Interview with Giovanni Piacentini (USA): Album "CHIAROSCURO"

Giovanni Piacentini: Album "CHIAROSCURO"

Today's guest is Giovanni Piacentini from USA.

Guitarist and composer Giovanni will tell us about his debut album ‘CHIAROSCURO’, which consists of three works: ‘CHIAROSCURO Suite in five movements for solo Classical Guitar’,  ‘CHASING SHADOWS for Violin and Chamber Ensemble’ and ‘MINIATURES for Chamber Ensemble (Based on paintings by Odilon Redon)’.


Q1. Please tell us about yourself (music background, your musical influences,  styles, etc.).    

I grew up listening to a lot of Opera, Brazilian music, romantic/classical (I remember my father blasting the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto in the mornings!) and some Jazz. My mom had a great vinyl of Bach arranged for big band. I loved listening to that. As far as my influences go I guess the most significant ones (not necessarily in order of importance) are Leo Brouwer, Villalobos, Beethoven, Tom Jobim, Verdi/Puccini, Paco de Lucia, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Pat Metheny, Mahler. Later on I discovered the sound worlds of Ligeti, Xenakis, Donatoni and of course my mentor Richard Danielpour.

Q2. Please tell us about the album 'CHIAROSCURO'.

a.)  What inspired you to make this album?

This is a record that represents my love for the SOUND of the instrument. I always thought that music can be very visual and I wanted to see if I could re-create the “Chiaroscuro” technique sonically. I wanted to experiment with light and shadow in a similar way a painter does but with sound strokes instead of brushstrokes. I also use “unusual” instrumentation in order to further explore the sonic capabilities and reach of the guitar and as an exploration into timbre combinations.

 b.)  What was your composition process like?

First I spend quite a bit of time thinking of the concept. The most important thing for me in the creative process is the “why”. In other words, I feel that when there is a strong desire or need or goal or a reason for creating something, the intention is a lot stronger and that connects with people and makes them feel and think and live it. That is what I think art should be about. Afterwards I usually sit at the piano and come up with ideas (either melodic, rhythmic or harmonic) that I like. The process of writing the piece and coming up with the “rules” like form, harmony, time etc. usually comes very easily if the first part is strong enough.

c.)  What was your recording process like?

I’m fortunate enough to be friends with a few world-class sound engineers. Namely, Alex Venguer, Kevin Killen and Nick Tipp. They contributed enormously to the creation of this sound world by finding clever solutions to an otherwise challenging group of instruments to record. Half of the record was made at MSR studios and Avatar studios in Manhattan and the other half was recorded at an amazing studio at Citrus College in Glendora, CA.

d.)  What potential do you see in the guitar?

I think that there is enormous potential for the guitar especially when we think about incorporating electronics. This is a very controversial topic especially with classical guitar “purists”. I understand their point of view but I do believe that, if done in a subtle and elegant way, always respecting the natural sound of the instrument, then the results can be very powerful and it can add a new dimension to the instrument and the way people write for it. Also, there is a tremendous gap in the repertoire for guitar and chamber ensembles. This is mainly because of the instruments' lack of volume. I think it is a very practical issue that, again, can be addressed with the right use of technology.