Ludovico Einaudi
Photo by Ray Tarantino

Ludovico Einaudi: “It was like a ritual”

Short Profile

Name: Ludovico Maria Enrico Einaudi
DOB: 23 November 1955
Place of birth: Turin, Italy
Occupation: Pianist, composer

The deluxe version of Ludovico Einaudi's album Underwater is out on 14 October 2022 via Decca Records.

Mr. Einaudi, is it true that every Sunday evening, you sit down to record something at the piano?

I actually tend to do this almost every day! Even if it’s just for two minutes. It just like jotting down notes, I open my recorder or even just use my phone; it's like a memo. I record the idea that comes out, and I don't mind if it's a good one or a bad one. I don't think about it, I just do it.

It sounds almost like a diary or a journal.

There’s always a sort of biography in your work, but I don't know if the peaks of my music were always connected to moments of emotional peaks in my life. Sometimes it’s more like an escape: you have chaotic situation around you, and you start to focus on your work and it gives so much to you that suddenly, you don’t care about any of your problems, they just become secondary. The fire that is coming from your artistic work brings you joy and happiness — and everything else becomes irrelevant. I like that.

“It’s like creating a world of ideas and musical thoughts that you have every day. And then when you need it, you take it from that place.”

And what do you do with these recordings? Do they all become songs you eventually release?

Well, I also have a notebook where I write some notes, color-coordinated, almost like a map to help me put together my songs based on those weekly recordings. Sometimes though, there are magic moments where a piece comes out during one of these recordings already in its final form! The title track to my album Underwater came out exactly as it is in the record, I didn't touch it! I tried to see if there was something that it needed, but I realized actually that was ruining it, so I decided to leave it as it is. So it’s a process, it’s like creating a world of ideas and musical thoughts that you have every day. And then when you need it, you take it from that place. It's nice because for me, those ideas, they were born very spontaneously, they were not born with the purpose. And I like that my art comes out without purpose sometimes.

Is it easy for you to reach that flow state as a composer?

I have to say that probably I spent all of my first years of my life, trying to learn to be organized and work more purposefully. And then the more I was studying, the more I noticed that the best work that I was making was actually happening when I wasn't organizing too much. It’s nice to experiment around an idea… I think at a certain point, you arrive to a kind of maturity that allows you to swim more freely. And when you touch that state, playing with your unconscious, it's very beautiful when you when you experience that moment.

Ludovico Einaudi plays his song Underwater, 2022.

But given how many scores you’ve written for film and television, there must also be times where you have to sit down and make something with a purpose, no?

Yes, of course, this doesn't mean that you don't have to sometimes arrive at a very specific moment. Right now I’m working now on a French film score, and I have to say, in this case, I didn't start from those weekly ideas, I started with a more organized purpose, trying to achieve the certain specific things. I'm very happy with that! So I think I can handle both ways of making things. In the case of scores, the music needs to arrive to a certain specific point, it needs to touch some emotional peaks in certain places… I’m trying to follow the indications from the story, but I try to do that while leaving my inspiration as open as it has to be. Even if I have to work with a purpose in this way, I try to do it so that my artistic fulfillment is completely satisfied.  

How is it for you to listen back to your own music? Can you recall the moment of creation, the emotions you were feeling at the time?

Every time you hear a piece of music that you’ve written, you remember the joy of it. Even if you don’t remember exactly what the writing process was like, there’s a moment where you hear it and your heart is full. It’s a similar emotion like when you are in love with someone, you feel that internal joy. The joy stays with the music that you are creating, and then when you go back to listen to it, you feel that energy again. But there’s another feeling that comes after that, when you think, “Okay, maybe I’ve done everything I can do and I won’t be able to write anything again.” You feel a certain sadness or anger because the beautiful part of your creation is already done, and you worry you won’t be able to do it again, like you’re starting again from the bottom of the mountain.

“It was like a ritual, enigmatic, I was totally connected to myself...”

Is it hard to find the energy to start the climb again?

Sometimes you have to stay there at the bottom! Sometimes you suffer. When I was younger, I didn’t have the same confidence as a composer. My father was a very important man in the cultural field in Italy, he was a publisher, but he was too concentrated on his work to have the time to give me confidence. My mother played music with me, but I have to say the most important musical figure in my life was my teacher, Luciano Berio. He was an avant-garde composer, and together we had a lot of exchanges about music. He gave me such confidence, he was very positive, he gave me the faith and the courage to keep going. So in my experience, I have always been able to find again the energy that you have on top of that mountain. (Laughs) I’m always conjuring images to describe my music or my state of being, so this time I’m talking about mountains!

Do you usually have those kinds of images in mind when you’re making music?

No, I don’t usually have a plan in the moment, but afterwards, you try to understand what you’ve done and sometimes you’ll find a color or a photograph that represents what you’re saying with your music. For example, with the deluxe version of my album Underwater, I included photographs in the album liner… There’s one of a swan looking deep into the water, and I felt that has something to do with what I was feeling when I was making the album. I was in the moment, completely detached from the world. I was not thinking about making music or art at all. This is the flow state that we mentioned before: it was like a ritual, enigmatic, I was totally connected to myself.