Name: Kety Fusco
Occupation: Harpist, composer
Current Release: Kety Fusco's personal interpretation of Erik Satie "Gnossiènne N.1", aptly titled “Ma Gnossiènne”, is out on all digital platforms.
Recommendations: I would love to recommend to read “Candide, ou l’Optimisme” by Voltaire, and to listen to Faceshopping by SOPHIE.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kety Fusco and would like to find out more about her music, her personal website is the best place to start your yourney. Or check out her social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
When I started writing and producing music, my first passions was to have the oldest instrument in the world under my hands, and to transform it into an avant-garde instrument and seen in a modern key. So I went looking for all those untraditional instruments that evolved their sound and made a new genre out of it. I was attracted to challenges and above all I wanted to live from my music forever. I absolutely had to create a new genre with a harp in my hands and so I started a very long sound research.
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?
My development as an artist has continued ever since I was 6 years old. Even though I had just discovered the harp, I grew up with it and music in general. I went to conservatory, listened to a lot of classical music and popular music, read books about the history of music, and how great artists like Mozart, Beethoven and others made great works that left their mark on human history. I discovered other forms of music, how Blues was born, Jazz, I infinitely loved listening to artists like BB King, Jaco Pastorius. I started my adolescence in a metal phase listening to Pantera and playing Debussy on the classical harp.
When I graduated college and turned 21, I realized I had an instrument in my hands that I wanted to play forever. I wanted the harp to never leave me, so I met my current producer, Aris Bassetti, a musician of unquestionable talent, nominee for the Swiss Music Award with his band Peter Kernel, founder of a Swiss Label On the Camper Records, founder of a music festival La Tessinoise, producer and co-composer of the electronic project Camilla Sparksss. With Aris we worked on how to give a voice to my harp and we threw down some ideas that then became my debut album, distributed by Universal Music.
I was able to grow a lot as an artist and in a very short time thanks to the fusion of two worlds, my world still dreaming in classical music and the one of Aris, concrete, with a punk attitude and visionary. He helped me see my harp as something diﬀerent.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My identity is closely tied to my creativity. Because inspiration, when it comes, is the emotional response to situations I find myself in. For better or for worse. I'm a hyperactive person with bipolar traits and my identity is that too, whether I like it or not; and the way I create is undoubtedly a reflection of the twisted paths the mind takes inside me.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenge in the beginning was not having any point of reference with my project. I did endless research, on music for electric harp, with a harp used in an unconventional way and with a decidedly non-traditional sound for a harp. I couldn't find any harpist in the world who did something that could inspire me for my project. In fact, no one has a harp in their hands, makes it sing like if it were a voice, and at the same time makes you dance or can sound “violent”. That was my challenge: to create a project that the world doesn't know about. To show that the oldest and most classical instrument in the world, namely the harp, can break every stereotype in the modern era, and can become an avant-garde instrument and a new musical genre, which I call SPACE HARP for the moment.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for diﬀerent tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My project is a new one. I've only been composing my own music for 2 years and so much has happened so fast. I've had very little time to work on this quest yet. But I can say that the work of discovering software, tools, equipment and ways of recording is something that I've been exploring for at least 10 years of working with music. I have been making music since I was 6 years old and have always been in classical music. It wasn't until 2 years ago that I graduated for the second time with classical music that I decided for a new artistic vision of music.
In fact, after releasing my debut album DAZED, I've been working with my harp on a sound library that is absolutely not about the traditional sounds of a harp, quite the contrary: it is a library of NON-traditional sounds, noises, drones, scratched sounds, generated with my harp and with objects that I interacted with. The library is already in the final stage and is a work that took me a year of research. I can't wait to present it to the world, I'm proud of it!
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Absolutely! I started composing with my harp and piano, but when I discovered Ableton and the various plug-ins everything changed. My project is still really new and I still have so much to learn, but the technology influences me. Every plugin and sound I discover changes my approach to a new piece I'm working on. The harp is still my instrument where I start composing, but it's a harp influenced by so much more.
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 through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I have to be honest, I've always struggled with collaborating with people. My ideas are always very strong and I often clash with those of other people. I always try to stand up for what I think and I haven't yet learned to accept that other people have a diﬀerent view of the world.
I've collaborated with other musicians mostly on experimental music projects and free improvisation: I loved that, because I like to hear how everyone's creative ideas mix into one big sound bubble. Right now I'm collaborating with two musicians for the production of my new music and I must say that I'm getting along very well, both from a human and a musical point of view.
It is very important when working together, to present our ideas with an openness and always be ready for a confrontation. This also helps a musician to grow artistically.
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?
I wake up pretty late, I don't like to work in the morning, I love to sleep. I always have an Italian breakfast with milk and cookies and double coﬀee. From about 11.00 am I go into the studio and don't leave until the late afternoon, every day.
My studio is my refuge. Not only do I produce music there, but I also read books, listen to records, play harp and piano, write stories. I enter a world, my world, and stay in it as long as I feel like it. My life is all about music and research, I don't play sports and I don't go out with friends except in the evening for a beer, when I have satisfied my day in the studio. Living with music is a never ending job, my head is always on my projects, even if I'm not physically in the studio, I'm always thinking about how I can find a sound I'd like to integrate into a song, or if I can get a beat out of the bar where I'm drinking my beer.
I love being a musician, because it doesn't really make me be in reality, but in reality in my head.
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?
An event that marked my career was when the United Nations asked me to participate in the Global Festival of Action. Just being chosen by the UN, along with other great artists including Patti Smith, Ben Harper, I was deeply honored.
The festival had a very specific purpose, aimed at showcasing the sustainable development goals promoted by the UN. I felt involved and empowered towards my audience, so I chose to perform on a snowy slope of San Bernardino, a village located at 1700 meters in Switzerland, and it is the country where I have a vacation caravan. My performance was deeply connected to some of the themes addressed at the Global Festival of Action, for example "Life on Land (Protecting and promoting the sustainable use of our ecosystem)" from the United Nations Sustainability Project. Mountain regions, which have always provided us with water, are to be preserved, not least because we are all connected in a very close way.
It was precisely in this sense, to highlight how much nature connects us that I chose to play on a snowy slope that had been gently colored by the sand of the Sahara. A very light veil, almost imperceptible, which however makes us feel so small and at the same time so involved in matters that seem far away.
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 part of creativity comes from the experiences I have had in life, both negative and positive, which then allowed me to be creative.
Typically, I am most creative when there is little social stimulation and few distractions around me. In this way, my mind has to stretch itself to imagine and has to work harder to search for a creativity that it cannot find outside of itself. I think it's easier to be creative in a city or situation full of stimuli, and for me it works just the opposite.
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?
Music has been a part of me since I was 6 years old. I was a hyperactive and very troubled child growing up. At school I was so agitated that the teachers couldn't keep me quiet. I even played diﬀerent sports to try to calm myself down, but nothing seemed to help.
One day I kicked one of my classmates and broke her teeth, so I ended up going to a psychologist who suggested to my family that I try to do something artistic. My parents weren't artists and didn't know how to direct me in this, but fate took care of that. One day not far from the episode with the little girl, my family and I were on vacation in the mountains and in the evening we went to a concert. It was at this concert that I had my first love with the harp, at the age of 6. I started playing the harp and never stopped.
Music gave me a side of me that I hadn't developed as a child, it calmed me down and gave me the opportunity to work on myself, channeling above all my emotions, which have always been diﬃcult to control.
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 special theme that I often think about. Also because I grew up interpreting ancient songs written by someone else and until 2 years ago I didn't even think about the idea of writing my own music.
Now that I have started doing it I realize that I am very influenced by what I listen to, but using an instrument that is not often seen around and that is played in a particular way, the attitude automatically changes and in the end I work so hard on it. that what influenced me is really far from my result. Now I realized that I don't particularly like playing music written by others unless there is a lot of internalization work.
That is, the only acceptable way for me to play music written by others is to listen to the song over and over again, listen to it in different situations until it gets under the skin, then start playing it by heart and then close my eyes and make it mine. Put it in my world and then throw it out for everyone.
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?
It happens to me that when I listen to a song that I like I'm fine to the point that I have the sensation of smelling even more deeply. Maybe I’m so inspired that my breathing changes, but it happens like this.
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?
Art for me is a lifestyle that every human being has. Art is intrinsic in everything, not only in music, books, cinema ... it is art also as one arranges to live, it is art the way a mechanic repairs a car. Art is life. And I am convinced that we are all artists in one way or another. There are only those who decide to do it more clearly, but we are all artists.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music can go deep into the soul. Touching something words can't do. A combination of sounds is enough to feel full of joy or devastated. Music evokes even complex memories in seconds. To do it with words it would take a novel. And it would not have the same effect.