Thoughts (2016)

I like Pope Francis, how he acts and how he speaks with his conscious simplicity and at the same time naturalness. He WANTS to be like that because he knows it’s not good or right to be proud and presumptuous and take advantage of your position. Humility is part of a great soul and consequently so is the awareness of wanting to continue to be so at all costs because it takes courage. What he does and says is not dictated by dogmas or etiquette that his entourage will want to impose on him anyway. Those who follow him feel all this in him. Both the King of Jordan and Shimon Peres have understood his soul because they are sensitive people and therefore there was an immediate and natural “feeling” with him. With Netanyahu not even a bit because he is a cold and hard person and we also understand it from television. I do not think that a meeting was organized at the table with Pope Francis which involved touching each other’s foreheads in such a natural and spontaneous way. It happened because they naturally felt in tune. The King of Jordan has always been more spontaneous and natural than other heads of state and we have seen how he has welcomed him, but I have perceived that he is less spiritual than Peres from whom, moreover, one perceives a special and unusual feeling of benevolence towards the Pope. I followed almost the entire stay of Pope Francis in Jordan and Israel, having myself covered almost all of his stages a few days ago and for me, it was a second spiritual tour. As a non-believer, who would so much like to believe, for me it was a very strong and sometimes moving experience. I am happy to be alive in this historical moment that touches me deeply.

When I had heard that the next Pope would be called Francis (my favorite saint) and his first deliberately simple words, “Good evening”, I understood that we were facing a very special Pope.

13th March 2016

The world is merciless. From the moment we are born, we are doomed by our particularities of birth, abilities, and fortunes or misfortunes of our existence. Health and well-being, as well as personal talents, are absolutely essential for the possibility of leaving a trace of our existence. There are people already sentenced to failure from birth and others who encounter bad luck. There are very few for whom everything fits together. But they say that Hope is always the last to die …

April 16, 2016

People wonder why I have hardly composed anything since recording my first two Naxos CDs in 2001 and my third CD with my First Symphony in 2014. It is true, I actually don’t have that much music to record. I started my Second Symphony in 2002 but have stopped and restarted it many times. Now I will try to ask if Naxos is interested in recording a CD with my chamber music, which I could have done even before the first two orchestral CDs, but I waited because the owner of Naxos tends to want to record almost only orchestral music. He has to rely on his collaborators to decide which CDs to record in the world. Only now has he listened to the First Symphony with his violinist wife and has told me that they like it very much, so this encourages me to propose other music to him. However, I don’t dedicate myself much to composing and least of all to promotion. I try to enjoy life after years of helping my sick parents and after all my own illnesses, which still continue. I do a little bit of everything. I am finishing the third movement of my Second Symphony and then there is the first movement to compose to complete it, but I still have to review it entirely before having the parts extracted. In reality, I just work very little on it. On the other hand, I look at Art, Archeology, and History on Google, having various interests that fascinate me very much. Gilberto and I also look at the blackbirds on our terrace, which is truly splendid, full of beautiful flowers that I grow with passion. We have just bought a little house for the yellow tits and blackcaps and today I’m going to buy some suitable food. I hope that with the good weather they too can often visit us, in addition to the blackbirds. Our usual blackbird, Ciùciù continues to eat and have a bath at a distance of a little over a metre. This is our daily life. I try to stay calm for my heart, I can’t walk too much because of my operated vertebrae and my knee, anyway I do a little bit of everything, but zero promotion.

4th June 2016

After being more than sixty years old 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 whichever 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.

According to statistics, Man dies later and later, but these never take into account what health and quality of life Man lives in old age. The threshold of seniority and old age has officially risen, but contrary to what one might believe, medicine does not keep up enough with age and does not ensure health above the level of previous age groups. Medicine has improved the conditions of some diseases but has not been able to eradicate many others. Above all, it has failed to find effective cures for the diseases of old age: rheumatic and other pains, the aging body, the consequent physical weaknesses and stiffness. All these have not changed much, but Man continues to retire later and later and always in worse health. Personally, I underwent an L4-L5 arthrodesis in 2010, an unsuccessful operation that gives me continuous pain and a lack of strength and balance, so much so that I keep falling. Lately, falling backwards in a bus and hitting my vertebrae, I fractured L1 and L2 and L3 collapsed on them. I am 62 years old and have worked for 39 years. Wouldn’t it be time for me to retire? so that I could enjoy a few more moments before finishing up in a wheelchair?

4th September 2016

When a teacher has been a good or even an excellent student, he, in turn, must lower himself a little to the level of his student, which in any case must be of an acceptable level. He must have patience and understanding, not only of his musical abilities but also of the psychology and situation of his personal life, so as to understand his defects and shortcomings. He must teach how to overcome them, that is, talk to him about music and life and show him with practical examples at the piano or directly on the paper how to correct them and also talk about life, defects and problems.

19th May 2016

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. 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 dislike and 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 (generally, they were dead), 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.

I met my husband when students were in the same composition class in October 1976. We were always friends going out to look at record shops (Ricordi, which I found very boring) and the cinema but we only got together in 1988. I only consented to marry him in 1997. I was a little proud of my freedom but love and insistent pleading won. 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 or a few days, both in Milan and London. We bought the smallest car and the smallest house we could 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.

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.

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 composing 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…and he doesn’t like traveling which for me is essential. 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.

I have never really wanted to make any money with my music as I live well without it, but this does not change the fact that it is unfair. I have often given away my scores and parts for nothing in particular to Colleges, local amateur or semi-professional orchestras or individuals. Actually, I have had quite a few performances in the States in these years with secondary orchestras, but up to now, I have never received a cent from the US by the Performing Rights Society in London. I wish I had a publisher to solve these problems!!

I was a bookworm, so my schoolmates at the conservatorio defined me in the music history courses I followed in 1975-1976 because I always looked at the teacher in the face. It was the same during many other courses I took too, but in reality, I was always thinking of something else. It’s true that I was a bit reserved but it was more from shyness than anything else and so I hardly had friends and ended up hardly going around with anyone and I was quite alone. Later, fortunately, when Gilberto and I got together he introduced me to many people and I became more open and talkative.

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.

There are orchestras and single musicians who would like PDFs of my scores, either for performance or perusal. I do not know what other people do, but once I used to send scores and parts in paper format, it had a precise cost, included postage and the orchestra had to return the material to me. Of course, they could have made photocopies of it, but it was unlikely. Now it is so easy to send PDFs without any work on my part that I really am at a loss at what to charge. Furthermore, those who download my music will have it forever and can pass it on easily to other people which is not very correct and fair for me. There doesn’t seem to be a solution for the moment. I am looking forward to the day when all orchestras who want a score and parts can download the PDFs but not print them, yet perform them with an iPad, but once the date of the performance has passed the PDF disappears and has to be re-bought. As for an individual who wants to look and study a score, he would be able to make as many copies as he likes, maybe for his students!! This is not fair either. There should be a system to download a score without it being possible to send or print it.

I have some furs from my mother and even from my grandmother. In those days, nobody thought of the torture and death of all the animals. There were no animalists and no media. However, I am very sensitive to this fact and every time I see photos or videos of cruelty it squeezes my heart, and my stomach tightens, also because I know that I cannot do anything to stop particularly people who eat dogs in China, people who go hunting for pleasure, and the sheer wickedness of certain people. But what do I do with the furs I have? Do I throw them away? I gave one to a friend who lives in a colder country than Italy, but sometimes I’m cold too! And then once in a while, I eat meat, as well as chicken and fish and I don’t think about anything in those moments. Animals eat each other in nature. I have purposely watched a video in which they kill dogs in China in the most atrocious way by flaying and then cooking them still alive. Many people haven’t been able to keep watching until the end of the video. I have watched a Japanese man, for the sake of honour, perform harakiri in front of his wife. I told myself that if these things happen in this world, I had to make myself stronger and at least suffer for a moment with them to redeem myself. Children die in Syria. Years ago, they were starving in Biafra. The list is endless. We are all waiting for our last day and I have lived through the terrible days before the death of my parents, but by pure chance, I was not there at that exact moment. Every year I give money to charity, but it is not enough, and because of my poor health I cannot start doing anything active to help … and help whom? I’m not even able to help myself. There are too many wrong things in the world to hope to fix them all. It will never be possible, even with all possible world efforts.

17 December 2016