Interview with Laura Faoro

Can you introduce yourself?
I am an italian flutist and performer, and I am specialised in contemporary music.

How old were you when you started to play the flute?
I started playing flute when I was 12, but I was essentially self-taught until I was 20, when I entered the conservatoire and I started being professionally trained.

Why did you choose the flute?
In Italy it is quite common to learn to play the recorder as part of music classes at secondary school, and during these classes my music teacher had noticed that I was talented.

Who inspired you as a young flute player?
I’ve been spending years in listening over and over albums featuring great flutists, from Severino Gazzelloni to Jean-Pierre Rampal, from Aurele Nicolet to James Galway.

What is the most important lesson you have learned during your flute studies?
Having begun as a self-taught flutist implied that I had several technical issues that, at a later time, I had to fix working really hard: however, this approach provided me with a huge consciousness of the importance of constantly understanding the reason (technical, musical or artistic) behind every sound I produce.

What was the first contemporary piece you ever played?
“Requiem”, by Kazuo Fukushima

What fascinates you most about contemporary music?
Contemporary music has a perfect complement in the flute: it rediscovered it as an instrument, while boosting its expressive possibilities by means of extended techniques that have expanded enormously its tonal (and also semantic) range. For me, playing has always been a wonderful game and, in contemporary music, therefore, this game becomes even more rich and interesting. On top of it, for sure, I strongly feel the value of contemporary music since it is the sound of today, the flagship of the anxiety of the humanity along the XX and XXI centuries.

What makes a composer and composition exciting?
Being able to communicate a musical messages on more levels, merging tonal research, original (and not self-referred) complexity and depth of thought.

Why do you think it is important to give contemporary composers a stage?
Because contemporary composers decline today the concept of “art music”, and this needs to be known to audiences. It’s a cultural and artistic duty.

Do you currently have a favorite composer or favorite piece?
Over all, I’d choose in particular KATHINKAs GESANG by Karlheinz Stockhausen, in the version for flute and electronics.

You often use extended techniques for flute. Who introduced you to the world of extended techniques?
I have been studying them with Mario Caroli, a wonderful musician. I owe him the vast majority of my knowledge about it.

What is your opinion on extended techniques for flute?
I think they are an unique possibility to enhance the flute possibilities, both tonal and expressive. Using the extended techniques it can really become a magic stick: it can convey synaesthetic suggestions that can become really rich.

Do you have a favorite technique?

Can you explain why you like this technique the most?
Because the flute is normally considered a monodic instrument and, in this way, it becomes polyphonic by producing sounds that, in my opinion, are truly magic. The sensation you get when you can play multiphonics (and they sound good) is that you are creating something precious, acoustically and tonally.

Why do you think flutists may or may not benefit from studying extended techniques?
Because these techniques extend the perspective on your way of playing; moreover, they allow you to acquire flexibility and they enhance greatly the control over dynamics, emission and digital

Do you think we should teach young flutists extended techniques? Why (not)?
Definitively! They can be introduced gradually, like a game; the pupil can practise them as a way to explore the flute more in depth. In this way, the young flutists are forced to exit the standard
technique, exploring new ways to the emission and acquiring flexibility.

You recorded the beautiful CD ‘Ceci n’est pas une flûte’. On the CD there are 9 contemporary pieces. They are all very different. This CD really shows all the possibilities of the flute. What were your motivations to create this specific (CD) project? Can you tell us more about the background of making this particular CD?
Ceci n’est pas une flûte is a Magritte-like calembour, representing the desire, with this CD, to propose a synaesthetic listening experience within a game of sound mirages, illusions and allusions. We pursued this intriguing goal from the project’s conception, starting from the idea that a CD recording implies the added value of being a sort of music microscopy, by using a rich and accurate miking together with a fine sound processing, where both the electronic tracks and the ambience itself could be treated as chamber music partners of the flute. The recording session was meant to deliver the composition with a surgical rendition that would have been impossible in a live performance, within an aesthetical frame that is not an end in itself but wants to deliver the polysemy of
the contemporary language at its best, where nothing is ever as it seems.

Why did you choose these pieces? What makes these pieces special?
Actually I choose pieces whose authors, deconstructing every convention about music, have taken over the sound of the flute with their fantasy, giving it a brand new creative and syncretic power.
Breaking the chronological limits and reconnecting the timeline extremities, the flute in their pieces is once again a magic stick recovering a shamanic allure from the dawn of time, now steeped in the expressive and technological possibilities of modern times. Even the titles of the works recorded in this CD incorporate a wish to transcend the classical timbre, in a fully contemporary desire to cast sound spells blending technology and extended techniques, both searching for a unprecedented instrumental timbre in terms of beauty or of peculiarity and seeking a sound that is literally talking, dressed up in a real semantic connotation. It can’t miss of course a reference to the flute as a sound sublimation of human breath becoming music in every possible sense, from the truly original breath invoking perfumes to the anxiety of the soul lost in a labyrinth.

The pieces on the CD are all for flute or bass flute solo, yet each piece has many layers and when you listen to it, it doesn’t feel like listening to one flute at all. Some of the tracks are with electronics. What are your thought on compositions with electronics?
I think that the electronics in support of a solo instrument still has a lot to say, and I love when it’s merged with the flute! Moreover, electronics is linked to the technological progress that follows its paths and as long as this is there, its relationship with classical instruments will certainly be stimulating. On the other hand, it is also true that many pieces born “contemporary” 30-40
years ago are now starting to be historicized and have the validity of a consolidated repertoire. This is the case, for example, of NoaNoa by Kaija Saariaho or Donacis Ambra by Ivan Fedele.

If people buy the CD, what can they expect?
This CD was born with a strong popular will, a 360-degree journey through really different sound worlds, an acoustic immersion in that intriguing perceptive / intellectual game that the extensive flute techniques and the imagination of various contemporary authors have been able to develop in the last century around the classic sound of the flute. Many of these techniques produce very subtle sounds that we literally pulled out of the recording. It was an operation that we could define as “musical microscopy”, to the discovery of a flute which – radiographed by microphones and processed through electronics and extended techniques … is no longer a flute!

You like to combine contemporary musical language with other artistic forms. Your project ‘Comfort Zone’ is an example of such a project. Can you tell more about this project and what it is about combining artistic forms you like the most?
COMFORT ZONE is a short multimedia video performance inspired by the dramatic quarantine that saw all of us severely imprisoned at home in 2020, due to COVID 19. This work was born within these days of isolation, commissioned by Padua Art Center for its online music Festival 2020 and it talks about my own “safety space”, my domestic “ecosystem” during this emergency. A small world in the world, a space for practice that becomes a solitary refuge to be protected and purified. As a musician, I wonder isolating myself in a sound din that transforms my living room in a bubble, an aquarium that envelops me and limits my movements, in the metaphorical paradox of a captivity that “protects” me and my flute from the uncertainty of the present time. From the
musical point of view, water, indispensable for our hands – to be continuously washed – resounds sampled throughout the whole piece, combined with a synthesizers sound carpet created by myself. Anxiety, fear, uncertainty and the perception of impalpable danger pour into jailed, restless movements under a very light and transparent cellophane, which has a single small opening torn outwards, a porthole to peer out of the “comfort zone”. The flute, equipped with gloves and a mask, is transformed metaphorically into a ritual magic stick, with which the flutist recites formulas to ostracize fear. The dreaded symptoms – recursive, rhythmic coughing – threaten the breath, suffocate the sound and generate spasms of broken clusters. A Follia theme from Corelli variations is intertwined with the even older Dies irae, memory of medieval pestilences, in an electronic reinterpretation between contemporary classical music and free improvisation,
that “contaminates” their musical physiognomy, with loops, contemporary techniques, timbre effects and processed sounds. I wanted to give primary importance to video, as a vehicle of  transmission and social sharing of the performance, so I chose to have three “eyes” that looked at this aquarium from outside and inside, as “surveillance” cameras, home security cameras, with a continuous passage between a shot of the scenic effect from outside and a shot of its technical rendering from inside the belly of the aquarium. “Comfort Zone” ends with a remnant of the beautiful poem written by Mariangela Gualtieri titled “Nove marzo duemilaventi”, a strong message of hope for a better future, open to others and to the world. I like very much combining different artistic forms: personally, I have always tended to have a synaesthetic approach, both as a spectator and as an interpreter. I love the connections, the subtle references that connect the different arts and
disciplines and I love when they come together, because – if the mix is well balanced – the final effect is much more powerful. This added value, which is higher than the sum of the single elements, is very important for me, because it responds to my own personal, strong need for communication, especially in relation to a content like contemporary music works that needs to be conveyed, giving the public more grips to be understood and to create engagement. It is not about marketing, but, an empathic need to connect with the public to make it participate in cultural and artistic contents that must not and cannot be placed on a silent pedestal.

Is there something on your bucketlist you want to achieve soon?
I’d like to release an album dedicated to Stockhausen music; but later I’d really like to record a follow-up to Ceci n’est pas une flute. I’ll be also involved in a huge Stockhausen theatrical project
that will be a very hard challenge, playing in the same evening KATHINKAs GESANG and AVE… a dream that will come true next June in Milan!


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