Everything in the world has already been said but each person during his life has to learn everything all over again, so sometimes it’s worthwhile repeating things. 12.4.80
We are microbes in a universe without meaning, trying to prolong our lives in the search for a kind of immortality that doesn’t exist. 28.4.80
The “cluster” is the quintessence of pre-organized chaos. 5.5.80
Musical masterpieces express the opposite of preorganised chaos. 5.5.80
Apart from human affections, it is only with work that one can find a true reason in life. 17.5.80
One must do all one can to obtain as much as possible complete control of one’s life and not allow others to do so. 17.5.80
Satisfaction in one’s Art is the luxury of those who are poor in spiritual and artistic values. 17.5.80
In the end, it is longer lasting and less fictitious to have the lone power of one’s artistic mind than the power of a social or political position. 4.6.80
I do not believe in “Feminism” as a collective movement because it is ghettoising, however, I believe that a person should always fight for justice. 4.6.80
I believe that it will always be biologically impossible to fight against male chauvinism. 4.6.80
All the categorical affirmations that one states are always excuses for one’s incapacities. 4.6.80
“Mental Stability” is the only Secret of Life. 4.6.80
I am convinced that Retrograde Motion is the most anti-musical technique that has ever existed. The brain cannot work backward except in exercises comprising of just a few notes that, however, have to be extrapolated from a larger context. Thus, the brain is unable to follow and understand the meaning of whole or more sections of music. It is like talking with whole phrases or paragraphs backward. Only comedians do this. 16.6.80
If Retrograde motion is anti-Musical, it follows that a great deal of music written in the 20th century is anti-musical. 16.6.80
Once I used to be satisfied more easily. Now, the accumulation of experiences makes me more difficult and intolerant. 19.6.80
Whatever I do I must absolutely do it, in the name of the past, the present, and the future but in particular of the past, to which I am a debtor. 20.6.80
Instinct in Art must always be kept under cerebral control so that it doesn’t fall into bad taste. However, it must not be the other way round either. 21.6.80
One never loves one’s parents enough. They are the only persons one can usually really trust. 22.6.80
The more I get used to Liberty, the more I want it and find the strength to fight for it. 23.6.80
I always want something that is very difficult to have and when I finally obtain it, it doesn’t interest me anymore. Thus, I live in a vicious circle of continuous dissatisfaction. 8.7.80
The true “Artist” must be a Philosopher. 16.7.80
“How sour sweet music is when time is broke, and no proportion kept. So is it in the music of men’s lives.” Shakespeare – King Richard II. How true this is for much music of the 20th Century.
If you want to climb to the top of a mountain, don’t look upwards but steadily on and measure your pace according to your capacities. Gaetano Brusa, my grandfather
My egocentrism is getting worse; I’m becoming more and more proud and presumptuous…and more alone. 16.7.80
I am not a racist, I am not a religious sectarian, I am not a misanthropist, I thought I was a bit class conscious, but I am not even that. However, day by day I find that most human beings are more and more disappointing and boring. 16.7.80
One cannot accuse ignorant people to have closed minds. They are not aware of it. 16.7.80
My brain is too serious and not elastic enough. Will this be the cause of my future failure? Where is the general balance I’m searching for and which is so difficult to obtain? 16.7.80
The world goes at random and one can never be sure of anything. 27.8.80
I am not afraid of dying, I am not really afraid of anything except suffering. 28.8.80
“Truth” is in the mind of a person of high spirituality. 20.9.80
But is “Individuality” worth the unhappiness it causes? If a dog is happy to be led, why should it become an unhappy stray dog? Isn’t “Happiness” the ultimate aim for human beings? Unfortunately, I am not a dog. 28.9.80
I want to believe more in “Fate” than in “Chance”. “Fate” implies some kind of coherence in life that “Chance” leaves at random, some kind of coherence that one chooses, even if it may lead to total destruction. It is only by believing in coherence that one can have a minimum of Hope and of optimism. One is a “Believer” in “Fate” but not a “Believer” in “Chance”. Believing in “Fate” does not imply that one believes in God. “Fate” can somewhat be controlled by man and admittedly the rest is left to “Chance”. It is an agnostic attitude, whilst believing in “Chance” is an atheistic attitude. 28.9.80
“Individuality” always brings solitude in life. However, true individuality and true freedom lie only in death in which suffering no longer exists. 28.9.80
Letter to a friend Anna:
Forgive me if I haven’t written before but I was convinced that I would have returned to Milan sooner and that we would have seen each other. I really thought that I would be given a teaching post of some sort, but I was wrong. In a way, you know, I am happy because I’d like to remain in London for at least a year, even if I have to feel very lonely. To say the truth, it doesn’t even bother me to be alone, except sometimes during the evenings, and I am not minimally afraid of sleeping or living alone. Obviously, I miss my parents, friends, and things I’m used to and sometimes I ask myself why, for the moment, I am giving them up. It’s because I can’t really do without this experience for many reasons though it’s not really due totally to my own will. However, even here in London, it is difficult to find work but maybe I have some extra hope. As I have been refused by the 5 main Conservatoires in London, I am searching for a teaching job in general musical culture in schools for boys and girls who are 11 to 18 years old. The level of music teaching will certainly be very low compared to what I was aspiring to in Italy but not less than Theory and Solfège and therefore I don’t mind. I compose with great difficulty and not very willingly because the string quartet I am writing does not give me much enthusiasm. I don’t think it is very appealing either to my professor Hans Keller to whom I take my rubbish every two weeks. But he is always an optimist and though he is severe in his judgment, he encourages me very much and I find that he is the ideal teacher for me at this moment, also because he is firmly convinced (or, at least, he seems) that one day I will be able to compose something good. You see, for him, at this moment, I am an inexperienced composer with excellent capabilities that have to be developed and that have to mature in the direction towards which they are inclined. For Corghi I am potentially a composer too but, according to him, my capabilities should be developed in a different direction from that which is natural to me and is part of my musical personality. Maybe I would have a little more mundane success following his teachings, but this does not interest me and all the more, in this moment, I feel that it is only under Hans Keller’s guidance that I will have more satisfaction with my compositions. Now I am convinced that I have chosen the right compositional road because it is really mine and not a trend. After all these words I will go back to Milan if I can’t find work here, but I want to continue with the compositional road I have chosen at the cost of being alienated by the composers and musical institutions of the Italian and particularly Milanese cliques. In these times I feel more independent, I feel I have matured and that I have acquired my own personality. When I meet people, I feel I am no longer the spoilt daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Brusa and even if I am not yet earning my own money, I am a woman who thinks and decides for herself, even if she may make mistakes. Apart from music, once in a while I go to the cinema or the theatre but not very much. I have become fed up with going to contemporary music concerts so it’s nearly two months that I haven’t been to one. I don’t see hardly anyone of my musician friends that I had met at the summer courses. I don’t feel like meeting new musicians, but I would like to meet normal people, who like music obviously, so I have become a member of the “Music Club of London” and tomorrow evening I will go to the first meeting which for pure coincidence is a conference held by Hans Keller on the Haydn quartets. I am also a member of the Hampstead Music Club which is a local club with a rather low level and furthermore full of old people, but it is a very laudable institution that does much good for the culture of Hampstead. I realize that I am always very intolerant with my judgments regarding people I meet, as you know, and I am afraid that this will drive me to become a hermit more than ever. However, I am doing my best to meet people and I am always hoping to meet someone interesting one day. (Translated from Italian)
I am accused of not being conscious of political, sociological, cultural, and avant-garde musical problems because I don’t actively take part in them and because my style of composition is considered Reactionary. Maybe it is, but I am more conscious of the problems and the needs of the times in which we live than anyone can imagine, and I am also convinced that too much talking serves no purpose and the only actions that have been useful to the “Arts” and to “Culture” are those of “Individuals” and not those of the Masses driven by “Ideologies”. I believe that each one of us has to battle alone against these problems; small personal battles, trying to help, in whatever way one can, those near at hand. For me, Teaching and Composition are a kind of mission and vocation. My personality and my individuality make me automatically discard what I feel is not part of my musical thought. In the artistic world, artistic needs cannot but have a personal and true musical faith. I think that many people in these times search only for abstract dogmas and doctrines, even if they are sincerely convinced of the contrary. 20.12.80
I feel overcome by my problems and by the events that happen to me, by the words and the actions of people that I know. Once I used to rebel and complain more. Now I accept things with resignation. Am I more altruistic or weaker? Is this what it means to become more philosophical, more mature? Or maybe one becomes more self-assured when resignation transforms itself into inveterate, silent, self-conviction. 8.2.81
Failures are those who always arrive late and lose the train. It doesn’t matter if one arrives at the last moment, just as long as one doesn’t lose the train. 8.2.81
I hope I don’t live beyond the age of eighty. Life is too long or, at least, it seems so at my age. What will I do with all those years in front of me if they will culminate with the infirmities, the bitterness, and the sadness of old age? If I will have to live long, I hope I will at least become senile and cheerful. 8.2.81
A man, who after having said good-bye and gone his way, turns around and looks at you in the eyes for a second, is sincere. 11.2.81
Few people have the courage of being modest. Who is born modest may never manage to do great things for lack of stimulus, but who consciously becomes modest, maybe will go further. 11.2.81
A masterpiece must, in some way or other, be incisive and in particular, during our times, rhythmically and formally incisive. However, harmony is the basis of every masterpiece. 13.2.81
Dear Mr. Keller,
It is many a time that I have wanted to express my gratitude to you but never found the right words and always felt that I might give the impression of being false. I think you know that I’m serious about my compositions, that I care for them very much, and that if I am not composing at the moment it is due to several factors, not only musical. I am not worried about my musical problems because they will solve themselves if I have the capabilities, the potentialities but I am very much ashamed of my inconstant, weak, lazy character which, even in moments of total peace, comes out at its very worst. I know that a person should have certain control over his willpower and I, therefore, have no real excuses for not composing, apart from the musical and mental blockages and those technical deficiencies we have talked about. I also know that if I have a problem, however small, I will make a mountain out of it because I am extremely emotional and susceptible to all sorts of things. Admittedly, one of the problems that hit me most is not being able to find a companion. I have a difficult character, which does not make me always attractive and then I am very often unsatisfied with people. It seems to be a vicious circle: I suffer, and all these thoughts give me insomnia and leave me in a state of depression and prostration. If my character were not so weak, I would get over these things quickly and work, that is, Compose. I am fully conscious of myself and it is therefore my own fault and I have no excuses. I can only ask you to have patience. I am always worried every time I come to London, thinking that you will not be interested in me anymore because I do not work or because my work is not good enough. I feel I do not deserve your attention and am therefore very grateful for it, hoping that one day I shall redeem myself and that my compositions will fulfill your expectations. I want you to know of my gratitude also because you are the only musician who has true faith in me. 26.4.81
We need to Believe but, in reality, it is all only an illusion, a fable that we create for ourselves for fear of remaining alone in this incomprehensible universe. 5.5.81
Each one of us has his own illusions. I used to believe in “Perfection”, in “Truth” and in the “Absolute” of things, and in Man, but then I discovered that all this was pure wishful thinking. I didn’t mind about things but of Man, yes. I didn’t mind about myself, but I hoped to be satisfied with some other person. There is no one. My mind allows me no tolerance. I am alone. I can’t ask for help or advice from anyone but myself with the terrible awareness that I too belong to the category of the “Imperfect”. 5.5.81
If I could have four wishes I would like to be happy, to have health and peace, and in lack of these, I would like to die. How strange it is to know that the only wish I will surely be granted is just the last and how strange it is to have to wait for it for an unknown period of time, maybe without the other three. 6.5.81
Art is born at the moment a certain work of logic is contradicted; contradicted logically and consciously but, above all, intuitively. Any technique or form of expression that does not allow this, also automatically prevents the creation of a work of Art. 4.6.81
The strange thing is that the more time passes, the more I acquire experiences, the more I know what I want from daily life but less from the entire life. 12.9.81
The sincere wish to teach music and to give moral advice helps me to keep a certain psychological balance. I also think it will keep me rather young, full of enthusiasm, and open-minded. However, I cannot teach others that which I do not believe in or which I do not practice. 9.10.81
Bernstein used to say that the basis of Art is nobility. I would like to add that it is also profound thought, expression of emotions, and essentiality. 15.1.82
If only I could bend my strength of will to my own wishes! 15.1.82
Sometimes I feel like a mouse at the mercy of cats. There are persons who play with my sentiments and my ideas because they trust my good nature and thus my incapacity to react against their malignity. I suffer silently though I torment myself and do nothing but dream of useless moral revenge, conscious that I can save neither myself nor others from injustices. I like cats but once in Dartington, I kicked one letting the mouse run away. I even had to slightly poke at the mouse since it was so terrified that at first, it did not budge. The cat kept looking on at a distance. That time I had to become a judge and I understood that at least the mouse does not play with its prey before killing it. Its behaviour is fair. In this jungle, I can only hope that some dog will come along to run after those cats that play with me. 10.2.82
I feel empty. I feel I have lost hope. Yet, I am full of sadness. How strange that life creates these contradictions. 10.2.82
Fashions change and today one doesn’t usually commit suicide because of an unsuccessful love. However, the pain remains the same. Like all emotions, it doesn’t follow fashions. 11.11.83
HANS KELLER THOUGHTS
Theory, conceptualisation, and knowledge will never produce “aural familiarity”, though they may stimulate and alert, make manifest such latent, potential, instinctive perception and such spontaneous understanding as the individual in question possesses at the outset. Hans Keller – December 1984
In our times, composers are experimenting but no one is really creatively composing. The great number of styles and techniques create confusion and thus incapacity of discernment. Should there really be a great creative mind somewhere it would be suffocated by this historical situation. Memories from Hans Keller – 1985
When creating a work or a number of themes or sections, too much emotional or technical cohesion (excessive unity) can be just as detrimental as too much differentiation (excessive characterization, definition, or articulation). Either way, the result is monotonous. Memories from Hans Keller – 1985
Development is a distinguishing mark of Sonata though. Any development consists in transformation processes. But transformation processes are not, in their turn a distinguishing mark of development; in symphonic thought as we know it, they can, in fact, take place without the remotest trace of development. The elementary and elemental contrast in the sonata’s modes of thought is independent of the contrast between themes and between keys: it is the contrast between statements (whether monothematic or polythematic) and developments (whether they concern themselves with the statements or not). In tonal music therefore it is the contrast between harmonic stability and harmonic lability (modulation) while in atonal symphonism, the differentiation is achieved by a variety of means, from which harmony is not excluded, and which encompasses both melodic and textural juxtapositions, as well as contrasts in rhythmic articulation. Hans Keller – Tempo N. 125 – 1978
In short, the fundamental symphonic problem is based on the definition and large-scale integration of the contrast between statement and development of a work that need not necessarily be in sonata form. Memories from Hans Keller – 1985
In consequence of Hans Keller’s Thoughts, though a piece in sonata form should contain symphonic thought, one can give the idea of a sonata without actually following its proper form. A bad pupil will write a sonata form without symphonic thought and a good composer will write a work with symphonic thought which sounds like a sonata but isn’t. It is always a question of creative spiritual affinities and the different tensions that arise from them or from the lack of them. 1985
A composer has to fill in a Form like a painter with a canvas. However, he must not work at it with small-scale articulations or techniques. He must work at the Form with wide brushstrokes that reach all its parts. In his mind, he must more or less know the ending of the work as soon as he has started it. 1985
One day when we were visiting Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli, an old Conservatorio companion, good friend and then colleague at the Conservatorio of Brescia. We were listening to The Prague and smiling with great enthusiasm and incredulity he said “but listen to the naturality he passes from one idea to the other with such high-flowing (with a flourish of an arm in the air) and free ideas”… The musically natural way he said it, without complicated words, astounded me. I learnt a lot from those words and gesture.
Without flexibility, all techniques, pre-established formulas, musical designs, musical doctrines, and dogmas, etc. prevent artistic creation. The artistic concept is to allow that 2+2=5 if it derives from a higher creative, spiritual need. 1985
Intuition is the basis of creativity. One must know intuitively how and when to break music rules. This cannot be learned by heart since no two exact situations will ever arise. 1985
Synthesis is the basis of composition, much more so than Analysis which is the basis of de-composition. 1985
Balance between the conscious mind and the subconscious. Balance between intellect and instinct. Balance between rationality and intuition. Balance. If a composer is too conscious, he becomes cerebral and arid. If he has no control over his subconscious, he becomes sentimental and banal. 1985
One lives only with egoism in a world similar to that of leeches stuck to one another. 21.1.85
The Secret of Life? Don’t expect too much from it! Live in peace so when something unpleasant happens it shall not overcome you, as it will be easier to keep under control, and when something nice happens it will be a pleasant and grateful surprise. Once more: “Balance”. 9.6.85
The only clear thing is that life is torment. 12.11.86
I have always naively believed that as artists we should aim at “Perfection”, “Truth”, “Beauty”. I always used to believe that they were absolute qualities till I discovered that there is nothing absolutely “Perfect”, “Beautiful” or “True” in the world. Not even Mozart’s or Beethoven’s music have these absolute qualities and we can find quite a few defects and minor parts in their works. They (and Brahms, Mendelssohn, etc.) reach the highest standards that we know of, but we cannot imagine any better musical choices they could have done, or of the existence of some unknown composer whose music has been lost. Human beings tend to idealize too much (and I for one). The “need” to believe in idealistic concepts is a biological necessity but the consciousness that these virtues do not exist in the absolute pull one down to earth towards a non-believer attitude. However, this psychological/biological “need” is the only true driving force that will make Art survive and reproduce, a primary instinct, just like that of any cell. 12.11.86
Man is born naked, physically and mentally. It all depends on what “dress” one naturally has or is conditioned to wear and what ideas and customs one is conditioned to think. The family and surroundings will condition one forever. Rarely will it be possible to change radically. 1986
It is only of “Hope” that we feed on: that condition which allows us to live. It is our “daily bread”. 12.11.86
In old age each one of us recognises himself in others and weeps at himself…but for me, also in youth. 24.1.87
The most important thing that a teacher must give to his pupils is his enthusiasm. 3.11.87
BATTLING AGAINST THE WINDMILLS
In these days I feel like I am battling against the windmills. When I first entered the Conservatorio I did not know, and I did not even later realize, that there were differences of attitudes towards male and female students of composition. My mostly male companions did not talk about it because they probably didn’t think about it, so engrossed were they in themselves. Once in a while, an older professor would mention it, but I would go on unaware and unperturbed not giving the problem any thought. I finished my studies in this manner but gradually, as the years went by, I became aware of the ghettos in which women composers found themselves, but even created for themselves. Whilst meeting persons in diverse musical jobs and positions, I saw attitudes that varied from curiosity for a rare specimen, sympathy for a handicapped person, scorn, total indifference, to the total lack of consideration with the consequent refusal of a requested meeting. How many letters remained unanswered and how many telephone calls had the same reply that the person you wanted to talk to was at a meeting! Of course, other factors could have contributed to these attitudes including my too traditional style of music and my lack of an adequate curriculum, but many things pointed at gender discrimination. I notice that there are very few people sincerely interested in women composers at this moment. Furthermore, some women react in a way I disapprove of. They reunite in groups and clubs and publicly flaunt their problems and injustices to the world insisting on their feminine traits. This does not bring public compassion but, on the contrary, it can even bring annoyance. If there is to be no difference between male and female composers, then one must not keep on pointing out and exalting feminine traits in comparison to masculine ones. Since I believe there is absolutely no difference in good quality music of men and women, I am contrary to this behaviour. If male composers were to behave in the same way, we would call them chauvinists. However, unfortunately, union makes strength and after years of reflection, I have had to capitulate. At the age of 33, I have become a member of the International League of Women Composers. I have always thought poorly of this association and of any concert, exhibition, anthology, etc. consisting of sole women. Then, why not concerts with only homosexuals, blacks, Jews, or people with only two toes on their feet? But with great disappointment and regret, I realized I had to capitulate. If I excluded myself from these initiatives, I would do more harm than good to myself and, furthermore, I needed to keep informed. So, here I am ghettoised like all the other 6200 composers of 72 countries in the International Encyclopaedia of Women Composers. The problems of women composers reduce to two main things: social and family conditioning and lack of time. I believe that the woman is potentially the same as the man under all musical aspects, intelligence, perseverance, will, ambition, etc. I don’t believe that if in the future there will be a great woman composer one will describe her masterworks as more feminine than those of a man composer of equivalent greatness. When a masterpiece is great, it is great and that’s all. Unfortunately, most of the qualities listed above get distorted by the various aspects of one’s social conditioning. The old idea that a woman should stay at home, marry and grow a family is now surpassed but I believe that in a woman who chooses to make a career as well as a family, there will always remain that uncomfortable feeling that she hasn’t really been able to fully dedicate herself to one thing or to the other. And this is a lucky woman! There are those that renounce their careers for love and those that renounce to love for their careers. The first will suffer a little at the beginning but then the family will be so absorbing that the wish for a career will become a distant memory. However, the second is really to be pitied because for a woman to renounce love means to renounce a stable companionship and this can bring about spiritual, emotional, and even physical instability and unhappiness. I do not believe, in the renowned, for example, architect or scientist, married with children, who has done many important projects. Maybe! But if she hadn’t married and, above all, hadn’t had any children, she would have done even better in her work. That is why gay people are so often successful. They are free from ties and have the time and the free mind to do their work at their best. This is the eternal problem of the woman composer: a vicious circle without end on the question of time and of the freedom of the soul. Social and family conditioning will always be too strong to fight against. If a girl is brought up to think of her beauty and of clothes, whilst a boy is taught to think about a career, the battle for equality is lost from the start. I don’t think that women will ever be considered equal to men in their artistic, creative side of Composition, though there are plenty of fully-qualified women composers. Maybe there will be an isolated case that battles against windmills, but will she obtain that necessary liberty of the mind? It is not sufficient to obtain legal liberty and equality. Nowadays, in civilised countries by law, a woman has the right to obtain the same work, salary and conditions as a man but if she will not be able to conquer the liberty of the mind, something that she has to achieve only by herself because no one can ever help her, she will never reach the heights and obtain the consideration that a man has. Unfortunately, I think that even the most intelligent, gifted, and worthy of women will never be able to reach this aim in Composition because she will always be suffocated by the millenniums of social conditioning. 3.11.87
Music is nearer to Architecture than to Mathematics. It is a question of Balance and Beauty. 3.11.87
Sleep is the anesthetic of the troubled soul. 16.12.87
I feel like I am living a life in suspense…always waiting for something…always unsatisfied, always thinking of the future with anxiety, of the past with regret, and never of the present. I must learn how to live in the present, how to live from day to day, and appreciate the world, hoping that it will remain the way it is and not change for the worse. After all, on the whole, there are also happy moments. It is only a question of being aware of them, of appreciating them, and not letting oneself be overwhelmed by one’s problems and moods. 15.1.88
Once I used to believe that the intensity of the joy created by the act of composing was proportional to the greatness of the composer. Now I know this is not true. Even the most modest of my pupils is full of enthusiasm and maybe even I enjoy composing as much as Brahms. 22.4.88
The one advantage of being an unknown composer is that there is plenty of time to do other things than compose and furthermore no one puts pressure on you or bothers you. 24.3.89
There are infinite forms of intelligence but very few forms of stupidity. 29.7.89
I have suddenly realised that this place (MacDowell Colony – Monday Music Studio) is so idyllic and extraordinary because one knows one has to go back home again to ordinary life. With this, I don’t mean to detract any of its wonderful qualities but only to enhance them. Like gold shows up best on a black background, so does the MacDowell Colony to ordinary life. If the world were only full of precious things, they would be valueless. I have twice received this precious jewel and I have twice carefully and gratefully placed it in the vaults of my memory. 19.9.89
On the 14th and 15th of October 1989, the 1st National Convention of Italian Women Composers (to become international next year) was held in Milan. I was given the task of choosing the six composers to take part, including myself. They were each asked to talk about their music and to present one live performance and 2 or 3 tapes. Originally the idea of the convention would have been very interesting and fruitful. Unfortunately, it was organized in a rather chauvinistic way. The six women composers were presented by six men composers, some didn’t even turn up at the last moment because a more interesting concert was being held elsewhere in Milan at the same time. The next day the round table comprising of 9 men, musicologists of various sorts, none of which specialized in women composers, sat on the stage whilst us women had to sit amongst the public, the excuse being that there were not enough chairs on the stage. The various points that were touched included: differences between feminine and masculine education from the past centuries to present times, differences in feminine education itself from the past centuries to present times, differences between brain and neuro-vegetative capacities of man and woman, differences between man’s supposedly higher mental abstraction and synthesis and woman’s more practical and analytical creation. Great differences were continuously being pointed out and anger prevents me from remembering details and other issues that arose. Maybe the personal ignorance and the poor general education of the masses can be excused but it is very sad when the above results are the product of highly educated specialists. October 1989
As a very small child, my father gave me little cars, trains, ships, tanks, and cannons, (understandably he would have liked to receive them as a boy) and my poor mother managed to give me a stuffed bear, a monkey and I remember only one doll in particular, but my favourite toy was a most colourful rubbery Peter Pan. The story sent my imagination flying. October 1989
Excerpt from a letter from me about my meeting with Ernst Gombrich to Milein Cosman, wife of Hans Keller, both of whom were very friendly with him.
…He sees the progress of Art from a wide, all-embracing historic point of view, not limited by ideologies or transient modes of thought. It is an eagle’s eye point of view. This superior objectivity and detachment are to be found only in the highest and freest of minds. His way of thinking reminds me very much of that of Hans Keller. I hope I will be able to transmit some of these ideals to my pupils. (Letter to Milein Corman about Ernst Gombrich whom I had known through her.) 26.11.89
My experience, written at the request of the Tanglewood Music Center for its 50th Anniversary.
Years ago, if someone would have posed me the question: Should you ever go to the States, which musician would you like to meet? I would have most likely answered Leonard Bernstein. Then I would have fallen gently into a wonderful, hazy daydream imagining myself dressed in evening wear either on a concert platform or at an important party shaking hands and being introduced to him as a very promising young musician…what glory, what excitement, what happiness!!
One day in August 1982 I found myself standing near the sink in the composer’s kitchen at Seranak, Koussevitzky’s house in Tanglewood. Dressed casually in jeans, I had an apple in my right hand and was chewing at it. At the same time, I was looking desperately around. I could only stand; I could not sit. Dirty plates, cutlery, glassware, and pans of all sorts, as well as left-over food, were piled on the table, on all the chairs, on the sink, and on the stove. I was the only female composer at Tanglewood that year. For the previous two days, I had gone on strike as I had decided that I had had enough of cleaning up my male composer companion’s dirty crockery and that it was about time they did their share of work. Being the third day of my personal strike of protest, the mess was at its peak and I had had to wash one plate and glass to eat with dignity…but with dignity, I had had to stand! Eating my apple, looking around, and thinking that I had probably finally reached my aim in persuading my fellow composers to collaborate, I heard approaching voices. I immediately recognized that of the administrator, Daniel Gustin, but could not place the other deeper voice. This could not have been possible anyway as I had only heard it dubbed in Italian. Suddenly, as they reached the main kitchen next to ours, I realized to whom the voice belonged but had only time to pass the half-chewed apple from my right to my left hand. Dismayed, embarrassed, happy, excited, I found myself introduced to Leonard Bernstein…in old jeans…and in a dirty, messy old kitchen! But that is Tanglewood! That is what it’s all about! Anything can happen…and when it does, it’s always extraordinary and exciting. Summer 1990
Why call this moment of musical history “difficult and for many extreme” when in reality it has become the most fruitful there has ever been? It is a moment in which one is more than ever assailed by a diversity of styles and techniques. The composer has but to assimilate them to artistically create something new with endless possibilities and thus without the fear of copying. I think I assimilate, not copy. It could be a moment of humanistic rebirth for whoever is able to realize it and for whoever is really up to the situation with the capacities for becoming part of this historical moment in an artistic and not merely technical way. We find ourselves at the beginning of an eclectic era that will last a long time. A large part of this eclecticism is made up of what can be defined as “Neotonality” with its various branches. I feel part of this stylistic current, notwithstanding the fact that there are those who abuse of Neotonality, even if with serious intents, and there are those who use Neotonality as an end in itself without artistic aims. 1990
The strength and the spirit of an Artist lie in the alternation of artistic creation with everyday life. 1991
Dear Mary (Medawar – a writer friend),
Today I just finished reading Gabriella! I am a very slow reader, but I was so terribly excited and captivated by each chapter that I finished it very quickly. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed every part and I congratulate you on the vitality, the fantasy, and the enthusiasm you have been able to convey from the beginning to the very end. Every part is interesting: the fantasy of the story, the historical details, the characters. One is glued to the novel and there is never a dull moment. If you think that it is not as good as Under the Tricolor (which I admit I haven’t read yet) well, then I probably won’t find any more words of praise once I read it. I simply loved all the descriptions of the life of the Conservatorio of Milano. I felt immersed in a different world in the middle of the 19th century that seemed so real that when I went into my classroom the next day, I immediately looked out of the window at the cloister to see the view that Gabriella had first seen on her arrival. I felt a longing, a yearning for a more fantastic academic (as well as artistic) life that in fact proves to be a very simple if not dull routine here, very unlike that of your heroine. Yes, I always walk on the same stairs that Puccini and Verdi walked, yes, I walk into rooms and through corridors that famous musicians passed, but it is only thanks to you that now I can be aware of it and can really appreciate the traditions and the history of my Conservatorio and imagine all the ghosts of these great musicians as if they were still there. My colleagues seem to be unaware of this. It seems as though they don’t care about the past. They only think of themselves and of their petty, presumptuous little careers, with the will and the wish to forget those who were much greater than them. There are no recent signs in the Conservatorio to show gratitude to those who have created its traditions and to whom we should all be grateful. Yes, we do have a bust of Puccini, a few other busts in the concert hall, including that of Verdi, which only the public see, one or two portraits in the library, and oddly enough a painting of Beethoven on the main stairs (I really don’t know what he has to do with the Conservatorio of Milan, but never mind). However, everything else looks so forlorn and forgotten, as well as dirty and squalid, that even before I read your book and did the research work for you, it made me quite sad. There is no pride left in anyone for what the Conservatorio is and has been as a cultural institution. Anyway, thank you for opening my eyes, for giving me so much pleasure, and for bringing back to life a consciousness that I probably would never have realised I had deep down inside me. I feel all the richer now because of it. 27.2.92
Dear Milein, (Cosman, wife of Hans Keller)
I feel I really must put on paper all the gratitude I owe to Hans and now to you. You see, from 1978 to 1985, 3 Frognal Gardens was always the house of Hope for me. I used to arrive with a depressed heart and always left with an uplifted one. By pure chance, coincidence, or even destiny, it was always a sunny day when I came over. Every single time the sun shone through the window next to the piano lighting Hans and me. It was as though there was something very special about our lessons and I remember having told him so. Hans showed me the Musical and Artistic way and gave me the moral courage to continue composing in my own style. He told me that I should go on the way I was composing and not feel an outcast in the general musical environment. He said that what I was doing was right and that anyway I couldn’t do anything differently because my musical capabilities were inclined that way and that only by following them, I would get the best results and not by going against them. The only thing I am sorry about is that he cannot see my musical improvement and what is now my independent belief in my own capabilities. He told me then that he was sure of them. Sometimes, when looking together at one of my works, words were not even necessary to make me understand what was right or wrong; a mere look of understanding between us was sufficient. He never used a pencil to correct anything (like other teachers do). His musical intelligence extended far deeper than superficial note corrections; far deeper than any other musician I know. No one I know of could understand a score as he did. Yet, he would say that he was only telling me things that deep inside me I already knew…that he was simply clearing my ideas. I can only say that I would never have continued composing without Hans Keller’s help and encouragement. My parents are witnesses to this.
But now I want to turn to you, my dear Milein. My admiration for your paintings and sketches and your truly artistic temperament is deep and wholly sincere. For example, your pictures of Hans catch the essence of his whole being so much so that anyone who knew him feels that he is right there, thinking…and judging. Dear Milein I hardly knew you from 1978 to 1985. 3 Frognal Gardens was until then a kind of sacred temple for me and Hans was my prophet. Now, thanks to you, it has become the most special and welcoming house for me in London. Your friendship and your kindness are very important to me and I feel very happy and at ease when I am with you. (Forgive me if I sometimes talk too much.) So now, though the temple has not lost its sense of spirituality, in that the persons that have and are still inhabiting it are very, very special, it has acquired a sense of familiarity and real life for me, thanks to you dear Milein.
I’m terribly grateful to you both. Though I never told Hans, I know that he knew it. Now I really feel the need to put it down in writing for you, since spoken words are so ephemeral and can often seem so false or too formal. With my deepest affection and gratitude, Love, 29.12.92
Corruption, thinking about everything in terms of Politics, Power and Money are a way of life in Italy, a way of thinking that originates long before Macchiavelli. Rome was gradually founded, hundreds of years before Christ, by all the worst kind of people coming from the South of the Mediterranean and further: murderers, thieves, liars, beggars. These were also the Romans of 2000 years ago. It is in the blood, it is constitutional and I think it can never be changed. Maybe, hopefully, it can be held partially under control. 14.3.93
As a teacher, I see plenty of students who consider themselves composers when they have hardly done anything. I too as a student thought the same. But I also see middle-aged or definitely old people who think of themselves as composers and I have doubts. Some people do not have the possibility, for lack of time or will, to dedicate themselves totally to composition, some compose only when they feel like it or only because they have no other occupation. Most lack quality as well as quantity. Above all, in our times there is such a multitude of techniques and styles that unfortunately there is no way of defining whether one is really a composer or simply a musician who copies techniques. This brings confusion and unrest, not so much amongst the composers, as amongst the critics, publishers, organisers of concerts, not to say the public. People are no longer able to understand and judge. Quantity and extravagant techniques are privileged in comparison to artistic content. Artistic content, as usual, is practically impossible to define and very difficult to understand if not by intuition which a lot of people don’t have. Composers are now judged according to whether they belong to a certain category: have common political stylistic tendencies, whether they are women, black, Jewish, neo-romantic, avant-garde, communist, socialist, gay, etc. Where has the word “Artist” gone? Do people still look it up in a dictionary or has it gone out of fashion? I have an idea that even if they do look it up, they don’t really understand what it means. In our times it is so easy to compose with pre-established formulas and models. Everything of that type goes well. We even get phenomena like computer engineers who do not even know how to read music, let alone have studied composition, and yet they compose with mathematical and algorithmic formulas and get performed. Nowadays, due to so much general confusion, one doesn’t even dare to make judgments. If one does, one gets ghettoised and excluded. One sees mediocre strong-willed composers who get performed continuously and good composers who find enormous difficulties, maybe because they have less forceful characters or because they don’t belong to definite categories. Categories are the refuge of the ignorant and of those not capable of judging for themselves. In this world of confusion, categories misleadingly seem the only way of establishing a little order. However, they remain fictitious and contrary to the understanding of real “Art” which supersedes all boundaries and luckily most of human understanding. Though the concept of “Art” is difficult to define, probably the concept of what an “Artist” is should be a little easier. I have talked about how some people “qualify” to become composers and professionals, but shouldn’t one also have certain “gifts” (apart from general intelligence) so as to “be” a composer as well as “become” one? Often very, very intelligent and cultured people become composers, but this is not enough to qualify as an “Artist” or a real Composer. The gift that was once called “being Musical” seems to be no longer considered. In recent times it seems that to “become” a composer is more important than to “be” one. Ambition, vanity, love for success, money, lust for power have clouded over what should be the real qualities in a composer: a natural innate musical talent and a spiritual disposition with great love, a great passion, a drive all aimed at the natural creativity of pure “Art”. This is the real Composer, the real Artist. In our times, real composers are considered those who obviously have a degree or diploma in Composition, whose compositions get performed continuously in the major concert halls of the world, who have a major publisher, whose works are all recorded on CDs or DVDs with the best labels, who are famous and well-off, who mass-produce works (many of which for large orchestra) sometimes creating new compositions made up of parts of old ones like collages, who have won major international competitions and bursaries, who have continuous TV and radio broadcasts, who travel a lot, who talk a great deal to audiences and radios about themselves and their compositions, who go to parties in their honour and finally who teach in major institutions, though this could be considered somewhat disqualifying because it implies that one doesn’t earn enough with copyright money. Apart from making collages, a few of these things have happened to me too but it is the fictitious, the unreal part of the composer’s life, however pleasant it may be. This is not “being” a composer. The real composer is the one that feels the spiritual need to compose in whatever conditions, even if his works are not performed and remain in a drawer till after his death. April 1993
Excerpt from a letter to a friend.
…I was thinking things over these days and would have liked to talk to you about the various possible artistic images that a musician can create when he presents himself to the general public for the first time. For example, I would not like to be labeled as a woman composer or put under the category of feminist or feminine musicians. Though it is very much the fashion of grouping different kinds of musicians, or better still, ghettoising them, and though I generally have not refused to participate in women’s concerts, in the long run I think it would do me more harm than good. Furthermore, I do not believe in putting musicians in categories other than various levels of good and bad. 1993
MUSICAL SITUATION IN ITALY. 1993
The Italian government is in such financial difficulties that it has decided to close down the RAI Orchestra of Naples (the choir had closed down previously), the Angelicum Orchestra of Milan and the choirs of the RAI orchestras of Turin, Rome and Milan (which means that pieces such as Beethoven’s 9th and Mozart’s or Verdi’s Requiem can no longer be performed except by the S. Cecilia Orchestra in Rome or by opera orchestras). There is also the possibility that the Milan RAI Orchestra may be closed down completely. The contemporary music series of concerts called “Music in Our Time” has closed down too. The government has also drastically reduced the funds to the S. Cecilia Symphony Orchestra in Rome, to all the opera houses, (including La Scala), and to all the smaller institutions, some of which have had to shut down. Last year La Scala had to cut short a visit to the States, (2 concerts instead of 15 !), with Riccardo Muti going publicly quite mad, denouncing RAI (which is government controlled) because it continues to pay enormous amounts of money to TV presenters, pop singers, football matches, etc. instead of promoting culture. Italy already has so few symphonic orchestras, the only decent one being S. Cecilia, that this makes the situation absolutely disasterous. (It is said that the Turin RAI may rent the S. Cecilia choir all the way from Rome for a concert or so!) The situation is even more dramatic than most people think….. dramatic for the repercussions it will have in a not too distant future. With the considerable decrease in births in this country, the government’s lack of interest in culture (since it follows the usual “Panem et Circenses” politics) the consequential lack of interest from sponsors and the terrible inadequacies in musical education both in the primary and secondary schools, many parents will soon start thinking that music is not a very sound profession in which to encourage their children. Consequently, the Conservatorios of Italy, particularly the small ones, will be greatly reduced and some will even disappear. Many hundreds of jobs will be lost but this is only a marginal problem. MUSIC is the main problem ! All this lack of interest will create a lack of public as well, and the promotion of classical music, not to speak of contemporary music, will be reduced next to nothing. By promotion one doesn’t mean commercial but Artistic….. maybe “diffusion”, (of something in which one believes in and to which one has dedicated all ones life), is a better definition. These considerations apply to Italy in particular, since other European countries and the States, generally have much better musical situations, so that even if their governments were to apply financial cuts to the Arts, the changes would be of lesser entity and with minor consequences.
The RAI Orchestras of Milan and Rome have closed down too. The only remaining one is the one in Turin, now called Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale.
The nearest suffering to that of physical suffering is that created by the feeling of injustice. 21.12.93
Unhappiness and suffering are a form of death. As time goes by, parts of one’s spirit die bit by bit. 9.3.94
In Art, the driving force must be the free fantasy born from pure and natural invention and free from doctrines and dogmas. It must not be mere cerebral speculation without an emotional interior drive and without spiritual motivation. However, these must always be recognizable not only by the ear but by the soul. 28.5.95
During the Convention for the Reform of the Composition Courses held at the Conservatorio of Milan, I have realized that many composer colleagues would like to prevent students from studying Harmony and Counterpoint as a principal subject. They would prefer a Composition course based on “creative writing” from the first year but only with languages and styles suitable to the doctrines of the Avant-garde and Post-avant-garde currents. They would like to do as much as possible to prevent students from writing Tonally or Neo-tonally. According to some teachers, if student conductors, musicologists, and performers don’t want to compose in an Avant-garde style they should follow the courses of Music Didactics whilst all composition pupils should adapt themselves if they want to obtain a Diploma in Composition. According to them the course of Harmony and Counterpoint should be a complementary course like History and furthermore, they don’t even want to create a complementary course in Orchestration with a historical/philological approach. For this reason, there are many students who, having passed their middle course exams, don’t know with which teacher to go and study at the superior course. There is no teacher that allows a student to obtain his Diploma with traditional techniques. Some pupils go to other Conservatorios, others find more satisfactory solutions abroad, some stop studying, even though they have obtained the vote 8 or more, necessary for carrying on studying. Many students adapt themselves to the only direction offered by the teachers of the Superior Course of the Conservatorio and compose and obtain their diplomas exclusively with Avant-garde techniques without ever having orchestrated in the traditional sense nor composed any work with absolute stylistic liberty. Some teachers get to the point of unjustly lowering the votes of those students who still follow the traditional courses in Harmony, Counterpoint, and the Fugue and above all if they have studied with teachers who do not align to their ideologies. Between all the teachers of the superior course and the majority of those of the inferior and middle courses, there is total connivance tended towards defending their compositional ideologies at all costs. They even try to prevent some students from obtaining 8, obliging them to stop their studies or continue privately, though they would have been perfectly capable of continuing as students of the Conservatorio. This doesn’t happen in other Conservatorios. I cannot fight these injustices alone nor safeguard the interests of my students or those of numerous others who find themselves in similar situations and whose complaints I hear about through my own students. July 1997
The situation hasn’t changed but this year the votes have been slightly higher, maybe because there has been a reduction in the number of the students of the superior courses and the teachers need to fill in their classes so as not to lose their jobs. 1999
The situation has officially improved because with the Reform of musical studies university courses offering degrees have been established during the last two years and everyone is aware that it is necessary to adapt to European studies and standards. However, many teachers go on thinking as before and boycott students who are inclined to more traditional styles and techniques so that these students, if they want to obtain a degree in Composition, have to yield to their will, that is to the Avant-garde. However, in the past two years after many battles, they have allowed me to teach the 1st yearly course of Orchestration in Tonal Music and in 2004 I should start the 2nd yearly course. If the students of the Conservatorio of Milan are able to study Orchestration they owe it exclusively to me and to my battles throughout the years. However, at the moment the students who enroll in my course are scarce because the teachers brainwash them. 2003
In 1993 three RAI Orchestras out of four closed down. Every day, other than teach, I have to encourage and pick up the spirits of many good musicians who in this moment find themselves lost and embittered for the lack of concert and work opportunities. They ask me: “but when I will have finished my studies how will I be able to support myself, apart from teaching in schools, where even now jobs are scarce, and how can I demonstrate that I am worth something if I don’t have the opportunity to play, conduct, have a composition performed?” In fact, when us teachers were pupils there were more opportunities, not only in various cities or towns in provinces, but also in Milan. It is well-known that many small and large institutions have been shut down and those that remain have become more selective, the most important giving even more opportunities to foreign musicians and the least important to those few co-nationals who have already had the opportunity of becoming well known. The cult for the exotic and foreign name continues to be strong to the detriment of equally skilful and sometimes even better Italian musicians who have not reached international fame. These musicians content themselves to play (alas! no longer with the defunct RAI orchestras) but in the same small places where they had played as pupils, thus cutting off the new generation which finds it tremendously difficult to emerge. Nowadays it is sad to see what general bewilderment there is amongst the pupils of the Conservatorio compared to the enthusiasm, the ambition and the optimism there was when I was a pupil. It’s sad to see how much importance is given to various forms of entertainment, from light music to television, from fashion to sport. If popular culture, that is, entertainment, folklore, popular traditions are elevated as “Culture”, the meaning of this word is deviated and betrayed, and the public gets wrongly informed and thus unconsciously deceived. The road Carnivals every year (though costing too much) are a clear popular manifestation that have no pretensions, but real Culture and Art are something else. It’s sad not to be able to help all those who have studied seriously and brilliantly at the Conservatorio for so many years; all those who have dedicated their lives to true Culture and to the highest and universal forms of Art. September 1997
Composers who do not write with Avant-garde techniques have always had clipped wings since they were students in Italy. Neither Ricordi nor Suvini Zerboni have ever had interest in their compositions, either because of their more traditional compositional style, maybe not in fashion, or either because of their lack of political/party involvement. In Italy the composers who are not part of one of these two publishers are not considered “official” composers, though abroad this is not so. In fact, I have had more performances in other countries than in Italy and I have obtained them all by myself. However, they are still few compared to those of the “official” composers. The system of recruitment of the teachers of the Conservatorios in Italy consists of judging them via artistic points (obtained with concerts and published works). This system has given chairs of Harmony, Counterpoint and the Fugue to teachers who often have a Diploma in Experimental Composition and who hardly know the subject, as well as chairs of Composition (superior course) to teachers who have never studied Traditional Orchestration nor written Forms of the past (Sonata, Variations etc.) whatsoever. Analysis of compositions is greatly taught but is not sufficient. One has to learn how to write, how to put to practice the various styles and techniques of the past. What beats everything is that both kinds of chairs can also be given to a teacher without any diploma whatsoever but who exclusively has artistic “points” obtained with concerts, published works and above all the artistic direction of a theatre via political means. The system of transferring a teacher from one Conservatorio to another is similarly unjust. The “points” are given according to seniority and to the number of children one has. The didactic qualities and capabilities of the teacher are never taken into consideration. But how can one judge a good teacher? It’s not so difficult as it seems. The old custom of knowledge through word of mouth is still valid. It is not necessary to have “points” to be a good teacher. A good teacher nearly always has had another good teacher in turn. This kind of “pedigree” should be verified for every type of teaching job before employing a new, young aspirant. It is not even necessary to have a diploma with full marks to be a good teacher, though obviously neither the contrary. Nor do all those musicians who have been the first of the class or musicians with big careers are necessarily good teachers. However, I would consider it necessary to take a teacher’s diploma examination, but this should not be a slavish repetition of the original Diploma of Composition. It should be like a public lesson held by the aspiring teacher in front of a committee to demonstrate, for example, how to resolve a harmonic or contrapuntal problem, a certain musical technique, the composition of a phrase or the correction of part of a musical structure, as well as the analysis of a part or of the entire form of a work. With the future Reform and the autonomy of the Conservatorios maybe this will be possible. One should also take into account the aspirant’s artistic activity but only as an integral part of the figure as a whole. An interview to know the personality and character of the aspiring teacher will be absolutely necessary. However, when employing the teacher, one will have to take into account many factors, including the capacity of communication, the passion for teaching and the sense of responsibility and duty towards the student, which, in some way, should be evident. With two years of trial period at the Conservatorio, instead of one, all these various factors should become clear. Some of the above-mentioned qualities are clear straight from the beginning of a teacher’s career, but at a certain point of his life his didactic capabilities should be recognized from the evident satisfaction and enthusiasm of his students, from an always full class, from the quantity of students he annually prepares for exams and their votes. The word passes from mouth to mouth and one will always know if a teacher is good or not…without “points”. 1997
Many women have written articles about the difficulties of making a career, about anti-feminism. Admittedly, I have never been interested in women and their problems. Actually, I never really thought of myself as a woman till I was well over 26. I can’t remember exactly when I became conscious of this since it was very gradual. When I was a child, I was given more toy trains, cars, and tanks than dolls. My mother would tell me that she would give me a present if I was the first of the class; my father, always anti-conformist, if I was the last. I couldn’t manage to be either, but somehow, I always got a lot of presents of all sorts. Having gone to the International School of Milan where all studies were in English, I never noticed that there could actually be a difference even in the way of addressing myself. In Italian, there are feminine endings to everything regarding females, and the neutral “you” doesn’t exist. During the first few years at the Conservatorio, which followed soon after school ended, I was always confusedly finishing words regarding myself with masculine endings. It produced a very curious feeling of a possible double identity. When I got a Composition Diploma at 26, I immediately started teaching Harmony, Counterpoint the Fugue, etc. at the Conservatorio of Vicenza passing on to Mantova, Brescia, and finally Milan five years later. May I add that since my job and transfer to the Conservatorio of Milan was decided by a computer, there was absolutely no anti-feminist discrimination involved and since all Conservatorios are state-controlled, I have the same exact salary as that of my male colleagues.
In Italy, most composers are composing with Avant-garde techniques, apart from a handful of composers who have added Minimalist techniques to a pseudo-tonal style. I have always felt I could not compose the music that everybody else did. Since I couldn’t fit in any particular stylistic trend, (the only way I can describe my music is that of it being Neo-Tonal but only a few works have partly Minimalist techniques) I was and still am cut off from having important performance possibilities in Italy, though possibly not abroad. Of course, at the moment, due to the very difficult and chaotic political and economic situation in my country (over 400 musical institutions have officially closed down during the last four years, including the RAI Symphony Orchestras of Rome, Milan, and Naples), everyone is finding it pretty difficult if not impossible to find work. However, if someone is boosted by a political party, it may be another matter. I have always been totally indifferent to politics, the chaos of which contributes to my aversion, but I’m sure that no political party would have been of help to any career of mine because, as I said, my kind of style does not fit in any particular group of ideologies. It is the style of an independent person and independence is not accepted by groups or parties. Furthermore, I have never wanted to mix Music with Politics. As time has passed, I have realised more and more that my difficulties have been certainly not due to the fact that I am a woman. There are quite a few women composers in Italy nowadays, with high standards of technique and style who fit in with the official requirements very well.
Originally, I didn’t want to join the International League of Women Composers since I thought it was a society that only confirmed once more the inferiority of women. I then changed my opinion because I thought it would however be better to keep informed and not be left out of any possible opportunity. Sometimes I have skipped articles concerning discrimination towards women, considering them boring. I have always thought that if women found difficulties in their careers in our modern times it was because they weren’t good enough, hadn’t worked hard enough, or didn’t fit in particular trends or requirements, including those of character and personality. It is only in the last few years that I have gradually realized that some women are still really having experiences of discrimination, even in western countries. For years I regarded most women as intellectually inferior beings and sometimes still do (I have had some mediocre women pupils) and that they thus mostly merited what seemed discrimination to them. I thought that women, being brought up differently from the cradle and being conditioned to think and to behave differently throughout life, could stand no chance of reaching the same levels as men. I thought that if women behaved in a feminine manner, didn’t dedicate their whole selves and lives to their chosen work, giving up certain aspects, including that of having children, because too time and mind consuming, it was no wonder that they couldn’t reach their goals and obtain recognition, if not success.
Many intellectuals of the past have insisted that women have never reached the highest levels in Art (I’m not talking about the techniques involved) because they cannot reach the highest levels of spiritual abstraction to express the most profound and most noble human sentiments. Great female artistic minds have failed to emerge in the past because women have been suppressed by the social conditions and customs. The fact remains that there has been no woman Bach, Beethoven or Brahms, no woman Shakespeare, no woman Durer or Rembrandt and one can go on listing great minds, though there have been some women Sammartini, D’Indy or slightly better. But the social conditions have changed in our times and they have become equal for men and women, who are now leading more independent lives than ever before. Furthermore, since I believe that the brains of men and women are the same, there should be a promising artistic future for women.
Though, as one can gather, I am an anti-feminist who has always naturally and unconsciously behaved as a lone feminist fighter, I hope I do not sound like a woman-hater which I certainly am not. Furthermore, I see just as many female defects and weaknesses in my own men friends and in my life-long companion and now husband, a conductor who loves cooking and would love to have children whilst I am terrified of these things. For years I have tried to understand what are the congenital weaknesses of women, particularly in the musical career. Being the only woman Professor of Composition at the Conservatorio of Milan (and the first since its foundation in 1808) and having only men colleagues for comparison, I still cannot understand what I had not understood as a young student at the same Conservatorio. Furthermore, I know my own defects of character, but I also realize that my men colleagues have similar and even worse defects as well. Some have really weak characters. But my difficulties in Italy are not due to the fact I am a woman. I insist that they are due to my choice of style in Composition, to my slow maturity as a person and as a composer, and to the fact I have never wanted to mix Politics with Music (which unfortunately sustain all successful activities in Italy).
Ever since I realized I was a woman, I always wanted to be a man, though my husband laughingly insists I am physically very feminine, and thank goodness he likes and loves me the way I am. Yet I often envy him. I envy his total lack of consciousness. He is quite happy as he is and finds it impossible to think of being different. He does not suffer from being a man nor does he ever think of having feminine traits. Nobody forces him into a category of men composers; nor is he gay, black, Jewish, or labeled in any other manner. He behaves like a man totally at ease with himself and this is considered normal. He was not given dolls to play with nor does he feel he has to comply with any different mental/historical obligation than that which he is naturally inclined and was brought up with. Thankfully, I was not brought up to behave or think totally as a man, since I would really be considered a sexual freak, but I really wish I was as psychologically free as he is without this terrible historical and biological legacy and this imposed worldwide consciousness of being a woman. 1997
Dinosaurs lived a few million years ago. How many? Does it matter to us living nowadays how many? Will paleontologists ever be able to define the exact year a particular dinosaur was born or died? And if so, does it matter? In a few thousand years or more, will it matter that Bach lived approximately a hundred years before Beethoven? If the Earth still exists and Humanity with it, maybe all that will be remembered is that in the second half of the second millennium A.D. (will Humanity still record time according to Christian faith?) there were composers who wrote Music mainly using a language called Tonality and that, for example, the above two composers used Tonality in a different style from one another. According to aesthetics will it ever matter that Bach came before Beethoven?
Time is only Relative and Irrelevant. 1998
“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita”… (In the middle of the journey of our life…Dante) I have discovered that I have all the Time and the Freedom I want in the world. As a mature composer, I can compose when I please and in whatever manner I wish without anyone stopping or conditioning me except my daily duties towards my family and teaching. I please myself and I am my own master. Up to now my anguishes and worries, due to my parents’ ill health and my relatively unsuccessful musical life, prevented me from realizing how lucky I am and what a richly fulfilled life I have always had. 5.10.03
One is hardly ever capable of judging oneself properly. “Hope”, or the lack of it, always tends to distort any positive or negative view a musician may have of himself. 5.10.03
History has always conditioned composers at all levels but in the past centuries, there was always that much freedom to pursue or diverge from it so as to allow artistic invention. Nowadays History is of no consequence and only a number of the most recent musical styles and techniques, that is a number of trends, are officially accepted. They are imposed on present composers with such force and with hardly any other possibility of choice since the start of their studies that these composers are conditioned for life and lose their capacities of free invention, the basis of Artistic creation. 21.10.03
They say that Love is blind…however Love for music can make one deaf. Very rarely is one capable of holding a true and impartial judgment of one’s own musical gifts. One always thinks that one is better (or maybe worse) than one actually is. 24.10.03
If a sensitive person feels reflected in a work of Art and is able to grasp its “life”, then it means that the artist has reached his intents at whatsoever level they may be. 28.10.03
I have never taken the decision of composing “communicative” music at any moment of my life as many other Neo-tonal composers have done. My music has undergone a natural development since childhood, and I believe it has always been communicative music anyhow. I have never felt the need to talk about it or to flaunt the fact that it is communicative until recently, purely out of common sense. It is more likely that someone will pay attention to a phrase like: “pleasant and communicative music” than not. 18.11.03
“Children must be seen and not heard.” Music must be heard and not seen 18.11.03
Analysis is only useful if it is conducted as a direct musical experience through intuition. If it remains only an abstract, intellectual examination of a work, it will be useful to the musicologist but very little to the composer. 18.11.03
It’s a question of survival. Every nice word, every compliment is like a drop of medicine that keeps the spirit alive. 22.11.03
Today I was asked to express my philosophy of life and this was my reply: Aim so high that you know from the start that you will never be able to reach your goal. In this way, you will never be really disappointed by anything but will always do your best. 29.11.03