“You have to concentrate and go deep inside,” is how Ludovico Einaudi describes the process of composition. “You need to have energy to search and if you search you will find. It is like digging in the ground to find a diamond.”
The method must work because the Italian pianist/composer has generated a huge following from his albums and performances and has been recognised with an Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, the Italian equivalent of knighthood. His music sounds a little like the process he described: introverted, hypnotic and polished like a gem.
Einaudi writes from the piano but his music strays into pop, electronics and folk and his fans are equally diverse, ranging far beyond the classical world. Over the past three decades he has released 11 chart-topping albums and has composed a string of film scores including music for the Academy Award-winning Black Swan, The Intouchables and Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar.
For his 2006 album Divenire the composer worked with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Nightbook (2009) was an exploration into the use of synthesized sounds with piano. For his Perth Festival concert Einaudi will be performing with the six-piece ensemble from his most recent album In a Time Lapse. The album was released in 2013 and has the feel of an older man musing on life and the ephemeral nature of time.
“I was reflecting about the way we experience our life in lots of different moments, and the album is about bringing the things we love into a single moment in time,” he says, speaking slowly and thoughtfully over the phone from Milan.
“As we grow older we lose the ability to experience life as we do when we are children where every moment is unique and new. We need to refresh ourselves, so everything becomes as fresh as when we were a child.”
Einaudi drew on a wide variety of sounds to achieve his vision for the album including electronics, piano and orchestra.
“I wanted to bring all my world into one. This album is my world of desires with sounds.”
The track Corale features lush strings swaying moodily between minor and major chords. Time Lapse mixes minimalistic piano rhythms with electronic sounds accompanied by a relentless heart beat pulse. The metallic ring of a glockenspiel opens Life and the piano and strings join to sing a haunting melody reminiscent of Elena Kats-Chernin’s bittersweet music.
The rhythmic complexity and darker sounds in Newton’s Cradle reveals a more rigorous composing technique. Einaudi studied at the Conservatorio Verdi in Milan and in the eighties worked with experimental giant Luciano Berio.
“Our music is very different but a good teacher is one who lets you find your own direction. Berio was a very open-minded composer. We would talk about birds and plants and it was always a starting point to talk about music.”
Einaudi’s music has changed since those days. “I was experimenting, connected to the avant-garde. I was writing with a modern language, which is what I had to do in order to understand it was not what I wanted to do.”
In 1983 when he was thirty he began to find his own voice. “It was a process; you discover in a work that you have achieved something, so you follow it.”
He now aligns himself with the minimalist school: Glass, Reich and Arvo Part. And the topic of nature which came up in conversations with Berio remains a strong theme. It is where Einaudi goes to find refreshment.
“I like to walk in the countryside, in the mountains and at Piedmont [the family home set in a vineyard garden]. Whenever I am in a new city I spend time walking around the parks. It is what I do when I compose.”
And you can hear it in his music. In a Time Lapse is full of nature-inspired music: the deeply soothing track Waterways, a spacious meditation Two Trees and Walk which opens with Arvo Part-sparseness.
Stravinsky and Bach are important influences and Einaudi adds Mozart, Monteverdi, The Beatles and African music to the list. He loves music that “talks, opens reflection for people in a concert”.
“Music is an emotional experience and a logical process. Music can take you to a complexity of different experiences. It is something that happens to me when I listen to Stravinsky and Bach.
“I like it when the music brings you to a different level of experience. Music makes you think, music brings emotion, bring you to new territory and you feel an illumination in what you perceive. I hope this will happen when people listen to my music.”
Saturday 8th February
Perth Concert Hall