Name: Laura Masotto
Occupation: Composer, violinist
Current release: Laura Masotto's new album WE is out June 11th on 7K!
If these thoughts by Laura Masotto piqued your interest, visit her on Instagram, Facebook or bandcamp. Laura also runs Lady Blunt Records, now based in Barcelona.
We also conducted an even more expansive Laura Masotto interview a while ago, where she speaks in more depth about her approach to art.
Tell us about your interest in the fate of refugees, please.
During the pandemic I realized even more that it is easy to get used to death: we have been exposed non-stop to dramatic images and the number of deaths became just a summing up data that was announced at the end of the day. The first lockdown forced us to face a certain degree of solitude and several questions arose, about my life, about myself. I felt that life was reduced to the essentials and realized how privileged I was: I had a home, the chance to have medical assistance, the possibility to invest my time into music (which has represented a great strength during those times).
Realizing that the refugees crisis topic quickly faded from the everyday news made me think very often of the fact that although our freedom was limited, we were still living in a condition of privilege. I try to relate to the topic with empathy and to give value to the random luck of being born in a certain area of the world.
The refugee situation has been dramatic for many years. Can you talk a bit about the media portrayal of it and the general opinion in Italy about possible solutions?
It is a complex, critical issue. Potential solutions are deeply political, and I am not competent to get into details. What I can say is that it is getting more and more difficult to get informed nowadays, and it is easy to get lost in the flood of news, fake information, simplifications we must face.
From a personal view, I believe it is necessary to open our arms to what is different from us and to relate to others without fear or judgement, to stay human and have awareness of our privileges.
How is Open Arms helping refugees?
Open Arms is an NGO engaged in missions to rescue human lives at sea. It originated from a sea rescue company with many years of experience on the Spanish coasts. Their mission is to help and protect those who try to reach Europe by sea and to provide them on land with information that can help them make decisions with knowledge. They monitor and rescue vessels carrying people who need help in the Mediterranean Sea and do an incredibly valuable work in denouncing injustices.
Donations to this NGO help funding professional captains in charge of rescue and surveillance boats, medical teams on board assisting rescued people, boat equipment to perform rescue tasks, rescue devices, boat maintenance. They also have an educational program that seeks to communicate and spread awareness by sharing their experience.
You've been in touch with Open Arms before this video collaboration. In which way?
I discovered Open Arms and its engagement a while ago, as it is a very well-known organization in Italy, and it is often mentioned by the media. I started reading more about the topic and got informed.
At the beginning of 2020 I was living in Barcelona for an art-residency, and I was contacted by an Italian woman who works as a volunteer for Open Arms because she liked my music. We never got to meet in person because the pandemic started, and I went back to Italy. When the first national lockdown was in place in Italy, the Open Arms crews were confined to the port and one morning I received a video from her from the boat: they were playing my music. I felt so close, so overwhelmed.
After the track “Refugees” was composed in collaboration with Roger Goula, I found myself watching original videos recorded by Open Arms while working and rescuing at sea. I was hypnotized by the deep humanity that those scenes conveyed, by the deep and real engagement of those people. I cried. I was moved. I took some time to witness this pain. Then I decided to contact the NGO and ask them for the possibility to use and edit some of these scenes and use my music as a soundtrack.
I hope watching this video with the intensity of the music helps spreading a message, putting a spotlight on the topic, reminding us of our shared condition of human beings and the inalienable right of life.
What have been some of the most important successes Open Arms has had so far?
Their effort in saving human lives is huge. From 2015 to 2021, they saved more than 61,000 lives, giving them a chance. The possibility of a tomorrow is a huge success.
However, it is important to remember all those people who embarked on the most dangerous trip of their lives, putting all at risk, aiming for a chance, escaping as the only option to protect their right to live, and who did not make it. I see that as the biggest failure of our times.
When starting out, many artists want to "change the world" with their work. What was this like for you? What were some of your early ambitions and in which way were you able to realise them?
I started playing the violin at a young age because I was totally captured by the music of the greatest composers such as Vivaldi, Paganini. Since I was 5, I studied and practised with the aim of playing that music and making my voice heard through the instrument. Beside my career as a classical musician, I started composing some pieces and often recorded tracks that would stay unreleased.
I did not know it back then, but somehow, I was waiting for the right moment to share my own music and that moment came when I met the person who deeply opened my heart. Since then, the world I wanted to change was the one I would share with that person.
Music has the power to spread messages and convey emotions, whatever they may be. My main ambition is to compose music which honestly reflects who I am and my constant evolution, my changes, my fragility, my power, my contradictions as a human being which is in a state of constant search. When I look back to my first album, I realize that it was coherent with the very moment I was in when it was composed, and the same goes for this new work WE, which for me represents a snapshot of the times we are living.
This makes me realize I have been honest with myself and with the emotions I put in my music.
In your latest video, your music and images by Open Arms enter into a dialogue. How does your artistic work feed into your activism - and vice versa?
I think my artistic work comes from a very natural, ancestral place and then develops into a more rational explanation and embraces somehow the context I like to reflect when developing new musical adventures. I am not sure I can define myself an activist, but perhaps my music could touch emotions, which for me represent seeds of change and hope.
The piece is a collaboration between you and Roger Goula. Was there a lot of discussion between the two of you about how to make the music fit the topic of the piece?
The composition initially blossomed in a very instinctive way. I had this musical idea in mind, and decided to share some early sketches with Roger, a composer I deeply admire for his incredible talent and sensitivity. We developed the piece and the refugee topic kept on being an inspiring core.
We composed the piece 4 hands – it was a very intense experience and we shared the evolution of this piece every step of the way. The sense of “fragility” and “strength” started to really blend thanks to a very deep and organic musical collaboration.
During our calls the word “fragile” came up each time, we wanted the music to reflect that emotion. The violin in this piece is fragile but constant and carries an energy that at times seems to be about to break - but that brings us to the end of an intense journey, enriched by the rhythmic electronic sounds and orchestral strings.
The electronics conceived by Roger Goula are almost taking on the rhythm of heartbeats which grow faster. After this climax, the piece ends with the sound of a breath, that is a sort of recollection. I feel that something really special happened on a human and artistic level in this piece.
“Refugees” is taken off your new album WE. Are there more topics like this behind some of the pieces? In which way do you feel as though music itself – without a concrete external cause – can also bring about change and lead to tangible improvements?
Music is an energy that has an enormous impact, and each time its interpretation can be different. Music also has this incredible capability of fixing memories within us, it makes vibrate and resonate, just like water.
Water is another recurrent topic of the album. “Mare dentro” (which translate as “The sea inside”) represents the beginning of life in the womb of a mother, the origin. I like that it closes the album, like an end that represents a beginning, a circle that starts all over again. Also “Water” composed in collaboration with Italian produced ATŌMI reflects the topic, but from another perspective, more as an immersion within ourselves, the feeling you get when you are sinking, as if you're entering another world or dimension. I wanted to describe the sounds perceived from the depth of the water.
All the tracks of this album reflect the mood and the thoughts I have been through during this last year, all the questions, the fears, which led me to a search of humanity, an observation of my condition and a meditation of life translated into music. I aimed to release the most intimate and conflicting emotions I have been through.
Do you feel it important that artists become more engaged with the political/ecological/social challenges facing us? If so, what are the best ways to do this?
Art represents freedom to me. Everyone should engage with the feelings they face, and they feel like conveying. I felt like opening to a certain topic with this music and it was natural, it was deeply connected to the music I had in mind for this album.
Books, websites, articles or other sources of information recommended by Laura Masotto:
There is a lot of content on this topic to explore. I would recommend visiting the website of Open Arms and get to know their incredible work at sea.
I have recently read a wonderful novel by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck “Go, Went, Gone”, in which the routine of a professor living in Berlin crosses the stories of African refugees. Through his curiosity, his growing compassion and transformation we visit their shelter, read some interviews, and get to know the Western policy and the European refugee crisis from a new perspective.
Italian writer and journalist Roberto Saviano has written a remarkably interesting book on this topic called “In mare non esistono taxi” enriched by the testimony of Paolo Pellegrin and other documentary photographers. You can read more about it here.
I would also recommend the movie “Fuocoammare” (“Fire at sea”) which won the Golden Bear prize for Best Film at the Berlinale.