Over the years I have been following ideas and images, and now I’ve collected the best inspirations into a series of music for string quartets. I chose the string quartet formula because I’ve always been fascinated by four-part writing and the endless creative possibilities that this kind of ensemble gives.
This is my very first solo album, the result of years of study and research, hope you’ll enjoy it ! – Kristian Sensini
Recorded in June 2019 in Los Angeles by Esession Strings Quartet
String production: Pablo Hopenhayn Mixed at KeyeStudioS (Italy)
Musical Consulting: Peyber A. Medina H.
Mastering by Christian Wright – Abbey Road Studios (London) His skills in soundtrack production have been employed on the Oscar winning Gravity composed by Steven Price, two Harry Potter films and The Master – composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Oh…and he worked on Kid A. And the full Bjork catalogue.
Graphic project by Fidia Falaschetti & Kristian Sensini Layout by Jan Mozzorecchia
Click HERE to buy the Digital Album or the Limited Edition Vinyl
Talking about Music is like Dancing on Architecture.
Let us try it!
I find it very difficult to tell (or even explain) my Music. If I write notes, it is because I am more comfortable than writing words. The Music should speak directly to the heart, over the intellectual aspect.
It is also true that, as a listener, I am the first to be curious and want to know the hidden mechanisms of a composition, the background of an album. Therefore, I got strong and tried to write what is hidden behind the tracks of my album KuartetS.
1 Bicycle Promenade: modern instrumental music often takes itself too seriously, the solo album must be imbued with melancholy, reflections on the highest systems, a not indifferent dose of sadness, spleen and twilight. This record is no exception. The truth is that it is much simpler, let us say instinctively away, to write sad music than cheerful music. On the other hand, more generally, actors and directors can confirm it; it is easier to make people cry than to laugh. That is why I decided to open the album with this track, to discourage all potential listeners looking for Spotify, a nice playlist of sad songs. I am sorry to disappoint them twice, even three times. First of all because the record is not present on Spotify at all, it was written, thought, recorded, mastered with a traditional, critical and not dispersive listening in mind as the musical streaming. Secondly because the disc starts with a song that is not only cheerful and positive, but also carefree. Thirdly, because then in reality throughout the disc there are actually several reflective, sad and catacomb songs. Do you see what happens when you do not deepen the listening, when you get carried away by the urge of streaming? The records are not a set of single songs; they are a journey to be taken from beginning to end, without preconceptions and with the precise will to be amazed. Bicycle Promenade could be the soundtrack of a graceful costume comedy, set in some European city at the beginning of the last century. I imagined a carefree bicycle ride, on a beautiful sunny, we exaggerate, spring day. The landscape flows fast, but not too much, in front of my eyes. The greetings are cordial and auspicious. However, at a certain point … nothing, there are no but, the song basks in its positivity and feeds on it without remorse and machiavellism of any kind. The triggering idea was the rhythm of the first bars that for some strange reason reminded me of the noise of the bicycle chain, which evidently in my subconscious has that rhythm. It is a piece that could work well even imagining the main melody played by a clarinet, I’m thinking of making an alternative version with this instrument as a soloist.
2 French Dream: I’ve been dreaming a lot, since always and I have the great privilege to remember almost all my dreams even after a long time. When I am diligent, I also have the habit of writing down the next morning some notes on what I dreamed at night. I really love reading, watching, hearing stories told, the world of dreams can only fascinate me, it is like living a second life with unlimited possibilities that the subconscious allows us. In some very rare cases, I dreamed of non-existent music, in even rarer cases I had the readiness and fortune to wake up humming the music I dreamed of. In this case, I was particularly lucky, I was able to play and record that melody immediately. I dreamt that I was in Paris, in the metro, during a misty evening. In the Metro among the passengers I recognize Audrey Tautou (who do you want to meet in Paris after all…) and this melody was present as a soundtrack. It is one of the “oldest” songs of the record, a melody that I have reworked many times and tried to arrange in different contexts, without great results, the turning point came when I tried to arrange it for string quartet. The melodic line, vaguely melancholic, is based on a harmony that is always in movement, even if it is based on rhythmic and developmental ideas that are immobile. It’s difficult to explain and analyse the genesis of such a piece, when I write I trust my inner ear a lot, when I’m lucky enough to be able to write music freely I don’t think much about harmonic successions, about the theory behind a melody, I follow what I feel must be that melody or that piece. In this case I followed what I remembered about the melody I dreamed of…in Paris…in the Metro.
3 Quiet Please: a brief hymn to calm and tranquillity, I remember writing this little piece on the piano one May afternoon about ten years ago. It came as a response to a (one of many for us musicians) period of stress, or rather the first time I realized how it is capable of suddenly sucking up all the energy. The first notes of the melody, played in solo, are the reassuring answer I gave myself: “it’s all right, you just need a moment of calm”. I think that the most important moment of professional growth in recent years has been precisely this, to understand, and to scale down, the importance of the musician’s work. If you write music your brain is always moving, driven by the anxiety not to miss any opportunity to create music. Becoming aware of the fact that often the moments of maximum creation are precisely those in which you allow yourself a break, is a great source of positive energy.
4 In Una Rete di Linee: what you listen to on the album is not the first “incarnation” of this melody, it was in fact born as a Jazz track, written for the Odd Times Quintet, a formation born many years ago within the Jazz Music class of the Conservatory of Pesaro (our teacher, to whom I owe a lot, was Bruno Tommaso). The piece is generated by the overlapping of melodies and ostinatos that chase each other and cross each other on the strong tempo only in certain bars, the initial notes are illusoriously beating until the entry of the basses. The quartet is the faithful transcription, soloists included, of a live performance of the piece we recorded in 2008, the title, besides describing the play of melodies, is part of a wider show dedicated to the book “Se una notte d’inverno un Viaggiatore” by Italo Calvino. The individual compositions forming part of the concert described each of the chapters of this wonderful text in a musical game of style exercises.
5 Some Kind of Freedom: This is a poetic reflection on death and in particular on the disappearance of the people dear to us who lived the final experience as a sort of liberation, hence the title of the piece. The piece was born as an improvisation on the piano, recorded a few days after the disappearance of a person dear to me, a slow waltz that is influenced by the slow waltzes written by Satie. The harmony, although minor, alternates more serene moments in major, the reflection on death becomes sweet/bitter and does not admit a precise and definitive judgment.
6 La Stanza di Vanni: the title does not describe any particular room, it is simply a play on words, I tried to translate in Italian from the German Zimmer (Stanza) and Hans (diminutive of Johannes, Giovanni). It’s a song that I wrote and dedicated to Hans Zimmer on the occasion of our meeting in October 2017 for the presentation by me of the title of honorary member of ACMF (Italian Association of Composers of Film Music) www.acmf.it . It is an ancient tradition of European composers to dedicate short compositions to their colleagues, and so I wanted to pay homage to one of the most important film composers of our time. In this composition, more than mimicking Zimmer’s style, I preferred to return in music what I think are his two musical souls, one more quiet and reflective (written in 4/4) and one more mysterious (in 3/4). This was the first quartet to be recorded in Los Angeles, even before the design of the album and the start of Crowdfunding’s campaign: it was an experiment to see if a string quartet’s track recording could still give back the ideas I had in mind. I do not think there’s any need to add how satisfied I was with the result as I made another 17 tracks with this technique.
7 Sweet Sadness: a piece initially born as a composition for piano solo. The melody is decidedly melodramatic (a style that takes refuge in modern soundtracks), the pressing tempo, and especially the second major theme, serve as a positive redemption of the overall atmosphere of the piece. In the finale I wanted to experiment with harmonics, the quartet takes a bit of the sound of a calliope, a steam organ in vogue in the American circuses and fairs of the early 20th century.
8 The Fairy Garden: like “In una Rete di Linee” also this piece has a previous life, it is part of the repertoire of the Odd Times Quintet, specifically the show dedicated to “Se una notte d’Inverno un Viaggiatore” by Italo Calvino. Listening to it sounds more like a Soundtrack song than a Jazz song, this is one of the reasons why I started writing music for the Cinema (and stopped playing Jazz music…): when I proposed my original songs during the concerts more than one listener (one of the very few privileged people who “crowd” the concert halls and Jazz Clubs), he pointed out that they were perfect as film music, instrumental music with the power to evoke an atmosphere, to tell a story. This piece of music lent particularly, so I wrote a new introduction and rearranged the piece for string quartet, I also changed the title, originally it was entitled “On the Carpet of Leaves Illuminated by the Moon”, I preferred a shorter title. The harmonic, and then melodic inspiration was suddenly born (sometimes it happens…) while I was on the train, on one of the many daily trips to the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, where I was studying. The harmony swings in a sort of dance between a few chords, between which a melody descending from the chromatic character creeps in. Section B of the piece instead sees the protagonists of continuous melodic impulses, as if wanting to conquer something that in reality is unreachable.
9 Erewhon: it is a hymn to the “non-places”, to the islands of Utopia, to the places of mind and soul, to the imagined cities, to the unreal landscapes of dreams. “Erewhon” (which sounds like the word Nowhere inverted, or rather an anagram) is a novel by Samuel Butler, in the description of this utopian country I was fascinated by the absence of potentially dangerous machines (considered by the inhabitants). The anagram word could also indicate Now-Here, here and now, Hic et nunc, something that must happen immediately and unfailingly, a bit the slogan of modern society. The song in my intentions instead wants to wander aimlessly in this hypothetical non-place, without there being a real direction, the melody is lulled on the waves of harmony like a piece of wood at the mercy of light waves in the middle of the Ocean. It is not a descriptive music as in other pieces, but an absolute music in itself, the melodies mix and chase each other imitating each other, the instruments dialogue with each other for the pure pleasure of doing so in a succession of motionless moments.
10 John & Jerry: at first I wrote the structure of this song thinking about an exercise in style, mixing harmonic and melodic suggestions of the most important science fiction themes in history, that of “Star Wars” written by John Williams and that of “Star Trek” (the movie) written by Jerry Goldsmith. I had fun mixing harmonic passages and melodies that are now part of the common imagination, to create a completely original song that “remembered” the themes in question, a stepson that we could call “Star Trek Wars”. The result, besides being an end in itself, was quite inconclusive and remained in a drawer for some time. One afternoon of study, I allowed myself the luxury of dusting off some “forgotten” works and just for fun I tried to play it like a Jazz Waltz. I really liked the result, the song became less serious, it abandoned that “muscular” aspect that so many epic or sci-fi melodies have, embracing another more light-hearted and softly disengaged one. I arranged the piece for string quartet and recorded a version for piano solo, and it became my personal tribute to two of the greatest composers in the history of cinema, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (who, by the way, were born, in different years, just a few days apart).
11 Random Encounter: casual encounter, the title was suggested to me by the general atmosphere of the piece, I remember that after having written only a few lines I imagined what I can define “a beginning of history”. In the daily routine of the most normal people there is an encounter with a mysterious person, by a series of coincidences this conference will lead to irremediably change the destiny of both, not necessarily for the better. In a precipitation of ineluctable events the two find themselves bound to each other and together they precipitate a common destiny…which I don’t really know what it could be, I’m not a writer. More generally this piece tries to tell the inevitability, the choice, the continuous “sliding doors” that we find every day in front of us and that allow us (or deceive us…) to change our future at every entrance. Throughout the track there are different arpeggios, entrusted to the four instruments, which overlap and intersect, on these are grafted the various melodies, the basic musical idea from which I started is precisely this: a flow of waves or concentric circles that expand and retreat creating an inevitable movement around the harmony.
12 Parche: this piece was also initially composed for piano. Why I did not make an album for piano solo? I thought I would have more timbre possibilities by reworking some pieces for string quartet, this piece for example was based on a series of arpeggios, which were resolved in suspended chords, there was no real melody. In the 4 voices transposition for quartet I had the possibility to develop the initial idea and graft different themes on the harmonic base I had thought for the piano. The piece became something very different, while respecting the initial idea that can be heard in the introduction and coda of this version. It is the umpteenth piece in ¾, evidently my musical thought goes inexorably in that rhythmic direction. Those who are curious to listen to the piano pieces that gave birth to the quartets can easily write to me, I will be happy to share the demo I recorded.
13 Changeling Lullaby: there is nothing more disturbing than childhood, I cannot remember who said it but I think it can sum up the meaning of this track well. Years ago I recorded a piano version of this lullaby, and I wanted to play a version for quartet, more poignant and exciting, in my opinion, thanks to the possibility to play transposing the melody, passing it between the various voices of the instruments, making it play each time with a different character. As the piece progresses the game becomes more complex thanks to the arrangement of the harmonic parts that changes continuously, the background creates new spaces for this dark and mysterious lullaby.
14 Les Fleurs du Mal: The Flowers of Evil, by Charles Boudelaire. This collection of poems is one of my favourite books, since high school, perhaps because of my fascination with “cursed” poetry, the evil of living, romanticism and mysticism, fundamental ingredients for the average high school teenager. I was lucky enough to read these poems from the very beginning in French, and clearly I was very impressed by the sound and the melodic course of Boudelaire’s poetry. Also this piece is therefore inspired by a literary work, as I have had the opportunity to repeat several times, dreams and literature seem to naturally stimulate my musical creativity. It is perhaps the need to try to make tangible (through an art that, by its very nature is immaterial and elusive) thoughts and mental images, the desire to give back to dreams and stories the part of me that has changed after the narrative experience. The piece is a flight into the unknown, into the abyss, the whirling exploration of those who abandon themselves in the infinite, in the folds of the soul and the times. It is a gothic dance in which vertigo dominates, in search of an idea that eternally escapes and that does not want to be grasped. Do you understand now why I prefer to write Music instead of expressing certain concepts in words?
15 The Shapes of Memory: the forms of memory, a reflection on the human being’s ability to indulge in evil, a memory of the victims of intolerance, hatred, inhumanity. A warning that terrible episodes that have marked our recent past, and that unfortunately (in other forms) are characterizing our contemporaneity, will no longer happen in the near future.
16 The White Ship (November 1919): the quartet is inspired by a story by H.P. Lovecraft, of which I have always been a passionate reader. It’s not part of his Horror stories, but rather of those Fantasy stories related to the Cycle of Dreams, a theme that, as you may have understood, fascinates me and consequently inspires me a lot. It is the story of a journey on a fantastic vessel through ideal worlds that are never satisfying enough for the protagonist of the story. It’s clearly an allegory, the endless search for what we don’t have and could never have because the human being is not only never satisfied with what he has or can get, but lives in the terrible and dangerous illusion of always deserving more than what he has. Regardless of the allegorical meaning, the beauty of the story is in Lovecraft’s usual ability to transport us to places of dreams (or nightmares) thanks in particular to the elaborate use of language. Musically I tried to translate this suspension of consciousness using the time of 5/4 without being able to feel it immediately. First of all, thanks to the slow time and avoiding particular rhythmic accents, the 5/4 scan does not follow the canonical 3+2 or 2+3 but a more particular 2+1+2 which allowed me a certain symmetry in setting the changes of harmony maintaining a sense of uncertainty, the sensation one has in dreams. Melody and harmony have a sense of “archaic” I don’t know how else to define it, and this is the sense that Lovecraft’s tales transmit to me, the link with the ancestral, with the primitive with what remains of the ancient in the collective consciousness of the human being. Harmonically and melodically the direction is not certain, the canonical rules of harmonic attraction lose their value just as in dreams the common laws of physics lose their value.
17 Waiting for Godot: the song was born from a musical idea, I wanted to experiment up to what extreme I could bring a ostinato, a simple C of the value of a quarter, repeated throughout the song. The piece was born as a composition for piano, around this central C unravels the harmony of the piece and then all the melody, depending on the bass staged, this ostinato always takes on a different value, it changes sense, atmosphere, and yet it remains there in its slow march, like the hand of a clock that beats the same second bending the time on itself. Hence the idea of the title of the piece, the expectation of something, of someone, that perhaps will never come. In the transposition of the piece for string quartet the experiment has been amplified, the note, in pizzicato, is played by the various instruments of the quartet, which sometimes take turns in proposing it, sometimes (it is clearly perceptible) they overlap in playing it by accumulation. The C is always the same (always in the same octave) but clearly assumes different connotations depending on whether it is played by the violin, viola or cello. As it starts, the track ends with the C sequence that suddenly dissolves into silence, symbolically I wanted to leave this track as the last track of the album, to leave the record (and the listener) as outstanding.
18 Andy & Leo (Bonus Track): Andy is my dad, Leo my son, I imagined a music that describes their games (Grandpa Andy has always been a good player, even when I was a kid). It is a hymn to keep alive in us the game, the creativity and above all the sense of wonder of children in every occasion of life. Musically it is a Jazz Waltz that is a bit inspired by the atmosphere that Vince Guaraldi created for the Peanuts cartoons (which Grandpa Andy, me and little Leo like a lot. This Bonus track is present only in the Picture Disc version of the album and on Spotify, in streaming you can find a jazz quartet version of the same track, the friend Matteo Ciminari (http://www.matteociminari.com/) collaborated to this recording, recording the guitar solo.
“A beautiful project, filled with life, joy and vitality.”
“To introduce us into his world, in the first track Kristian offers us a lively and coloured bicycle, which immediately encourages a relaxed ride and a contemplative listening attitude. After a little more than an hour of sparkling surges and languid retreats, the last quartet takes us straight to the very emblem of the impossibility of a finish line, of a point of arrival: that Beckett’s “Godot”, meaning the uselessness of waiting and of expectations. You could therefore infer that a path so deliberately inconclusive, almost stranded and mutilated of a definite perspective by its own author, is equivalent to a dead end road, or a bottle with no trace of a message. Nevertheless, you could not be further from the sense of which KuartetS is permeated: as in living itself, it is not the destination nor the presumed lesson that counts, but the journey (here a musical one), always so new and unpredictable. And what is more, in this effort of his – which also has the grace of what is obtained without effort – Kristian, who is an experienced composer at the service of moving-images, this time only meets his own requirements, and the urgencies of his own feelings. And the 17 answers that he gives to himself and to us are all beautiful: they are personal reinterpretations of the twentieth-century chamber music tradition, suspended between minimalism and Celtic mists, between Old Europe and the New World, between Philip Glass and Tin Hat Trio. But there is so much more: you just have to get on the bike and ride those 66 minutes of pure listening pleasure.”