0 In Cast of Creatives

Wedding Industry Mental Health and Music with Massimiliano Greco, Pianist and Composer

James Pearson
Hello, and welcome back to Cast of Creatives, the series dedicated to exploring creative work, and the effect that this has on mental health and well being. Now I’m joined today by a very, very special guest Massimiliano, welcome to the show, it’s great to have you here.

Massimiliano Greco
Hello everyone, and thank you for this kind invitation, it’s my pleasure to be here.

James Pearson
Fantastic so Massimiliano you are amongst many, many things, a pianist and composer, but can you just tell everybody a little bit about yourself and the work that you do?

Massimiliano Greco
So, I am an Italian composer, but I was trained mostly for being a concert pianist, you can say. So my background is like that. So big, big names of classical music, so Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Beethoven and so on. At a certain point of my life when I was already doing many concertos, I also I started to be interested in composing for ballet. And so my life at the moment goes inside the two words. So, classical and ballet. And so I have connection with mainly choreographers, mainly ballet masters and sometimes I compose also for them. So my music sometimes is, with the idea of being pure music,and sometimes exactly for dance. This is almost my life nowadays.

James Pearson
Wonderful, wonderful. So you have just released a new album called “Love Stories”?

Massimiliano Greco
Love Stories ,yes, this is my last album. This is a collection of music that I composed in the past, and also during the last year. Inside there, there are pieces dedicated to ballet work, above all with the idea of creating music for ballet work and some music that is composed like pure music. It’s strange, because when I say pure music, I have to say that at the same time, mainly of my pure pieces, pure music pieces, they have been taken by choreographers to become also music for choreography. Anyway, it was not my goal in the moment of the composition to think about that. In that situation, maybe my composition reminded someone of something to be danced to, maybe, I don’t know. But inside this album you can find also something that has been already been danced. For example, the most famous piece was danced in Europe and in China. So we had a couple of Premiere for this song that is called “La Seconda Vita”. But in reality, this music with that name, has another name, as a ballet piece. And so, it’s strange because sometimes, the choreographer will change names, and my music gets changed a little bit. So I have to specify my use, my music may be this way, but the name of the ballet is another one. It happens many times, but it’s okay.

James Pearson
Interesting. So, we have brought a little clip of “La Seconda Vita”, which of course translates as The Second Life, which we’d like to play for everybody, and afterwards I am really, really excited to dig into the emotion of the music, and where this comes from. Where you find it, and what you hope to convey. But in order to give people an appreciation of that discussion, I would just like to play a little clip for everybody, and with your blessing we will hear that now.

Massimiliano Greco
Thank you very much.

James Pearson
So, firstly Massimiliano, can I just express what a beautiful piece of music that is. When I first heard it, I was brought to tears. I was really, really moved, I was really moved by the beauty of it. I played it again, and I was brought to tears again. It’s such a powerful emotion that was stirred inside me. So I think music is a really, really powerful tool that people use for all sorts of different reasons. I’m attracted to all sorts of different types of music, but especially music that is very, very rich and very, very involved. And I certainly have a sense of this from your compositions, which I absolutely love. I liken it to maybe there are two different types of music in the world, there’s the cheeseburger music and there’s the fine wine music, and both have their place, but I love the music where you are almost compelled to sit down and listen to it, rather than have it on in the background as an accompaniment. The music is the sole entity, the focus of your concentration, and that is what excites me most. So I feel that in this way, music can be used to heal ourselves and to take ourselves to other worlds and explore other emotions and find, you know the deep parts within ourselves. Like my emotion that was stirred when I heard the music, that was just phenomenal. Where do you think that comes from? Does it come from your experience? From your heart? From your soul? Where would you say this music is drawn from?

Massimiliano Greco
Big, great question. I think this is of course my personal experience with music. I think that, in my case, for sure I have a certain sensibility. Very, very ready to be excited for many, many inputs that I had. This is my character. But anyway, I think that a very important role in my life is the concept of inspiration. My childhood and my training as a musician was always not just related to musical training. I was also interested by above all by literature, by reading books, by reading words. By understanding the word. And then also because I had when I was young, some references, as artists. And when I was learning about their lives, I understood that their capacity was also to be inspired by other kinds of art, art forms. And this is the characteristic of my inspiration. So first of all, I have to be inspired, inspired by people, inspired by books, inspired by panorama, by views, by whatever. In fact with that music, the first inspiration I had was reading a book by Hermann Hesse, and many of my musicical compositions are inspired by books because I have to say, in my experience, the words of the books are really, really strong for my sensibility, and they are capable of interesting me. And so I find in the words, a connection with my music.

James Pearson
That is this fascinating because you don’t write lyrics, you write music, so the translation of word to sound.

Massimiliano Greco
This is for me. Unbelievable, so strong. So strong. Of course, I was also training in a certain way, by listening to a lot of music. This is important for me because I learned to listen, to listen in a general sense. And so I have to say I’m very much available to listen to people, not talking so much, but to listen. Because “listening” for me became in my training, one of the most important words. This is also interesting because when I listen to other people talking, maybe I can also take inspiration, and I have to say it’s good for me because in relationships with people, the capacity to listen to people, I discovered is very important.

James Pearson
This is! I think listening is the gateway to understanding, and I’ve always been a sort of a big supporter of listening before talking. So I think you’re definitely right. So, where does the inspiration for “The Second Life”, “La Seconda Vita”, where did the inspiration for this particular tune come from?

Massimiliano Greco
So the first part of this music was a little piece of a novel composition that I dedicated to one of my daughters when she was very young. But the complete idea was taken when I was reading a book about happiness by Hermann Hesse. And the idea that I have is about the possibility, every time you want to create a second life, in the sense that you can in each moment of your life, you can have a better, Second Life. This was the idea also of the title, of course. I had the possibility to talk about my music also with people belonging to the ballet world. And in that case, many things changed in this possibility to integrate this music. And in fact, this second life has become like a big and great love story, because the idea of some choreographers that I met my life, when they listen to this music, they found his music very good for imagining. Big, very intense. And I have to say the choreography for this music was created by Roland Fogle, who was a very famous dancer in the Stuttgart Ballet, and is now my colleague in my Academy where I work. It is this kind of idea, he says, the choreography is about a big, very intense love story. So it’s a little different from the beginnings of this music.

James Pearson
Fantastic! I think a lot of my experience with love stories is certainly tied up in the wedding industry, and piano is one of the instruments that has always been a classic go to at a wedding. It’s such a fantastic accompaniment to the drinks reception, even parts of the ceremony, and I’m really, really intrigued by your take on this idea. A lot of people like to have familiarity in their music, so they will pick piano covers of tracks that they are already familiar with. Now, when Rachel and I were married, we deliberately looked for piano covers of tracks that nobody would have heard before. Our intent was to neutralise any sort of preconception about the music and allow people to experience music in the moment. So, in terms of your album, “Love Stories”, how would you hope that people initially perceive the music? What is your purest intent for that album?

Massimiliano Greco
I can tell you about the experiences that I have had in wedding situations. For example, I played for a wedding, but it was just for some of my friends, and I had a very nice experience. Whilst not exactly for a wedding, but for the 25th anniversary of the wedding of one of my friends, I composed a special piece of music for that wedding anniversary. And during the even,t during the party, this music was played. It was not me playing, but it was a recording. And I have to say that all the people stopped when it was announced, all the people stopped during the party doing the usual things, you know, talking, a lot of noise, and everyone was in silence to listen to this music. And no one knew this music. And so it has been, I have to say, a strange and interesting experience, because maybe it could be that we can also imagine that when there is a wedding, there is the possibility to dedicate a piece, to ask a composer to dedicate a special composition or piece of music, just for that special event. So maybe a pianist or other musicians can also be involved in this way. So maybe in a moment of the wedding party, you can add this situation, in which there is just one unique piece of music dedicated for them that way. I love this, and if in the future, I will have the opportunity to do that, I will do it with great pleasure, because I think it’s a nice idea.

James Pearson
You mentioned that the piece of music stopped everybody in their tracks and they were almost commanded to listen. Why do you think that music has this power over people?

Massimiliano Greco
I think that it happens on the first day of our lives, and maybe before also. There is such a connection to music with the capacity to change our mood. The problem is that we don’t realise. But for sure, if we put some special music in a moment of our day, that piece can change the sensation, we can change the reaction we can have. We can change every day. I believe, very, very much in this. So it’s a connection that we have by instinct. Also because maybe music is around us continuously, all the time. And our kind of music, this style of music that we know with these 12 notes that we choose many centuries ago. But the capacity to arrange these 12 notes is inside us right now. And so the problem is, if we can realise that, I’m sure that our lives could be better, better and better. And maybe it will be very interesting if every day, every person in the world can dedicate 10 minutes of this day to listen to music. I think it would be a better word.

James Pearson
I am very much in agreement with you. I think a lot of research has been done into how intellect can be tied to listening to classical composers at an early age. It helps expand the mind, and I really do, honestly believe, like I said to you at the beginning, there is music that is so important to sit down and enjoy, like a film, like a book. It would be wrong to listen to some of the world’s greatest books narrated whilst you did your work. You have to be present in that space. I think you’re absolutely right that if only we could stop our busy lives and find time for music appreciation. I think in every genre, there are amazing examples of all kinds of music that can lift our spirits and really kind of re energise us and give us strength, and I think that is maybe one of the challenges that we’re facing into the future with mental health and well being. Maybe it is making time for music. Maybe that is one of the solutions.

Massimiliano Greco
I hope so. Can you imagine if we can solve some big, big, big problems about relations between people, maybe even bigger than that, just with a music competition. No war! A music competition, or instrumental competition. So, who is the winner? Okay, for the time it will be that person, belonging maybe to that nation, and next time it will be another one, belonging to the other nation. Can you imagine what kind of power we can add, but it’s a very different power, belonging to our inside, not outside. It would be fantastic. It’s music war. Okay, I accept this music war. I prefer it. Even if war with a bigger world, it’s fantastic, let’s do war with music, why not? I would also accept not to be the winner, why not?

James Pearson
That is a very interesting concept about settling differences with music. I think a lot of couples can probably relate to that when they’re choosing which tracks to play in the car. Definitely a very interesting one.

Massimiliano Greco
Maybe dreamers, why not, why not? Maybe if we start to say these kinds of strange things, of course someone can say “what are you saying”? But if we start to say something like that, maybe it will be not quite there, but something like that can happen, why not. Better to be dreamer.

James Pearson
I agree. Something that I’ve noticed over the years, certainly with my following of music, is how almost the value of music has changed in people’s lives. And I think because of services like Spotify and your streaming services, you know, your instant access to 7 million, billion songs, or whatever it is. Suddenly people are picking out certain pieces, they’re not listening to full albums anymore, they enjoy the music on their phone, maybe not their Hi Fi so much. How do you feel about the music industry and where it’s going, and the effect that this has having on people in general?

Massimiliano Greco
This is strange now for me because, of course, when I was younger, I loved very much the high fidelity of the sound. Also because I decided in my life, to listen, much more to classical music, then other styles of music, but I listened to every kind of music. But of course, also because of my work, of my job, I have to listen to classical music. But, honestly, if I had to say to you that these streaming services, in a certain way, have destroyed the quality of the sound, I say to you, it doesn’t matter. Because the fact that you can listen first, you can listen even if the quality of the sound is not so good as it was before, but I prefer that I can listen to the music. Even if the quality is not so good. So if I had to choose, people have to understand what they want to listen to. Because listening to music, it’s very general. It would be very interesting, sometimes saying okay, for this week, I want to listen to popular Italian music. But the next week, I want to listen just to Beethoven, because I know this name and I want to understand the person behind this name. You have big names and then you find them through this. We have everything on Spotify for example. And so you can decide to discover this man, or you want to discover Lady Gaga, or you want to discover rap, whatever. And so you understand other people and other ways of communication. For that, I prefer it with Spotify nowadays.

James Pearson
That is a very, very interesting take. And I’m glad you brought it up because I remember reading a Hi Fi magazine actually, that was talking about the merits and the pros and the cons of mp3, and audio compression. They were saying that the access to music is super, like you were saying, that ability to be able to go out there and explore a new artist, just like that. The barriers have come down and then the option is still there to take that music home, and listen to it in high fidelity, if you’d like, if you want to. And certainly with live performance, again, that’s another example of where you can have the full fat experience.

Massimiliano Greco
Yes, yes it’s true. Also live it can be fantastic, if we can start again. It can be very, very good, it’s life experience. It’s something special because it’s one thing when you listen to music, when you are on your sofa, wherever you are at home. But if you go to the theatre, if you go in an auditorium, if you go in another place, whatever it is, you have this experience with live music. The preparation of your body and your mind and your heart change completely, because you go into another atmosphere, in another dimension, to listen to the music. And maybe you also share this atmosphere with other people, and maybe you can learn something more this way, and be very different from when you are alone. Can you imagine being at home and having 5 or 10 people listening to Spotify? It’s strange. Maybe, but it would be very nice, going with 10 people somewhere to see people play. This is completely. So Spotify, it’s okay. But, when you are in another location, and it’s completely different from your own life, that is a reference, you cannot live without it. It’s impossible for me. So, I suppose I cannot substitute it, it’s impossible.

James Pearson
I think certainly from my experience, I have seen music transform a situation, particularly at a wedding when everybody is dialled into one particular track. Maybe they’re dancing to it, and the vibe and the energy in the room becomes something wholly different, and then you take that memory and you try to repeat it, by listening to the music again by yourself, and the energy isn’t there. It’s a totally different experience. I think that’s kind of wonderful, and I think one of my experiences with music, which I always find quite fascinating, again, I alluded to it at the start, was that my mind is always so busy with creative thoughts that I think I need that richness of music, and that sort of intensity, to take over. To shut down all the noise and to just occupy 100% of my mind, so but I can be transported. And the only thing that really does that for me is music, and I think it’s very, very therapeutic in that way.

Massimiliano Greco
Oh yes, and also a good idea, is trying to decide to listen to the music, in the sense that there is a will, a will, of listening to the music. Not if the relation with it is just general and superficial. The effect of the music can be there, but it’s not like when we decide that in a certain moment of the day, we need to stop, everything in our normal life, in our busy day, and we dedicate, we decide to dedicate our time and our vibration to that kind of connection. It’s very, very important. That’s why, again, also to my students who I teach music, I say to them… they are very young from 14 years old, let’s listen to music every day for 10 minutes, possibly because they do a certain job, classical music, but not only, but either way decide to listen. So your concentration, your entire energy is there on the music, and nothing else can change this decision. It is very important foryou.

James Pearson
Would you agree with me in saying then that if you actually managed to stop and choose to listen to the music, the music can take on a completely different feel.

Massimiliano Greco
Of course, of course, because of the level of the concentration you have when you are ready to accept the main messages from the music. That’s why I like very much to listen to classical, because if I listen to… Okay, Celine Dion, it’s already great listening for people who like this kind of music, but I know that I can have a social communication, a certain message from those kinds of songs, from that kind of voice. Barbra Streisand, same. If I listen to Mozart, or I listen to Liszt, in the end I decide to listen to this kind of music, the possibility I have to receive sensation is very rich. Also Beethoven is the maximum because Beethoven is continuously changing the mood during the music. Continuously, continuously as he goes piano, forte, continuously moving like this. If you are ready to accept this, honestly I think you can change your character. It’s a long way, but you can arrive there, it’s a problem of decision. If you decide to stay in contact with music, you will see a change in your character for sure. It’s availability, I will say, to be available to accept to understand the message of the music. It’s fantastic, I hope.

James Pearson
Wow, Well, Massimiliano absolutely incredible. We’re at the top of our little half an hour here so we’re unfortunately fast running out of time, but what a deep subject. I think I could continue to talk about this for hours, but of course, I don’t want to take up any more of your extremely valuable time and we really, really do appreciate you jumping on to talk to us today, that’s been absolutely fantastic.

Massimiliano Greco
It has been my great pleasire. Thank you again for your invitation. That’s been very nice, very nice and thank you for your questions. Very interesting. I hope that I could give some ideas about listening to the music, and thank you for playing my music “La Seconda Vita”, it’s always something strange when I listen outside of my situation.

James Pearson
Absolutely. I’ve always been a believer that music or art in general changes in the company of different people, and it’s great to explore that and have that experience. So I just want to say thanks again, that was absolutely wonderful. I really, really appreciate it and I’m going to go away now and I’m sure my mind is going to be working with everything that we’ve talked about, and no doubt I am going to want to do this again. So hopefully in the future, in the near future, we’ll get the chance to jump on and go a little deeper into this subject because it really is fascinating.

Massimiliano Greco
I will be very happy whenever you want, whenever.

James Pearson
Superb! I really look forward to it. I can’t wait. So just in closing, then I would like to play with your blessing, once again, “La Seconda Vita” just one more time for people, so that they can have another listen before we go. But we will say our goodbyes now and thanks again. Thank you for watching.

Massimiliano Greco
Thank you, thank you again. Goodbye.

James Pearson
Bye for now.

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