The best music-related advice I have ever received was from a local musician in Ohio, a musician who I have played with for many years and who taught me nearly everything I know. When I was first starting out writing my own compositions and my own songs he told me, “Everyone else’s opinion in secondary.” In other words, music composition is about taking what is inside of you, your thoughts, your ideas, your emotions, and your experiences and expressing them in a way that words simply do not have the ability to do. You invest all that you are into what you create. It is your story. No one else can tell it.
Like many of the great composers that came before him, Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi has mastered his craft. The highly educated composer and pianist has a unique style that is incredibly difficult to perfect. His compositions are often built on what sound like — and in some cases are — simple chord progressions. In many of his pieces, such as “Nuvole Bianche,” he starts with a slow relative minor, then the fourth, the root, and then the fifth. For the first few times through the progression, the chords are played as simple whole notes. Einaudi slowly begins to add color in the right hand as the melody is slowly drawn from the shadows of the chords. He uses the same chords throughout the whole song in different progressions, adding layers of color along the way to direct the emotional meaning of each chord. About halfway through the song, the volume rises and the right hand rings crisp and clear above the supporting left hand patterns playing the same chords as before.
Then comes the best and most complex part of the song. After a small pause filled with the most comfortable silence imaginable, he plays the slow whole notes just like the beginning of the piece. Einaudi is a true master of bringing the listener back home at the end of each composition, but it is not the same. The chords are the same, but the colors are different, the scenery is new. You are home, but things have changed. This is one of the most difficult ways to structure a composition, in my opinion. To end with the beginning by changing the voicing and color just enough that the listener knows where they are but knows things are not the same as before.
“Nuvole Bianche” is not the only story Einaudi tells. In his hauntingly beautiful “Elegy For The Arctic,” Einaudi tells his story in a much different fashion. He gives the listeners flashbacks into the past, and when he does go home, he returns in a way that leaves the listener unsatisfied not with the composition itself, but with themselves and the glimpse of life the piece gives them. It only draws us deeper into other compositions such as “Song For Gavin,” “Two Trees,” “Discovery At Night,” and many other pieces that fill the listener with such a fullness they burst with creativity and passion of their own. These compositions and his many others showcase what it means to do what he, and so many others, love to do.
In its purest form, composition is a lifestyle. Ludovico Einaudi embodies what it means to live this way of life. With each of his compositions I have listened to or played, I can feel the emotion pouring out of them. He invests himself in everything he writes. He does not use filler chords or transitions because they simply fit. Every chord, every note, every dynamic, every rest has meaning. He knows every part of his compositions. He knows his stories, his experiences, his feelings, and the way he perceives and relates to the people and places in his life and he tells his stories for himself.