Alex Braga, composer

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

When I was young, I wanted a computer really badly. A Commodore 64…My Mum didn’t want to buy it so she set what she thought was an impossible challenge: learn to play the guitar and then I will buy you a computer.

Against all odds, I made it!!!! I learned guitar, I got my computer, and when I put the two things together, music and electronics…

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My musical life is my life. So I tend not to separate the things. And in the end, I will always be grateful to Pitagora, John Lennon, Kubrick, Charles Babbage, Ouspensky, Mozart, Leonardo, Kraftwerk, and Moana Pozzi as inspirational models.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The creation of artificial intelligence A-Mint has been a milestone in my life. Creating something that wasn’t there before is like giving birth. And while I was creating A-Mint I was also embracing and nurturing the new life of my daughter Ada. She is definitely the most beautiful and fulfilling challenge.

What are the pleasures and challenges of working with other musicians?

When you open your world to someone else you put all your intimacy at risk. It is from that thrill that you draw incredible energy to raise the bar above your own self. You have to meet the right partner in order to establish the right chemistry and romance. I was blessed to find Robert Lippok and Francesco Donadello that created magic from my humble work.

And before them, Francesco Tristano and Danilo Rea.

How would you describe your compositional/musical style?

I see A-Mint, my artificial intelligence, as a new musical instrument. That enables me to play what I define as “augmented music”. It is a style of playing and composing that brings you from the pureness of a very simple idea to an infinite complexity of vibrating layers of arrangements. A wave of augmented emotions swinging back and forth.

As a composer, how do you work?

I start with a simple idea. I then program all the brains of my A.I. to be ready to follow me and digest my idea and augment it to the level of complexity that I feel right for it. And the beautiful thing is that this process, during live shows, is made from scratch every time, making it an evolutional model of song that keeps coming to life every time anew.

Tell us more about your EP ‘Spleen Machine’….

“Spleen Machine” was a way to make a statement. In SPLEEN MACHINE a robot seems stuck in a mystic crisis and starts praying. The humanoid robot, a super-efficient machine forged to accomplish the hardest and heaviest of the tasks, seems in search of some kind of meaning and tries spiritual rituals and gestures that will mean nothing because it is just a machine. And machines, even though 1000 times more efficient, fast and powerful than humans, will always fail to connect to a metaphysical world, a world where everything makes sense and where the meaning of gestures and life itself is shaped. Machines can process huge amounts of signifiers but not even a single gram of signified. That is why mankind will always be the centerpiece of our sustainable development. That is why machines will never replace humans. But we have to be well aware of that, because nowadays spiritual gestures are becoming meaningless for mankind as well.

And if we let go of our humanity, we let go of the beauty and the meaning of life itself. We hold the signified, machines process the signifier. In SPLEEN MACHINE, the human artistic creation, the music and the visuals produced by the artist and augmented by the artificial intelligence tools, will lead the robot out of its tunnel, and thus humans into a sustainable future. The project is for me the manifesto of a new digital humanism, where A.I. is THE TOOL to reach a sustainable future, to solve today’s problems and create new opportunities for mankind. A soft and tech-driven revolution where the human being is and always will be the centerpiece, the masterpiece, the brain and the heart of this plan.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success is a misleading word. In Italian, the word “successo” means “something that already happened”, as to define the value of an artist by what you have “already done”. I’m more keen in projecting my value towards what I’m imagining to do next, instead of what I’ve done in the past…

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Work on a new concept. Your own. Find it inside yourself. Something that means a whole life to you. Then make it sound good. Good for you. And you will have fulfilled your purpose as an artist.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Exactly here, but I know it would be impossible. So I will simply be happy to be 10 years ahead of now.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is a perfect balance. Producing art is a form of balancing the uneven emotions we feel inside and around ourselves. So I could say, perfect happiness is a world where there is no need for art.

What is your most treasured possession?

No possessions are treasures. They are chains. But… I must wisely say my hard disk 🙂
And, ever since they invented Clouds, the way of enlightenment for backup-paranoid-freaks like me is wide open 🙂

What is your present state of mind?

After everything the world has been through with COVID-19, I feel very unbalanced. But very focused. In a constant search of how to go back to normal life, but to go back differently than before.

Spleen Machine is released on 3 July

Three years in the making, A-Mint is a monumental achievement in the field of AI music. Braga’s efforts have been well noted worldwide, and in recent years he has showcased his invention in renowned music and tech events around the world, including ADE, Mutek Festival, Google Arts & Culture Center and the Centre Pompidou amongst others. Far from the world of technology, A-Mint has also surprisingly managed to make its way into classical conservatories, otherwise known for their conservatism and traditionalism. A-Mint creates what is called ‘augmented music’, a new and bold territory in digital arts.

Alex Braga’s website

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