Name: Francesca Guccione
Occupation: Composer, violinist, sound designer
Current Release: Francesca Guccione's Muqataea is out now on Whales Records. On it, the Sicilian-born violinist and composer presents a deeply personal vision of chamber music. When she blends electronics with the familiar sounds of acoustic instruments, it's not so much to create contrasts as to complement their emotional resonance. And when she builds her pieces on gentle ostinatos and circling violin patterns, the aim is not to create rhythmical propulsion, but to suspend movement: The point of the loop is to make itself disappear.
We recognise these techniques as contemporary, but what makes them sound so fresh and engaging is precisely that they rekindle a seemingly lost spark: When, in the 19th century, the romantic movement emerged, audiences became smaller, withdrawing into the privacy of the salon, where performances took on an unprecedented sense of intimacy. But the inward journeys they took the listener on became ever more expansive and vivid, tending towards the state of lucid dreaming. This is the era that Guccione's approach is reviving, these are the emotional landscapes that Muqataea is transporting you to.
The painting "L'onda e la luna", Piero Guccione 2012-2014 | The track "On The Nature Of Daylight", Max Richter, 2004
L'onda e la luna: When I wrote the music for Muqatea, in addition to the many inspiring landscapes of my homeland, I also had the habit to immerse myself in the sea painted by P. Guccione, a painter born in my homeland, who died a few years ago. The sight of this painting really helped me to amplify my creativity
Watching its sea and the nuance of its colours carried me into another dimension; an experience of silence and contemplation.
On The Nature Of Daylight: I'm particularly fond of this track and although I've listened to it countless times, every time it's like the first time. Definitely a great source of inspiration.
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started composing when I was in my early twenties but I had been studying music, violin and singing for many years.
I've always loved the chemistry between sound and image and in a way, I've always had an interest for the audiovisual world, even before I began studying music applied to images. In fact, while playing an instrumental, I would often envision landscapes or scenarios; above all I used my free time to listen to many different sounds from all over the world. Hours and hours of listening.
So, after studying the violin, I decided to pursue academic studies related to composition in the audiovisual sector and thus follow my passion. The first step was a master's degree organized by the Conservatorio L. Boccherini of Lucca and then I followed the process of study by earning a Master's Degree at the Conservatorio F. Venezze of Rovigo. These were experiences that allowed me to meet many incredible people and to grow humanly and artistically.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
As I mentioned previously, I spent a lot of time listening to tracks and works by many well-known and lesser-known composers. I've also had the chance to confront myself with different music genres, to travel a lot and all this has helped me to develop interest and imagination.
After so many years, I directed my listening towards my inner world, starting to create my own sound.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think creativity is a thread that connects our emotivity with the world, so it is something intimate and very personal.
I was born on an island, Sicily, which contains within itself so many different worlds and so many different cultures, so yes, I believe that my roots pour into my music, as well as every place I visit.
I am a careful observer and everything that surrounds me is a great source of inspiration for me.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
At the beginning, I wasn't fully aware of the sound I wanted to achieve in my compositions; of course, I took care of the style, but from a sound point of view, I still didn't have clear ideas. Now instead, it fascinates me so much to dwell on this element and also on the connection and interaction between different instruments.
I'm always looking for some sort of originality in what I make and so I'm in a phase of constant research and experimentation. I don't set myself any limits.
Time is a variable only seldom discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
I think that's a very important aspect. Speaking of my music in general, I'm very bound to minimalism, loops and a feeling of circularity. A time not easily grasped, dilated and that tends to a sense of infinity.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
It is the main topic in my music production. Very often sounds or audio samples suggest to me a composition or a specific timbre element. I am very bound to the idea of a soundscape and I pay a lot of attention to the endless sounds that surround me.
On my latest album, Muqataea, which is dedicated to my homeland, for example, I inserted and elaborated some sentences in Sicilian dialect in some tracks, which are connected with the strings and synths. For the track "An Echo in My Backpack", I was listening to a beautiful lullaby and I was inspired by it to create the structure and the music of the track.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
Certainly a very loose approach. I deeply believe that art, in its different forms, is a kind of dialogue and I feel very lucky to be able to collaborate with incredible people. For me, creative synergy with other people is crucial, as is human warmth. I love to see how a song can reveal other points of view, other hidden sides or submerged worlds, thanks to the imagination of the other artists with whom I collaborate.
For example, speaking of Muqataea again, the creative contribution of Antonio Ministeri and Giorgio Bertinelli has been very valuable, and they have certainly enriched the sound world of the record with their sensitivity. Giorgio also took care of the videoclip visual of the track "Esse Majara" and I had a lot of fun with him, trying to connect the sound and the image, useful to create a fantasy connected to the track.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
The schedule varies depending on the commitments of the period. In general, I'm very organized and I always try to follow a schedule to optimize my time and be able to give the required time to my creativity. In my home recording studio, I have a very nice bulletin board, full of colourful post-its, right at the entrance; so, I can keep an eye on everything I need to do. I feel like a craftsman in his workshop, I spend most of my days fixing a track, looking for a sound, experimenting, changing, studying ... I really love what I do and I share this passion with the most important people in my life.
To recharge my batteries and inspiration I often go to explore amazing places, like some quarries in my province, trails that climb in different neighbourhoods, long walks by the sea. Let's just say it all flows very naturally and music definitely plays a central role in my life.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
The first short film I set to music a few years ago, because it helped me understand even more how much I love the connection between sound and image. On that occasion, the director was looking for a sound closely connected to the narrative and the setting, and so I spent several days singing and modifying my voice through plug-ins, trying to get to the point. He was very satisfied and I had a great time.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I think this is a very intimate and subjective topic. When I confront with other creative friends about the process of creation, I realize how different we are (thankfully). Each of us has its own sensibility and personality.
From a very young age, I had a great imagination and an ability to create that I still have nowadays. So, for me it's something familiar. Usually, when I start working on a track, in my head I start to recall places I know and the feelings I experienced when I was there.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I have never studied music therapy, but it is a subject that has always fascinated me. In my life, music and sound have always had a role related to emotional healing and therefore to introspection and listening. For me, sound always touches very deep strings of the human soul and therefore I always try to maintain a certain delicacy.
I had several experiences that allowed me to see how sound can have a therapeutic power for the listener and some of them I keep in my memory for their preciousness as human beings. I admire music therapists very much and I believe in their social commitment.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This is a very particular question. I was born in Sicily and my homeland has been the crossroads of many cultures, so I have always felt that I have countless roots linked to many different cultures; an aspect that I adore and consider a treasure. I strongly believe that art connects and brings people together and that everyone can draw inspiration from every part of the planet and every other human being. With love.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
In my opinion, one of the most intriguing overlaps is definitely the one between the sense of hearing and the sense of sight. I find it really fascinating how the combination of these two elements can create a kind of magic; I have always loved cinema for this reason as well. I must admit that my ears and eyes have always had a very, very close connection.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach towards art is characterized by a great passion that I renew daily. I try to carry out every work and every artistic production with patience and to the best of my ability. I think that art can break down any barrier and that the exercise of listening to others and listening to oneself can be very useful to our society.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
It's not an easy question and I don't think there is an easy answer. I think that music has the ability to evoke inner universes, journeys through space and time and to put our consciousness in a very particular state, almost contemplative. After all, it has always accompanied the human being in his journey, in different ways, in the most symbolic and important moments. Music has an ancient history and has always accompanied us.
As far as the use of words is concerned, I have often read discordant articles and studies on their "nature": those who consider them a system that is too defined to be able to express the most instinctive part of the human being, and those who clearly affirm the contrary; I do not have a position on this matter and I love words in all their facets.
I live in a country that is the homeland of wonderful dialects, where just the sound of a word can evoke sea, volcanoes, woods, history, life, pain, hope, death. I just can't divide the two categories.