Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
I started listening to music of a “certain type” from an early age. My mother kept the radio on day and night and I listened. I understood later the music transmitted very interesting things. Then my father brought a red-and-beige disc-eater with several 45s and I fell in love with it. Among those little black circles that I consumed there were Rare Birds with Sympathy, the Beatles with Back in USSR, Aphrodite’s Child with It’s Five o’ Clock, Procol Harum with A Whiter Shade of Pale and so on. Since then, in the early 1970s, I never stopped listening to music until, in the mid-1980s, I started writing and composing my own songs.
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
I was in my first year of middle school. I met a companion who had an incredible HiFi at home and lots of vinyls ranging from all genres. Initially we listened to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Hendrix. Then one day, as I entered his small room, I heard something that made me jump. It was the Genesis ‘Watcher of the Skies’ that soon became my favourite group and genre. We continued with King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Van der Graaf. Growing up, meanwhile, I bought a stereo and by the end of the 70s and the early 80s I found some good albums, for example the first album by Simple Minds, Talk Talk and Depeche Mode. In the 90s I listened to educational neo-traditional Irish music. Then Sigur Ros came to me like a thunderbolt and their music knocked me down. From there started a search for sounds that I call ‘Nordic’ and this led me to Mùm, Bjork, Album Leaf, Olalfur Arnalds…
What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
Definitely completing my first solo work ‘Fireflies in the Wood’. It was a very different experience than the previous ones with the bands Electric Shields and Moonshiners. I really enjoyed working on every aspect of the record. From writing the lyrics and music to making arrangements and production. In the studio I worked with some extraordinary musicians trying to put them at ease and make decisions freely together with the sound engineers. I also made all the graphic part.
Frustration (regret?!?) has always been about not being able to earn a sufficient amount to live on music alone.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?
Honestly, I haven’t received any commissions at the professional level so far. Recently I was asked to write the lyrics for an album I’m working on. Some time ago I wrote a song for a young local band entitled ‘La Strada per Noi’ which was released on their album ‘Il Nostro Mondo’.
Anyway when someone asks you to write for it is always a rewarding feeling.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?
It is truly a mixture of feelings and attitudes. The classical instrumentalists usually arrive on time, they want the score ready on the lectern and the microphones positioned. Quick adjustment of the headphone return and recording. Only at the end of the session can you be distracted with a chat and toast. With rock musicians, instead, they joke and hang around during the recordings and into the small hours. It is very stimulating to exchange experiences and advice with all of them and to continue to learn and grow.
Of which works are you most proud?
My last album ‘Fireflies in the Wood’. From the beginning I was projected into a magical world. The words for the lyrics came easily with the melodies and harmonies. All so natural. On my notebook the notes seemed to appear alone and also for the music via the piano or guitar and recording onto my little recorder. Then in the studio I had the honour of working with excellent musicians and dear friends who made me really proud of the work we were doing.
How would you characterise your compositional language?
I would like to call it evocative but I have difficulty describing something that is always mysterious in itself. I’ve always wondered, in general, where the inspiration and creativity come from to be able to compose music and I think the answer is in the observation of natural elements.
How do you work?
Calmly. I am slow and scrupulous. Starting from an idea, I begin to record some versions which I then leave to settle for a while. I always do this even if I don’t have any production or anything to do. Then, starting to work concretely, I listen to the demos with my iPod, choosing the songs that best suit the project. Having done this, in the studio I begin to take care of the structures by assigning speed, times, keys while working on arrangements. Then I proceed with the recordings of all the instrumental and vocal parts. Once the latter is done, I make a quick pre-mix of all the work and listen to it carefully. From here on, editing, mixing and mastering engineers continue.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Mark Hollis, Steven Wilson, Nick Cave, Sigur Ros, Other Lives. In Italy: Ivano Fossati and the songwriters of the 70’s.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
It depends on your point of view. I have clear ideas. By success I mean when your music reaches a vast audience that listens to it with dedication, appreciates it and maybe gives it some moments of serenity and well-being. It is a success even when you have created pieces of which you are fully satisfied and which have been produced without compromising inspiration and initial magic. Of course it would not hurt to go first in the ranking. It happened to someone without having to make artistic compromises. See Peter Gabriel with ‘So’.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Dedication. A young person who wants to pursue a career as a musician and live with it must know that he must devote much time and effort to this activity. However, I make a distinction between those who want to be instrumentalists and therefore learn their instrument very well and try to enter the circuit of tours or studio musicians. Here it is theoretically easier: it’s enough to want to study and practice. Those who instead have the aspiration to write and publish their own music have the much harder path, in my opinion. Here, first of all, you need to know how to write and compose music, songs, soundtracks and more, and talent is not a matter of course. Moreover, the competencies needed in this field are very wide, starting from the new technologies available, in terms of recording techniques, diffusion, promotion and good use of the network. Also contacts with the editorial offices of magazines and specialized websites. The world of music in recent years has changed radically and we all must adapt. So let’s say, almost in contradiction that talent and technique must unite in marriage!
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Here with my health in order and other two albums in my hands.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I think happiness is only for moments. My aim is serenity.
What is your most treasured possession?
No doubts! Health!
What do you enjoy doing most?
Following culture: music, movies, and arts in general. Walking amongst the trees into the wild
Dario Marconcini’s album Fireflies in the Wood is available now. Further information