Raffaele Grimaldi is an Italian pianist from Siano, a small town close to Salerno. He recently released his album titled An Image Of Eternity” (via Blue Spiral Records), a set of 15 emotional piano songs. We had the chance and pleasure to ask him a few questions about his life, his career, his experimental works and obviously this amazing album.
Raffaele your CV is enviable: conservatory graduate, scholarships, many conference speeches and a collaboration with philosopher Diego Giordano. But let’s explore your experience step by step and start from the beginning: how has your passion for music developed through time and especially why were you so inspired by the piano?
It all started as a joke; my father is a musician so I used to be constantly surrounded by music. To play the piano has always been my dream; when I turned eleven, I started thinking that playing could seriously become a job for me. By the way, nowadays I live this experience more as some kind of a “personal mission”.
Once musically grown up, your network, involving characters addicted to music scenario, flourished as well. How did this process develop? Who were the people who played a key role in your musical career? How important was the opportunity for you to be involved in an international environment?
International experiences were key factors for my artistic and spiritual growth. I took part to many festivals and exhibitions all around the world where I met musicians, composers, instrumentalists, orchestra leaders who enriched my cultural background and the perception I had about music and arts in general. The most important meetings I made, were those I had while studying last century’s composers such as Ligeti, Stravinsky and Grisey, but also those I made while approaching rock artists like Pink Floyd, Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa. The international environment not only boosted my career by expanding my reputation outside of Italy; it nourished my curiosity toward different musical genres as well, pushing me to experiment as much as I could and challenging myself continuously.
What did you feel when you were invited to play for the first time in an international venue?
I still remember it as if it was yesterday: I was in Vienna, a city which I fondly recall and where I use to play nowadays as well. I was very young at that time and my hands were shaking because of emotion, but it was amazing and made me understand how important it is to make this kind of experiences, to grow your personal awareness and broaden your horizons.
You recently released “An Image Of Eternity”, but before talking about your LP, I’d like to ask you some things about your previous experimental works: “Studio Cubico” which reminded me of Edgar Varese, the dark “Metaphoric Shady Diary” and the many minimal piano suites. There’s so much variety in your work. How important is the experimental side of your music and who were you inspired by?
I experimented many kinds of musical genres, from installation art to opera, passing through orchestral and chamber music. I don’t like to stare at a single genre or hide behind a “style”, which I think is an harmful trap for those who play music. I think it’s important to face our work challenges and learn to fight them putting oneself at stake. Experimenting means nourishing our curiosity and I do strongly believe that an artist should be able to express himself totally, going beyond his limits; take for instance Miles Davis, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel or Radiohead of whom I am a huge fan. My experimental side, the most complex one, is for sure the result of a deep academic research, but at the same time being a great rock and pop lover as well, I tried to essay different kind of music too. You mentioned “Metamorphic shady diary”: that is a track you could consider as experimental, but it was based on Jimi Hendrix’s and Miles Davis’ piece of works as well. That’s why in the track an electric guitar and a mute trumpet appear. Both of these instruments are quite uncommon in chamber music. And “An Image of Eternity” is part of this curiosity and variety path I’m going through; it’s the beginning of a new and different artistic trip, some kind of a question more than a clear answer.
So now let’s talk about “An Image Of Eternity”: a set of brilliant piano works. Can you describe us how it was born, how long have you been working on it and what do you expect from the future?
For the last 3 years I felt the need to release a work which could sound like the opposite of what I released just before. “An Image of Eternity” flourished from an inner need of communicating in a simple way. I needed to abandon my avant-garde path for a while and go back to the roots, playing my favorite instrument, the piano, through which I can play songs that talk about myself easily. That is the reason why I think this album is pretty much autobiographic. This is not just an album, this is some sort of a moment of reflection. Music is a marvelous object closely made up of time, rhythm and metre; but at the same time it is a mysterious countersense: when you listen to music, a music that makes you sing or dance, you lose the perception of time and the sensations you feel take you back to your human being roots, letting you discover your purest emotions. Music touches these emotions; we give music a sense of memory and it’s through music that memories come to life. So this album was born as a time and emotional travel through which I showed my entire fragility to the listener, trying to show him a more personal and intimate dimension.
I tried to show something like a wide reflection of an infinite dimension. That is an image of eternity.
The songs the LP is made up of were composed in between 1999 and 2015, indeed one of the tracks was written back to when I was 19. The others were the result of works I made in the following 16 years; they’ve been secretly hidden in a drawer until now. I’m not really able to tell you what I am expecting from the near future. Probably I’ll keep experimenting in the field of music with the same energy and curiosity.