'The shadow of a fundamental sound...': An interview with Clara Iannotta

Clara_Iannotta-e1365368373758 Michael Mathieson-Sandars and Alethea Coombe were fortunate enough to chat in person with featured composer Clara Iannotta. Conversation meandered through topics diverse as train rides, contemporary art, housing prices in Berlin, and the supremacy of Australian vs. Italian coffee. Here is a more formal follow-up with Clara about her broader musical ideas as well as her trio 'il colore dell'ombra' (the colour of the shadow), which will be featured in our upcoming concert 'To Roam with Love'

Alethea Coombe: Could we have a brief biographical sketch - where have you lived? Who have you studied with?

Clara Iannotta: Born in Rome in 1983, I spent my whole childhood studying to become a flautist. After my harmony teacher more or less forced me, I started taking composition classes in 2003, and after one year I realised that composing was the art that represented me the most. Looking for a good teacher, I travelled around Italy and I stopped for three years in Milan to study with Alessandro Solbiati, to whom I have dedicated my pieces Clangs and D’après.

Since then, I have had inspiring discussions with many composers: I talked about material with Franck Bedrossian, about form with Chaya Czernowin, and about silence with Steven Takasugi. I am particularly interested in music as an existential, physical experience – music should be seen as well as heard. This is one of the reasons why I sometimes prefer to talk about the choreography of the sound rather than about orchestration.

A lover of the cultures, I have had the chance to work with amazing musicians in many countries, including France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States. I lived and studied in Paris for five years, and since January this year, I have been living in Berlin as a guest of the Artist-in-Berlin Program of the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).

AC: In the next installment of "Where in the World is Kupka's Piano", we are focusing on works from Italy. In your opinion, who have been the most important Italian composers writing in the last 20 years, and why?

CI: Pierluigi Billone is definitely the composer who marked me the most. I am fascinated by his sounds, his way of dealing with time, and also what he thinks about composing. Once I had a lesson with him, and he told me we have already too many pieces, we don't need more music, so, we should try to be as personal as possible.

Other Italian contemporary composers who marked me in the last years are Francesco Filidei and Mauro Lanza. I really like the incredible sense of humor and 'lightness' you can find in their works.

AC: Tell us a bit more about the piece that we're playing - il colore dell’ombra (the colour of the shadow). What were your intentions with this work?

CI: It took me several months to start composing this piece.

Every contemporary composer has written at least a string quartet, but there are a only few contemporary piano trios. I think the reason is because this instrumentation no longer has a good balance — the sound of the piano we have nowadays is way more powerful, compared to the one Brahms used, and to balance it we would need a string quartet, instead of just a violin and a cello.

Writing this piece, I was influenced by Ravel's piano trio. You can feel, in the whole piece, the shadow of a fundamental sound, A, and in the third movement the material I used comes completely from Ravel's Passacaille.

AC: What has changed for you since you wrote this piece? Are you moving in new directions?

CI: I always had a strong interest in sound, as a living, complex organism in which you cannot distinguish between pitch, tone-colour and harmony.

Luciano Berio used to say that we should look at the music and listen to the theatre. In my opinion, this sentence does not mean just that musicians have to do extra-musical gestures on stage; I really think that there is theatricality in the sound itself.

Nowadays, I am looking for a sound that can represent me, through which the audience might enter inside it almost physically, within its nuances.

AC: Certainly some food for thought! Thanks Clara!