Interview with composer Flint Juventino Beppe

This interview was published in Naxos BLOG in 2009 in relation with the release of Flute Mystery

MORTEN LINDBERG: Participants in FLUTE MYSTERY are considered world class within classical music and have sold an extraordinary number of records all together. How did collaboration on this release actually come about?

FLINT JUVENTINO BEPPE I have to say qualitative, not commercial criteria were used to select those who took part in the recording. In this respect, it is a surrealistic dream being fulfilled.

When I was 17 years old, I sent some works to Vladimir Ashkenazy. Since then we stayed in contact, and later talked of cooperating professionally. In my view, he is a dedicated and rounded person who has given me a great deal, both in human and artistic terms. When there was a free weekend in our schedules in January 2008, we decided to grab the chance. One artistic requirement of the recording was to use a top orchestra and soloists and I am very satisfied that the choice was the Philharmonia Orchestra. I have had the great pleasure of dedicating the flute concert on the record to Emily Beynon. For me, her tone is quite unique, and I heard her playing in my head while the work was being created. I also got her sister Catherine Beynon on the harp, so the list of artists was entirely optimal in my eyes. I feel in many ways that this combination of musicians does great justice to the recording's repertoire.

LINDBERG: You use a word like "created"; what is the basis for your work as a composer what drives you?

BEPPE: Identifying yourself as a part of nature and a large entity that cannot be explained is a constant theme in all of the music I write. The dynamic and undertones in the music are a pre-requisite for the work's distinctive character. If I tried to analyze it myself, I would say that I automatically include such ingredients in a way that does not immediately "stand out", but they are still clearly present like a "third eye" in the works - perhaps on a different abstraction level from the use of experimental techniques that are often associated with "contemporary music" as a genre. When things are hidden in layers, I cannot expect everyone to get them, even if they seem obvious to others.

LINDBERG: What is it like to write for a complex and many-faceted cast such as a symphony orchestra?

BEPPE: I think you can draw parallels between the purely technical sides of writing music and ordinary language. Some learn a new language by studying it; others by moving to another country, for example, and taking part in ordinary life and learning it that way. When it was the time for me to embark on higher education, I became seriously mentally ill, which lasted for several years. I have written orchestral music for around 20 years, and I am more of a practitioner than a theoretician when it comes to my approach to music. I have of course acquired wide knowledge of instruments, notations, register and how an orchestra functions generally. Even if one has a very clear idea of what one wants to communicate, it is necessary to have knowledge of how to communicate it. I must also just say that if being a composer was not a lifestyle, then I would never have allowed myself to carry on with it.

LINDBERG: Would you say that the works on FLUTE MYSTERY are representative of you as a composer?

BEPPE: Yes and no. I have written everything from solo pieces, chamber music and electro-acoustic works to full symphony orchestras. But the basic idea behind FLUTE MYSTERY is not necessarily to try to reflect and compress the dynamic, thematic or cast from my oeuvre. On my part there is a very clear and holistic way of thinking behind releasing precisely these pieces.

LINDBERG: Which is?

BEPPE: It is always difficult to be able to describe these things in words and it is musical language that, first and foremost, is the form of expression I feel most comfortable with. One can perhaps say about the basic mood of FLUTE MYSTERY that it initially appears to be rather lingering and slow-moving, and that the dynamic and tension that is there throughout does not necessarily move on a low/high scale in terms of volume. I am preoccupied with certain interpersonal aspects of life, which are hidden in underlying layers of the actual life within the music, often in the breaks in harmony perhaps in the same way as in life. Luckily I do not feel I am in control of these things myself, since I just write music during what I call exhalation. That means that I think it is pathetic to work with the processing of the actual heartbeat of the work. That would be like working intellectually with one's own past, which is something I find totally inadequate. I don't want to use my designated time here on earth fumbling with intellectual problems that nobody can answer anyway. I could in theory easily have done that, but I don't have the need for constructing something, to please somebody or prove anything with the music. Not for myself even. I have to be completely open.

LINDBERG: On FLUTE MYSTERY there is a large degree of variation in the works, from flute music to the dramatic symphonic poems, where an extended orchestral cast pull the weight. Why is there such a large degree of variation?

BEPPE: Perhaps the music can appear deceptively "simple" to some by way of being melodious and nature-based at times and to be launched as "contemporary music" in 2009. To me however there are underlying layers in all works that constantly communicate deeper dimensions. In my film production, I refer to this as "nature pointing a finger", something that I often define as "quasi-cheerful". It appears to be easy and enjoyable, but it is actually violent and grotesque at times. Considering nature and considering oneself part of a greater entirety are for me a humble recognition and completely essential to everything I live and write. The Northern lights are a friend who can come and "take me" but are still no enemy, as they take me on a journey in nature's powerful mystery. The fact that the sun shines towards the earth is simple in itself, but why it shines in the first place and how it affects what it fries, are not necessarily as simple as that and therefore the sun is not simple either. I know of course that such a philosophy can provoke some, but I don't do anything just to provoke. I don't just live in 2009. I live while I can and I like to relate to something that lives longer than human beings themselves.

LINDBERG: But back to the symphonic poem. Is that not an old-fashioned genre belonging to the past? Why do you use this form?

BEPPE: No genre is outdated as long as there is space for new works/stories within them. If that wasn't so one would also have to call sonatas, symphonies and operas outdated, as they are other examples of forms used a long time ago, but that are still used today. I think that timelessness does not just mean that music written 200 years ago is relevant today, but also that music written today would be relevant 200 years ago. Life is hardly more "chaotic" today than it was 200 years ago? At that time, as far as I have understood, there was both mental illness, extremes, joy, sorrow, noise and "chaos", just like today, even if we have traffic, computers and the media. If one has a story to tell, I would choose the form that at any given time is closest to my heart. In the case of the FLUTE MYSTERY the overture of the music came like symphonic poems, and I found it unnatural to divide the action into movements for these works. Another essential reason is that I must also relate to a melodic vein I cannot escape from.

I always have a lot of respect for those who genuinely find it natural to lean towards and use any kind of genre either as an originator or listener. Taste is divided. To me the only important thing is that which is delivered, that is the goal and not the means. In everything I deliver it's always take it or leave it anyway.

LINDBERG: Can you say something about the technical side of FLUTE MYSTERY; why use so many resources on this?

BEPPE: The music lives its own life anyway, but by using "genuine" surround sound we reproduce a 360 degree experience for those who can replay the recording with surround sound. This opens up the sound picture considerably. This has been a learning process, in which Lindberg Lyd AS led the work. Innovasjon Norge has also been a solid supporter. We have used a precisely planned stage setting during the recording, based on the balance in the scores. This work was led by the record's producer, Morten Lindberg. I am very impressed by how the processes developed, from the sketches to the finished result.

LINDBERG: What are your future plans?

BEPPE: At the moment, I am working on several projects and different works, including the launch of the film VICINO ALLA MONTAGNA in the autumn. Otherwise, it is a little too soon to announce other news right now.