would like that we may not have touched on.
Bruno: Just a quick note to let you know that the next album ClarOscuro, based on piano, violin and cello will be released by ad21 mid May 2014. Thank you for your interest, and all the best for you and Tone Harvest team.