Thoughts – 2016

After more than sixty years and with poor health one starts to … count the years

backward. If as a young woman I had all the typical hopes of that age, now my thoughts

go exclusively to the concern of completing what will be my last composition. I would

certainly be very sorry to leave a work unfinished.

I am convinced that experiencing physical and mental pain helps a lot in composing.

Witnessing the suffering of others and feeling one’s own, resizes the ego and raises the

soul, making it feel more deeply and at the same time making it become more essential.

This inevitably affects one’s art. I am convinced that the artist’s life cannot be

disconnected from the personal, human life of every day.

I have never thought, nor ever felt the need to create an artificial or external image for

myself as a public figure. I behave at home as I do when teaching at the conservatorio,

on a stage, at a party, or whenever I have the opportunity to speak in public in any other

type of venue. I have overcome the pathological shyness of a time when I started to feel

more and more confident, having the chance to compare myself with the rest of the

world, both personal relationships or public figures on TV. I gradually discovered the void

of much of the intellectual and human nature of many fundamentally dishonest

individuals, stereotype figures, some of them the same ones who, since the time of my

studies at the conservatorio, had mortified me by mocking me and later penalised my

pupils because they considered me a threat as a traditionalist composer and teacher in

their environment which was and still continues to be strictly Avant-garde. Today, I no

longer listen to those malevolent judgments and I’m calm because I think I deserve

respect as a composer and as a good teacher at the Milan Conservatory too.

Since I was raised with a certain independence and autonomy, this always encouraged

me to believe that I could very well avoid certain environments and their ideas, though it

was not the same for many other musicians. Knowing all these difficulties, my father

urged me to compose for the drawer. I was happy and proud and after some time I felt at

peace with myself. Furthermore, I hardly ever had concerts, so, realising that I expressed

myself better by composing for orchestra rather than for single instruments or small

ensembles, (at the time very long pieces for flute only were in fashion because the

performing rights society in Italy, SIAE, paid by the minute, like the paintings that are paid

by the square metre) from 1986 I decided to compose only for this organic. And it was my

good luck. I wrote to 11 recording labels and it was only around 2000 that the Naxos

recording company decided to create a new series for composers of the twentieth

century. At that time, I had eleven various works for orchestra with all the instrumental

parts ready because I was provident and didn’t want to find myself unprepared for a

possible recording. 1999 was a terrible year because I spent it all in correcting the scores

and binding parts. Naxos recorded these works with the National Symphony Orchestra of

Ukraine conducted by Fabio Mastrangelo and the result was the release of my first two

CDs. Recently, my third CD came out with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra

conducted by Daniele Rustioni, who recorded my First Symphony and Merlin.

In Italy, Politics has always had a significant influence on the arts and professions, but in

particular in Milan where, with regard to music, the two most important publishing

houses, Ricordi Editions, and Suvini-Zerboni Editions, reside. The circles close to politics

and ideologies have always initially helped artists eager for a career. But as the decades

go by, many of the people I have seen undeservedly rise to positions of power, without

having merit or quality, have disappeared…  Performers must have a skilled technique

from which they cannot escape because in classical tonal music any wrong note can be

easily perceived, but the music of the Avant-garde composers is conceived differently

and any mistake is not noticeable, except by very rare musicians with equally rare ears

and very well trained who have studied the scores. For decades the Avant-garde has

reigned both in the conservatorios and in the publishing houses. Whoever did not follow

this current of thought was excluded and opposed. Ricordi and Suvini-Zerboni have

repeatedly refused my music, consequently in Milan and in Italy, I haven’t had orchestral

concerts or radio broadcasts. This situation still goes on. However, being totally bilingual I

was able to get in touch with institutions and orchestras from other countries. People are

often surprised that an Italian knows English so well. I think this has helped me a lot in

creating friendlier relationships and thus to result more convincing.

I have tried my best to pass on my knowledge to my students and most of them have

always been grateful to me. Before the publication of my two CDs, my pupils received

lower grades than they deserved by the composition examination boards. I too graduated

with a very low grade, but I believe that I deserved it in my case. I was definitely

immature.

As a girl, I looked at all women with great suspicion and disdain, because I considered

almost all of them insignificant. I think the problem lay in my excessive admiration for my

father’s intelligence, culture, and generous humanity. I didn’t wear makeup, because I

considered it a way to lure men. My mother was a very beautiful woman and she only

used a light coat of lipstick. Much later, I too followed her model, and nothing else.

Furthermore, I just dressed up in trousers and a sweater or t-shirt. Instead, my mother

had beautiful and expensive clothes. Back then, I wanted to be a boy, because I thought it

would bring me more opportunities than women. Now I don’t care anymore, and it

seems to me that there is more parity. I am happy to be what life has reserved for me to

be. As a child, my father gave me trains, cars, and even a tank. I remember that day in

Paris at the Galeries Lafayette when I was 12 when my mother laughing said to my father

“well now, however, I have decided to give her a doll, at least once in her life! “. I thought

“but now it’s a bit late and I would prefer a walkie-talkie! “

My parents always loved each other until the end, over the age of ninety. They were very

different from one another, but fortunately, they were complementary. I have been very

lucky in having been able to frequent people of vast and varied culture, and of

international origin, since an early age that they regularly hosted in our beautiful big

house. Gradually, even with the arrival of very gifted, intelligent, and nice students, I

started to change my views about women. Over time one has been able to see more and

more intelligent and educated women in all fields and the media have helped

tremendously to make them known. However, I have always felt a certain impatience

towards anyone who was too eager, proud, and full of themselves, either men or women. I

am impatient with people who are passionate about getting power, money, sex, visibility,

and equally towards those young people and that part of the public that cannot do

without mythologizing an artist. As a young woman, I too had my myths, but in a short

time with experience, I reduced them and acquired a certain detachment towards

everything and everyone, similar to my father. Yes, I speak too much about my father, but

everyone who knew him had unrestrained admiration for his mind and knowledge.

My husband and I don’t think we are stereotypes of any kind. The Milanese are always

well dressed, but most of the time I pay little attention to clothing. In this, my husband is

more Milanese than I am and always tells me I look like a slattern. Only recently I decided

to improve my wardrobe, which anyway has also given me a lot of pleasure too. We do

not frequent the Milanese social life. We invite our pupils to stay with us, also overnight,

both in Milan and London. We bought the smallest car we could and the smallest house

but big enough to accommodate the furniture and antiques I inherited from my parents.

However, we have a terrace that is almost as large as the house and I am delighted

because I love gardening very much. We are very complicated and yet very simple people

at the same time. We are Milanese but not stereotypes. Yes, I also feel English, but my

mother was unable to give me her nationality, as she married what was once considered

an enemy.

There is a lot of talk about the liberation, integration, and equality of women in the

western world. I had a very special and lucky life. My mother, being English was very

independent, especially as a young woman, even if she then ended up following my

father’s ideas because of his always well-balanced way of thinking, with the right

perspective, always projected forward in order to limit mistakes in life. My parents never

made me feel particularly female nor male but only a person. I had always realized that I

was not as beautiful as her, nor intelligent and cultured as my father, and I believe that

this in time made me more balanced. I never realized I was a child prodigy or that I had

particularly high compositional skills till somebody told me quite late in life. I also matured

very late. My parents were quite strict and no-nonsense persons, yet very loving. My

father never stopped making me notice my flaws, especially when according to him I was

lazy and would call me a ”lazzarona”, but when I was at the piano composing intensely,

he would leave me little notes with phrases of encouragement and fatherly love, so as not

to interrupt my musical fantasy. He could be really hard and just as kind and gentle. Once,

my husband told my father that as a young woman, I lived as if in a glass dome, I did not

follow what was happening in the world and I was spoilt. Perhaps, it was in self-defense

that at that age I still observed the world as if what happened did not concern me. I now

see the world from a much nearer perspective, it hurts me psychologically and the pain

becomes physical and psychosomatic. I have all sorts of problems derived from stress.

Throughout my life, I have never had unbridled ambitions to emerge as a composer.

Knowing that my music did not fit stylistically in the times in which I lived, and writing for

the drawer, I always thought that I would have more of a chance to emerge once passed

to a better life. I never felt like I ever was opposed as a woman, but simply as a composer,

because I always went against the tide. However, I have now noticed that there are plenty

of women composers who have concerts. Obviously, there are fewer female

performances because there are fewer female composers. But I’m not an expert and I

have never done research about this particular aspect, also because I’m not interested.

Who knows, maybe times are changing now. There is a little more stylistic freedom.

Anyway, I have always wanted to enjoy life as much as I could and never wanted to work

in a fanatic way like my father. I don’t care if I compose an extra work or one less in my

lifetime. I’ve always wanted to feel free from everything and everyone, even from my

husband who understands everything about me. I couldn’t have found a better person

than him, though he is extremely impulsive. From the very first day together in 1988,

when I was thirty-four and he was thirty-two, I told him that I didn’t want children

because I wanted to feel free to compose and live my own life without those strong bonds

that could have hindered it. I knew I had a passionate soul and that I would have had

terrible and excessive love towards my children and therefore long before I had sensed

that for me the maternal role was irreconcilable with my life as a composer. My husband

accepted my wishes, and he has rarely regretted a possible paternal role. Now that we

are getting older, we are a very happy and successful couple although we have very

different and difficult characters, and sometimes quarrel and scream at each other. I

would like to travel the world, but he much less. He prefers a more peaceful and homely

life, studying and living with music and his pupils. Fortunately, two minutes after a terrible

fight we have already forgotten everything about it, and we return to our everyday life.

Woman. Man. Power. I think there isn’t much difference in certain circles these days

and that some women have almost come to have the same power as men.

Music, by its nature, is neither masculine nor feminine. If anything, music may express

different sensibilities, which may not necessarily nor should they emerge with evidence

in the work of an artist be it male or female, or vice-versa.

2016