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Hexperos Interview; Walking Roots
Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 01:00 AM PST
Contributed by: ZG

Hexperos Interview

Sophisticated aristocratic manner of performance, the structure of melodies..There’s something from chamber european music as well as something from the mystic oriental world. A new project of Alessandra Santovito and Francesco Forgione – Hexperos - presented us their debut album – The Garden of the Hesperides and this interview is going to be dedicated mostly to this sparkling drop in the sea of neoclassical music.

Heathen Harvest:
I know that you’re a founder and a vocalist of neoclassical band Gothica which issued its last album in 2004 and seems to be no more on the scene. Why did you make a decision to gave up Gothica and gave birth to another project which has something similar with the previous one? Is it a symbol of new period in musical life, a new step or a result of some global changes?

Alessandra Santovito: I had the desire to create a new musical project and when Roger Karmanic, president of Cold Meat Industry, asked me to send a new song for the compilation ‘Flowers made of Snow’, it was a good opportunity to realize Hexperos given that, in the mean time, my artistic and sentimental story with Roberto (partner in Gothica) ended.

Francesco Forgione: We met each other thanks to some camera concerts where we played together. We come from the same town: Vasto, but we met only in these occasions about six years ago. We played together in a series of classical concerts in our town with local musicians.

Hexperos seems to sound more mature, more complete. Do you think you’ve evolved on the way from Gothica to Hexperos?

AS: Yes, I do, because in these years I’ve gained a valuable new experience, for example in the classical field where I had the opportunity of singing in good chamber ensembles and in some Operas, among these I remember with pleasure Traviata with the famous Renato Bruson. I’ve got an interesting experience in jazz field too. All that have helped me to evolve, also the collaboration with Francesco gave me the possibility to explore more music paths like the ‘Celtic’ one.

FF: No, I didn’t. The previous ones that I quit weren’t important.

HH: Why did you choose Francesco for collaboration?

AS: Francesco and I are from the same Italian city, Vasto in Abruzzo. We often saw each other playing in concerts. I liked his style so, after some time, I asked him to play with Gothica in some live concerts. He was keen to play music with me. Knowing each other better, we understood to have the same musical tastes and furthermore Francesco has got a lively inspiration and an infectious enthusiasm. Francesco has got a lot of good music qualities and abilities and above all he can play the double bass, which is an instrument that I adore. On the other end, he likes my voice a lot so its a perfect union.

Did the idea of creating Hexperos appear after a long-term period or was it a fast decision?

AS: It happened all of sudden, we decided to collaborate and soon we started. However, we needed time to open a small personal studio which would fit our needs and to develop a project as painstaking as possible.

FF: It was a fast decision.

HH: How did you manage to find other musicians, mentioned in the booklet for The Garden of the Hesperides? Would you ever start using software or synthesizers if you couldn’t find the  musicians needed?

AS: They are all friends of us with whom we were already collaborating for chamber concerts. We prefer to have real musicians and to made a music relationship with them in order to exchange deep feelings. On the other hand, we do not disdain to add modern technology (software and synthesizers) which are useful above all in live shows where it isn’t always possible to play all together because of the budgets.

FF: They were already our common friends because we had played together in some camera concerts.

HH: What is the concept of the cover? Were there any other variants of design and if yes, then why did you choose this particular one?

AS: Nuno Roberto and João Monteiro of Equilibrium Music sent us various designs that could fit our ideas for the cover. Then we chose these nice photos, which are some particulars of  female statues with a lyre and a cornucopia. We think that they can represent very well our music, which is made of love and mystery, and particularly this album dedicated to women and to the Hesperides.

FF: There were other variants of the design, it was difficult to choose but in the end we’ve used what we think it is the more appropriate one. Its concept is the mystery. We like ancient statues because they let our mind travel in time.

HH: What was your personal vision of the cover and to which extent existing one reflects your vision?

AS: This one reflects entirely our personal vision of the cover. Furthermore, Equilibrium added a dark touch which confers to the photos a mystery that is in our music too. The Hesperides are nymphs who sing with sweet voices and the lyre can represent it, while the cornucopia can represent the woman as a source of life.

FF: Just this. I wanted something just like this. Nuno Roberto and João Monteiro of Equilibrium Music have fulfilled our desires.

Music varies within the album – sometimes having oriental touch, sometimes medieval, but always tender and dreamy. Where do you get inspiration for composing lyrics and music from? Special ways, special places?

AS: All the music that we love helps us to compose. We have broad tastes and we try to reflect this in our music. Every day life and Nature are my main source of inspiration for the lyrics and my readings also help me a lot.  The lyrics ‘Rime glitters in the sun’ and ‘The warm whisper of the wind’ are poetries that I wrote watching the landscape. The beauty of nature helps me to live a happier life and for this reason I love singing about nature.

The warm Whisper of the Wind
You shook the cypresses top curled the see waves
Filled the air with the scent of orange blossom and wisteria
Ruffled up the ears of wheat rocked the nests
On the branches in the woods
And blew the clouds in the sky
You docilely carried them
And whit you my thought travels
Through the day and the night
Rime Glitters in the Sun
A mild wind blows from the far east
Hawks draw the sky with circles
There’ re cloud flakes on the mountains which are covered with snow
Silvery olive trees bend under the gentle touch of wind
The rime glitters in the sun and I’m breathing life.

FF: I like to listen to various kind of music from different nations of the world. This is my inspiration and also everyday life with its joy and sadness.

HH: It is clear that the images a listener gets while perceiving an album and those ideas and thoughts that the musician intended to put into music may be very different. Could you, please, characterize your own music – your thoughts, associations, images.

AS: I like to imagine myself as the Hesperides, since I sing in various ways (opera , Celtic, ethnic singing...) and so sometimes when I sing it seems to myself that I'm no more a single person. Each style is a shadow of me and I think that everyone that love arts hide in his self a small garden of the Hesperides. You can understand more our thoughts reading the following reply on how we compose, these images are strictly related to our creative act.

FF: I would tell you some, for example. When I composed Walking roots, I thought about the roots of trees, because I played this song with an instrument that comes from wood. It was like if my double bass could come back to the earth from where it comes from. I associate Loto Nero with the Orient, the ethnic instruments, for this reason I introduced this song with a classic oriental solo.

HH: Is there any special idea that’s going to become a tenor, a leitmotif (if I may say so) of Hexperos?

AS: The world of dreams and the world of women. Each song of ‘The garden of the Hesperides’ is sung by one of these nymphs (who are inspiring muses for me) and the album talks about various women. For example the song entitled ‘Artemisia’ is dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi, a great and mysterious female painter, who lived in the ‘600 and whose style belongs to Caravaggio school. ‘Nana’ is a song from the ‘Siete canciones populares Españolas’ by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, it is a sad ‘cante jondo’, a lullaby. Each song represents a different aspect of the feminine world, so it is for ‘Ave Maria’ by the baroque composer Giulio Caccini, for ‘The Magnificence of the Night’ whose lyric is an extract from the novel ‘Woman in love’ by D. H. Lawrence, for Hesperos.  

In the beginning we wrote the songs separately but, in the end, we understood that some concepts tied them, like the presence of various women: Artemisia Gentileschi, a mother in Nana, Maria in the Ave Maria of Caccini...

HH: Let’s get back to the moment when you start composing. What do you start with – a melody for a special instrument, the background, the main theme or what?

It depends. For example, Regarding ‘Ritual’, Francesco wrote the rhythm of this song and when I heard it, I thought about shamans or witches performing rituals, it was natural to me to compose the vocal part thinking to sing as a spirit that is evoked. Other times I sing a melody and then we elaborate and arrange it. Some times we have to adapt the words to the music or write a lyric for a songs other times like for ‘The magnificent of the Night’, I choose a poetry or a prose that I love and that I wont to put in music and the words inspire the music. Here, I wonted to sing a song in a more intimate way as if I were speaking more than singing. I was waiting to find the right novel to fulfil my purpose. When I read ‘Women in love’ and above all the extract that we put in music, I understood at once that it was the right one because it tells about an episode so near to the experience of many of us in a way that is earthly and transcendent at the same time. As I said, Hexperos is also music of love and in ‘The magnificence of the night’ I sing an episode  that talks about two lovers in the woods, there is silence and there are strong emotions, our music has to be delicate and not invasive in order to not disturb the affair . Lawrence’s view of sex was innovating for his times. He had a profound influence on the modern novel, which was a moral influence rather than an artistic one, since he was able to add new moral dignity to such an important aspect of human life.

FF: Every time it changes, sometime it’s a rhythm that inspire me, other times it’s a melody or simply a sound.

HH: The way the tracks appear depends solely on musicians (if it is not a thematic compilation, for example).What does appear in your tracks first – music or the title?

AS: Usually the music and then we search for a good title that can reflect the lyric and the music.

FF: The music.

HH: And talking about releasing your work, it is issued on Equilibrium Music, a well-known label, not only when talking about neoclassical and martial acts. Were there any suggestions from other labels? Why did you choose Equilibrium Music?

AS: When we wrote the song ‘The warm whisper of the wind’ for C.M.I. compilation, Roger Karmanic, president of this label, noticed at once that my way of writing music was changed and I had new needs too, so we talked and he proposed us to Equilibrium Music. Equilibrium was happy to welcome us among its artists and we accepted at once because we like the bands of this label like Dwelling, The Moon and the Night Spirit and Poets to their Beloved. They are more near to our tastes, playing classical or folk music.

FF: We started with C.M.I. since Alessandra have realized two albums with them, but Hexperos is different from her previous project, so the president of C.M.I. asked us if he could propose our project to a friend label: Equilibrium Music. We accepted and we’re happy of our choose because this label produces bands more near to our music.

HH: Do you know who are your audience? What is the portrait (inner self or outlook) of your listener in your opinion?

AS: Thanks to Myspace and live shows, we can have a good idea of our audience. It is heterogeneous, from lovers of classical music to those who likes ambient, soundtracks, folk, till many metal listeners.

FF: I think that my audience is made of people who love to listen to non common, artistic music.

HH: What do you think, is there anything “Italian” in your music?

AS: Italy is the homeland of belcanto and great singers like Pavarotti, great authors like Caccini, Vivaldi, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini... great soundtrack composers like Rota, Morricone, Piovani..., great writers, painters, sculptors, directors and so on come from Italy. We’re proud of it and we know that some of our huge artistic heritage is reflected in our music. We mustn’t forget that Italy was also conquered and conqueror of many different people. Italy inherited something from all this cultures. We would like to collect all this heritage from Greece to Arabia, from Spain to German in our music. In this way, our music have something “Italian” but something Nordic and Oriental too.
At any rate, we’ve always listened to music from all around the world and so we feel that our music is not strictly Italian and anyway it is far from nowadays decadence.

I hope only the best part...

I know that Italian scene (neofolk, for example) is very developed. Which Italian bands  in the genre similar to yours would you recommend? Any other Italian bands you’re listening to/consider their music worth attention?

AS: We don’t know other Italian bands that play music similar to ours. I think that Ashram, Iridio and Corde Oblique play good music.

FF: I don’t know any other Italian bands similar to us. There are good Italian bands but I don’t know which I could suggest you because I don’t prefer any of them. I love some Italian composers like Ludovico Einaudi and Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota.

HH: Is there any festival you’re going to take part in or any festival you would like to participate?

I like to play in live concerts also with other bands. We’re playing in a small Equilibrium festival which is taking place in Breda - Netherlands. It’s our first concert abroad in the 2008 with Hexperos. We’re playing at Para on 27th of April in the afternoon together with three bands of Equilibrium: The Moon and the NightSpirit and Poets to their Beloved.

HH: Are there any plans for  future you’d like to tell about?

AS: Our plan for the future is simply to record a new album and keep growing.

What is (would be) success for Hexperos?

AS: I don’t mind to be successful also because many people who have success don’t deserve it, they haven’t got real artistic qualities, it’s only a matter of good advertisements. We just would like to write and play good music and for us it would be a success if we could do it more and more.

FF: If in the future my music is listened by many people in many parts of the world and music  became my only job, it would be success and above all a great pleasure.

HH: A few “personal” questions, if you don’t mind. How and when did you start listening to music?Did someone influence your choice in the very  beginning and does something/someone influence your choice nowadays?

AS: I have always listened to music because my mother has always played vinyl and then CD. She listen to classical music, maybe for this reason I love it. When I was a teenager I worked for many years in a radio station, in the beginning as a secretary and then as a DJ. There I discovered many new genres of music also because I met several people and everybody showed me something new. In the Academy of music I discovered new authors and fell in love with new pages of music. I’ve always followed my heart to choose what to listen to. Nobody influences my choices, only my heart do it, but many are the people thanks to whom I’ve found new good bands, musicians or composers.

FF: I’ve always loved to listen to music since I was a child. I’ve always chosen by myself what to listen to.

Has your attitude towards music been changing during these years and did it change when you started your own project?

AS: Yes, my attitude has been changing because I’ve studied more in depth above all classical music and this is a big influence on me. In my new Hexperos project, I sing differently.

FF: Yes, it changed. Now I prefer to listen to above all classic music, traditional world music and ancient music. No, I haven’t changed my attitude towards music when I started my own project.

HH: Are there muscians that became sort of an icon for you? Do you take a leaf from someone’s book, follow someone’s example?

AS: There are musicians that I like very much but there aren’t icons.

FF: No, there aren’t.

A question none of the interviews can do without:  What are your favourite genres of literature (or writers), your favourite genres of music and musicians?

AS: It’s difficult to choose. We like Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, Corelli, Albinoni, Pergolesi, Caccini, de Falla, Mompou, Chopin, Satie, Shoubert, Shuman, Bernstain, Nick Cave, Portished, Einaudi, Vas, Dead can Dance... and all those composers that give importance to a good melodic line and take inspiration from traditional music. We love some of these musicians also because they often don’t use big orchestra, they write a lot for two, three instruments. As a matter of fact, we have chosen to write most of the songs of ‘The garden of the Hesperides’ for few instruments too: they can dialog, whisper their melodies. We love simple, beautiful melodies that make your flesh creep.
We are truly interested in soundtracks too. We think that, while in the past musicians wrote on commission by rich and noble men, nowadays classical music can survive thanks to movies. Like for the Opera, soundtracks have to underline and comment the action, exalting the climax. Our favourite composers in this field are Philip Glass, John Williams,  Michael Nyman, Danny Helfman, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Nicola Piovani, Nino Rota...
To conclude, we can not mention the beautiful works by Tim Burton, who gives to music and musical a great importance and also the nice collaboration of Bijork with Lars Von Triar in Dancer in the Dark.
Regarding literature and writers, I would mention few names, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg: Shakespeare, Dante, Boccaccio, Leopardi, italian ‘poeti cimiteriali’ like Corazzini, Pirandello, Oscar Wilde, Hanry James, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Lawrence, all the authors of Gothic Literature, many Romanticist, John Ruskin supporter of the Pre Raphaelites... 

FF: I like these writers: Dante, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens.
I like these musicians: Vas, Lorena McKennit, Radiohead, Nick Cave, Ennio Morricone, Ludovico Einaudi, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Classical music in particular baroque, ancient and medieval music, folk and oriental music.

What is your favourite instrument? What is the instrument you can play and which one you’d like to learn to play?

I can play the flute and of course I can sing. I can play also a little bit the piano and I would like to improve it, the harp is also an instrument that I would like to play, I could accompany my singing, fortunately there is Francesca that do it egregiously in my place.

FF: My favorite instrument is the double bass. I can play double bass, classic guitar, keyboards. I would like to play Celtic harp, percussions, ethnic instruments.

Some people say that music cannot do without drums and bass, some people say that voice is enough to create music. What is the instrument your music cannot do without?

AS: In my case, it is my voice because that is my way to communicate, but each instrument can play as a solo.

One can play music with everything.

HH: How do you treat too personal questions in the interviews?

AS: I’m a reserved person so I try to replay as far as I can, trying not to do violence on my feelings.

FF: It depends from the questions, sometimes they’re annoying.

HH: I like to ask “what if questions” and I hope you’ll participate in this little game too:
Just imagine you have to change the genre. So if you had to change the genre, which one would you choose?

AS: Trip hop

Medieval music.

If you had an opportunity to compose everything alone, just two of you, would you do so? Or do you like collaborating with other people?

AS: We’ve already done it and we like it too.

FF: We’ve already done this experience and we’ll certainly repeat it.

HH: If Hexperos were no more (knock wood!) due to some reason, what would you do? Continue as a solo musician or start another project or ...?

AS: I don’t know, it depends from the people that surrounds me, surely I would keep on singing.

FF: I don’t know.

HH: If you were asked to compose a soundtrack for the movie, what kind of movie would that be?

AS: It would be a fantastic experience to write a soundtrack, particularly in America where soundtrack composers are surrounded by a team of musicians and arrangers that is formidable.
We like different kind of movies but I prefer essay ones, I think that our music would fit for these.

FF: A historic one.

HH: If you had an opportunity to come back in the past, would you like to change something within your music career?

AS: It would be tiring to come back in the past.

FF: I would lose less time.

And let’s slowly approach to the end of the interview with a few general questions!
There’re people within the gothic scene that fight against neoclassical bands that are often called “gothic” which provokes the mess – people tend to mix history and a musical movement that came out of post-punk. What do you think about that? I saw a term “Gothic” characterizing your album, but it has nothing to do with what was called “gothic” back then in 80s. Doesn’t it bring mess of any kind?

When I think about Gothic, I think about gothic literature and its atmospheres. I think about centuries ago. I think about gothic art. This is the real meaning of this word for me. When I was a teenager, music of 80s was called ‘dark’ in Italy and ‘post punk’ or ‘new wave’ in the rest of the world. The word gothic to classify a genre of music is so recent and ambiguous. My last project was called Gothica but for artistic and literary reasons. Anyway I don’t mind about this quarrel.

According to me Gothic is only related to something ancient, to those things that can make you think about the past, about mystery, about gothic art and literature.

HH:  What do you think about labeling music in general?

It’s useful but sometimes discouraging for a real artist who would like to create something personal.

FF: It is useful for the listener but some times it is reductive.

What do you think of contemporary neoclassical scene?

AS: I don’t really follow a scene but I think that there are a lot of good musicians almost unknown.

FF: Sometimes it is really interesting.

HH: What is Art in your opinion?

AS: Art is sense and sensibility, a way to dialogue and to keep the power of imagination alive.

FF: It is a way to express our real inner thoughts.

HH: What is your opinion about the whole situation with mp3 files being spread around the world? Should mp3 be forbidden? Is there any use in mp3 sharing?

AS: Technology can’t be stopped and mp3 are useful but a solution must be found to pay rights to artists, otherwise how can artists survive?

I think that they are useful because this is a fast way to spread music. CD should cost less like those of Indie label. Also people should be more responsible and understand how important it is to sustain music and musicians.

HH: What do you think, is there a way for politics into music or should music be independent?

I don’t like politics but unluckily it is important. An artist can make art on every subject but I don’t appreciate people that offend other people.

Music should be absolutely independent.

Are there any stereotypes about Italy and italian people you’ve ever heard about? Which of them are true and which are false? Which ones would you call ridiculous?

AS: Stereotypes are often false because people are different and at the same time similar in every corner of the world. Everywhere there are people nice, friendly or bad and unpleasant. Yes, there are predominant characteristic but they can change also from village to village, from north to south of the country. I call ridiculous the idea that Italy is associated only to pizza, pasta and mafia when in reality our country is a cradle of world culture, just think at the Roman Empire or at Italian Renaissance. It is true that our country is living a sad period of recession.

FF: I don’t mind about these things.

HH: Do you know any bands that base their music/find inspiration in Italian history?

AS: There are some, but I don’t know them very well, I’m thinking at a 70s band named Renaissance and at a C.M.I. band named Rome.

HH: Which 3-5 bands would you name as the ones who made the biggest impact in music evolution of 20th century?Can you elaborate a bit on that?

AS: Maybe, in different ways and genres, Black Sabbath, Pink Floid, Radiohead, Siouxie and the Banshees, Dead Can Dance, Massive Attack and Portished....

Maybe Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Death, the Cure, Dead can Dance.

HH: I’ve got two last questions which, however, doesn’t depreciate their importance:
Are there any questions the musician shouldn’t be asked? If yes, could you name at least 3 of them, pelase?

AS: Everything can be asked but the musician must be free to chose if reply or not.

FF: I don’t like too private questions.

HH: Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself and write down an answer? If there are, you’re free to do so just below.

AS: I would simply say thanks to Elena and to all the readers and the editorialists of Heathen Harvest. I enjoyed very much this original interview and I felt free to reply extensively to the questions I liked more ;-)

FF: No, there aren’t but I would really like to say thanks to Elena, to Heathen Harvest and its readers.


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