Italian violinist and composer Stefano Semprini has undertaken a project that he hopes will redefine how classical music is perceived in Italy, and in a larger sense, how classical music fits into a global artistic culture that favors popular media over creative substance. His upcoming album Essere (“To Be”), a collection of his works for violin and piano, explores various styles and creative outlets, classical as well as contemporary, with the goal of building a classical genre for a new generation. Mr. Semprini was kind enough to answer a few questions about this project, his compositions, and the state of classical music.
SS: I draw inspiration for my compositions in what I see and what I live. I mean, I try to translate in music all the things happening around me and obviously what I feel about it. A smile, a tree in the wind, a storm, a particular moment in my life. In my music I write what I feel. And what I feel is determined by what I see living my life.
Just because I see music as expression, my music doesn’t want to be necessarily “virtuoso” or experimentation. I believe that emotional dimension is important in music. And as I write what I feel, technique and virtuosity are means to express emotions. My compositions echo the great classical composers, but at the same time are undoubtedly contemporary. It puts together different and heterogeneous elements, but it never becomes a mere musical experimentation.
CC: You say that “classical music still has something to say.” What do you believe it has to say? Why should people listen to classical music?
SS: I’ll never stop telling people that classical music still has lots to say. It became my slogan on my social networking channels. Composing classical music is not very common today: unfortunately it is often linked to something boring and past. But classical music, like music in general, is powerful and expressive. As said before, it expresses feelings and emotions: it could be sad and melancoholic, or happy and playful. My music combines all of these elements: it reflects my soul and my own way to stay in the world.
At the same time, classical music is deeply personal and subjective. I mean that classical music makes the listening free and intimate. There are no words, therefore the music itself is empowered. This is the reason why people should listen to more classical music. It makes a deep link between the author and the listener and at the same time it drives your soul to listen to your deepest feelings. You have to find your own way to listen to it. I think this is also the educational point of music. And…at the end of the day, classical music is the basis of every kind of music. It’s our origin.
SS: We are living in a difficult period, in which music – like other arts – is strongly penalised. Unfortunately being a musician is extremely difficult in Italy now, but I think that it is also in several other countries. Music is often perceived as something unnecessary. But I don’t think so: the arts in general have an unbelievable communicative power and represent a strong point inside the culture of a country. In such a difficult crisis we should rediscover our values. And music is surely a value. It suggests a simple and genuine way of life.
Speaking technically about music, I think that now composing classical music is easier than in the past. We have several instruments and technologies which support composing. But I think that it’s not simpler. Because we have a strong musical heritage. You know, when you face Beethoven or Paganini you can’t even guess how you could compare your music with such beautiful music. But for me the answer is simple: you shouldn’t! We’re children of our time and our music is different, it reflects our time and our sensibility. Therefore, I believe that our music is classical but contemporary. I see wonderful compositions by contemporary authors! So we should not give up and go on with our own music.
CC: Why is Essere an important project? What new aspects does it bring to the classical music scene? Why should people listen to/support you project?
SS: Essere is important from many different points of view. First of all, it is important because it’s an independent project supporting classical music. I believe that music as an art form is really important for our culture. As said before, unfortunately there is little support for art and culture in Italy today and musicians are penalised by this crisis. I am trying to avoid this, and to give an opportunity to the Italian classical music scene, to revive it.
My music combines different elements: it reflects my soul and my own way to stay in the world. But music doesn’t belong to anyone: it cannot be owned by anyone. Authors have the duty and the honour to spread music all around the world. It’s true! I can compose music, but my music will be always the mirror of myself inserted into a clear societal and cultural heritage, in a particular historic period. So that’s why I need to share my own music with everyone.
My project Essere grows exactly from this need: the need of a young artist to grow and stand out beyond all the complexity of the Italian artistic situation. Here was born the idea of an international project. A project able to represent the natural disposition of music itself: a universal language, able to go beyond any physical, linguistic, social and cultural border. The project is based on a USA crowdfunding platform. Crowdfunding means shared financing, so everybody can be part of the project.
Be sure to check out Essere‘s Indiegogo page here, and consider supporting this project! Crowdfunding classical artists like Stefano Semprini means building a sort of “grassroots” support for classical music, by the people, for the people. Projects like this erase the barriers between the artist and consumer, which is so important when it comes to eliminating the view of classical music as pretentious or old school. Plus, Mr. Semprini is a talented composer with a unique and accessible musical perspective. His music deserves to be heard!