My 40 years of cinema scores
«Since I have started, 40 years ago, everything has changed. The young who want to be cinema composers have far more chances from a technological perspective, but also more challenges to face: nowadays films have more repertory scores, not only pop ones, and for budget reasons producers are not always willing to invest money on the soundtrack». This is what Franco Piersanti, historic composer for Nanni Moretti’s films, from “Io sono un autarchico” to “Habemus Papam”, but also for Gianni Amelio, Mimmo Calopresti, Daniele Luchetti ones, thinks. After winning three David di Donatello awards (for “Il ladro di bambini”, “Lamerica” and “Il caimano” scores), two Nastri d’Argento (for “Terraferma” and “Io e te”) and seven Ciack d’Oro, Piersanti is a person who cares for the young and teaches his work to many of them. This applies, for instance, to the festival Creuza de Mà (to be continued in Cagliari, on December 7-11 2016) dedicated to music for cinema, where the Masterclass Sergio Miceli has been established and that, in its first edition, has been conducted by Piersanti himself. «At the end of the masterclass, held in November, I have assigned four clips to compose scores for to the masterclass participants»; says Piersanti. «They are submitting their scores: the five best ones will be played by the orchestra at the end of the festival Creuza de Mà». The masterclass is dedicated to Sergio Miceli, «a great musicologist passed away last summer, who has drawn public attention on applied music, placing it in the music of the 20th Century that accompanies the seventh art, cinema».
What is the source of a cinema score, is it an idea, an image?
There is no actual method: composition is based on one’s sensitivity. It all comes from the initial suggestion of the film described by the musician, but then things change with images: a cinematographic poetics emerges. It is impossible to determine the ideal music for a film: if we give the same film to ten musicians we get ten different solutions.
Based on films number, you have worked more frequently with Gianni Amelio and Nanni Moretti: how would you describe your work with them?
I have little partnerships with all the directors I have worked with, also with Daniele Luchetti or Marco Tullio Giordana, for instance. Mutual confidence is the main element and the most fulfilling thing in terms of creation. At the beginning the musician enters director’s imagery with proposals that get more and more refined. Nanni is prone to a greater control, he would do as Chaplin did, writing the scores on his own, if he could. If I work in the cinema industry this is also due to him, with whom I have worked on my first film “Io sono un autarchico”: we have built a confidence relationship and our communication has also become a more essential and direct one. I have experienced a significant mutual identification with Amelio in relation to certain parts of our character, such as feelings discretion, being more focused on hiding things rather than showcasing them. Everything is more hidden, curbed, in Amelio’s work. There is always the right attention to avoid rethoric.
You have been composing also music for the tv series “Il commissario Montalbano”: how has the soundtrack evolved? The soundtrack has been created with the series: in 16 years and 30 films we have gradually integrated and enriched it. We have about 5 hours of musical material. It was important to consider the series genre but we wanted to go beyond routine and geographical setting. Montalbano scores indeed have some Mediterranean suggestions but with a re-invented style: just think about that sort of tango used as a theme song.
What are you currently working on?
I have recently finished scores for “Io ci sono”, a tv film for Rai Uno, starring Cristiana Capotondi, concerning Lucia Annibali’s story. I have completed scores for Amelio’s new film, “La tenerezza” (the picture shows the soundtrack recording, ed.) and when Luchetti starts shooting his new film I will be there. My teaching projects continue: the next one is to be held in Castelfranco Veneto.
What is the secret of a good film composer?
I keep reminding the young that, both for tv and cinema, music composed for images has to be a music piece with its own life and dignity, autonomy and richness, even beyond images. This is why I advice them to watch the film two or three times and then let emotions just flow.