Antimo Magnotta was the resident pianist on the Costa Concordia cruise ship which famously collided with a submerged rock and sank off the coast of Tuscany in 2012. He has had to rebuild his life since the tragedy and here shares his thoughts about the creation of his album in response to it together with insights into his musical and creative life……
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I belong to a typical working-class family: my mother is a baker, my father a former bus driver and no musicians around. I was six years old when I was watching a television show where someone was playing a piano. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, I was bewildered, hypnotized. I asked my parents if I could start taking piano lessons. When I put my fingers on the piano for the first time, I decided it was going to be forever.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My piano teacher at the Conservatory of music in Italy, Francesco Nicolosi. He’s a great performer and he taught me the importance of silence in music. The second most important influence is my mother. She has got a deep feeling about music and even without any technical knowledge about it she would always notice if I’m playing with passion or if the message I’m delivering is corresponding to my genuine intention. She’s visionary and pure. I trust her opinion and treasure it very much. An incredibly constructive criticism, much better than a musician or a trained listener.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Playing my own compositions for the first time in London. I moved from Italy to the UK in 2013 and didn’t know much about the music scene, I was totally anonymous but I had courage. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, the church was full and my audience seemed to appreciate my music very much.
Tell us more about your album inspired by the Costa Concordia tragedy…
Surviving the Costa Concordia shipwrecking has irretrievably changed the course of my life. In the aftermath I found myself uprooted, devastated, psychologically fragile. I felt very weak, left my country and started from scratch working as a waiter in a big city. At the beginning I couldn’t play the piano anymore as I didn’t have anything to say or express. Part of me sank with the ship. But I started mapping my own emotional geography as I’ve never done before, using what I had left in my hands. I closed my eyes and slowly a new landscape unfolded so clearly. I had to collect the broken and scattered pieces of the original mosaic documenting musically these tragic events in the attempt of rebuilding a new image, to purify it and take my soul to a new, cathartic level. A tribute to those who lost their lives during the accident and a solace for me. ‘Inner Landscape’ is the title I chose for my album.
As a composer, how do you work?
I don’t have a method. It all happens in the most unpredictable way. I have my little obsessions, my rituals: I never leave home without a little Moleskine notebook in my pocket. The material I collect along the way sometimes is impulsively transformed into music. Voices, sounds, faces, signs, environmental noises, poems, colours, shapes, landscapes…The sources of my inspiration are very different. It could be also a visit to a museum, a Modigliani nude, a Marina Abramovich performance, a film, a novel etc… Some other times I just sit at my piano and improvise and maybe ideas come to visit me or they just want to play hide and seek and I need to find them.
How would you describe your compositional style/language?
Obviously I do have influences but I’d rather describe my style as Antimo Magnotta’s.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Pat Metheny, Ennio Morricone, John Cage, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Monteverdi, Paolo Conte, Mozart, Steve Reich, David Sylvian, Caetano Veloso, Tom Waits, Dustin O’Halloran…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
A concert in a little fishing village in Sicily, two years ago. I asked to perform my music on the beach, very close to the water, during a beautiful summer’s night, the sky full of shooting stars. Everyone was sitting on the sand around the piano, you could hear my music gently blending into the waves. A dreamy state of mind, a cinematic experience.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I think you need to succeed as a human being first. Any form of art is just one of your potential expression. Music is not separated from your entity, it is simply radiating from you. Success is being happy and loving what you do.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Be yourself, always. Do not try to imitate others. Your voice is absolutely unique. Find it and cherish it.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Doesn’t matter where, the world is my oyster. Generally speaking I’d say how I would like to be in 10 years time. I’d like to be happy and in love.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Love is the answer.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
I’m constantly curious about everything.
Antimo Magnotta’s new album Inner Landscapes, written in response to the Costa Concordia tragedy, is available now. Sample tracks and further information here