Reflections: Salvatore Sciarrino

Reflections: Salvatore Sciarrino

World-renowned composer Salvatore Sciarrino has always enjoyed sharing his reflections on esthetics and philosophy, ever since his works first began appearing on the scene. He turned 70 last April, and to celebrate, the Milano Musica Festival pays a special tribute to him beginning this October 21. To mark the occasion, we thought it appropriate to recall some significant quotes from a pair of books written by Sciarrino: Le figure della musica da Beethoven ad oggi (1998) and Carte da suono (1981-2001). 

[…] Can a language be comprehensible across different locations and ages? I’m convinced that the evolution of music takes place thanks to the transgressions of individual composers, with respect to a musical vocabulary that is commonly accepted. Transgression allows us to distinguish, to a greater or lesser degree, the physiognomy of a composer from his fathers (or brothers). Which is to say, the more transgressive a language is, the more personal it becomes. […]    

[…] The alleged abstractness of music surely conceals a deeply rooted fear of physical contact, a need to remove anything that’s corporeal.
You can’t touch sound; however, music has a power that is highly emotive, it has the power to excite body and mind. This is why music in polite society is exorcized with formalism: it must appear abstract in the sense of being “distant from reality”. […]

[…] What is the meaning of the expression ecology of sound? […] 
First, I would make a distinction between acoustic ecology and listening ecology: clearly, the former regards any natural environment from an acoustic perspective. The latter has more to do with maieutic angulation, and marks the individual path that each of us may take to cleanse the mind; dealing with the phenomenon of music at its roots, listening ecology has consequences of collective importance. 
It is necessary to free the ear of incrustations, to mend it and reclaim it from deafness. […] Any receptive capacity is also a creative capacity, and indeed, perceiving is tantamount to establishing order among one’s own sensations. […]

[…] My interpretations of music are ethical messages, I try to scale things down to the purely essential, to reflect the extreme experiences of human reality (life and death). I do this not because I’m an ascetic or because I have an axe to grind: I’m just proceeding along the path of our highest humanistic traditions. […]

[…] I have asserted the importance of naturalistic listening, an alternative that’s both personal and impersonal; this takes music beyond music (i.e., music as we are accustomed to considering it). Straddling the confines between music and sonorous reality, traditional frameworks are no longer of use, and any way you try to box things in becomes problematic. If anything, points of reference lie outside musical technique, in an interdisciplinary context. It is no coincidence that people who enjoy my music come from all walks of life, and do not belong to any compact, if far-flung team. […]


Photo: Mauro Fermariello / Casa Ricordi