I love beautiful things with artistic value. I remember my father when he had to sell his antique watches and when he looked at them the night before. He was a person full of passion and energy, but at the same time well-balanced. He knew that he could not keep all the objects he loved and that he would have to detach himself even before having passed away. We had a house three times the size of mine and my parents sold all their antique miniatures, almost all the antique clocks, all their antique books, and some antique silver because they had to live on these assets, as neither of them had a pension. They thought and were afraid of living up to a hundred years and were always worried, even too much. They also realised I would have great difficulty if I were left with so many things to do after they would have gone. I miss them so much! I think I have learned many fundamental things in life from them and on a daily basis I feel, think, and act like them. It is a strange feeling and then I say to myself, yes, I have their DNA and therefore I am made up of bits of them and this comforts me.
I had and perhaps still partly have perfect pitch. My first piano teacher, when I was 4 or 5 years old, used to place me with my back to the piano and, for fun, I guessed the single notes on the white keys and successively on the black keys. At that age I loved to improvise relatively complex cadences I ° – IV ° – V ° / 46 – V ° / 5 – I ° on the white keys (three notes with the right hand and the bass with the left hand). After a while my teacher told me that for the successive lesson, I would have to do the same on the black keys. I did it without any problems after three days. I still improvise but in a complex and pianistically articulated way within some tonal musical idea, just to musically relax from when I am actually composing. I have always improvised, and I believe that this helps me to find ideas more quickly and naturally. My teacher, Bruno Bettinelli, used to make me turn my back to the piano and ask me to find the fifths and octaves in the exercises of my schoolmates. I remember that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, during a lesson at Dartington Hall, quickly played a series of notes like a broken chord, completely atonal, spanning at least four octaves. In a flash I memorized them and then wrote them down. It took longer to write them than to understand and memorize them. This is how my listening is today during any piece of music that has a tonal basis, even a complex one, or else a few atonal notes of chords. In fact, I think it has even improved and become faster with more complex works of the early 20th Century music. I understand the notes and inversions of any chord, but I wouldn’t have the time to write one or say it before I hear the next. On that occasion, out of about twenty composer students, I was the only one to understand ALL the notes I had quickly memorized. Maxwell Davies was absolutely amazed. It is true that he had not superimposed many notes together as a cluster, because this would have been more difficult and would have taken me a little longer to understand them. In this regard, I remember that a well-known tuner of mine did not know music, but he had a truly extraordinary ear. In short, the two are separate. Having an outer ear and an inner ear. My outer ear, by dint of not practicing as a game or training as a student, is deteriorating with the natural aging of the physical organ, but fortunately the brain uses both the physical ear and its internal sensitivity, the internal ear to compose. I don’t care that much if my physical ear deteriorates, as long as the musical fantasy remains. In fact, the inner ear is crucial for the creation of themes, harmonies and counterpoints and has to do with the creative part of the brain (the ear as a physical organ is only a means of hearing externally) and as we all know, it was so also for Beethoven, who became precociously deaf.