Face to face with Academy Award winner Luis Bacalov
He embodies one of the most important Italian-Argentine artistic contaminations. Born in Buenos Aires, he started his musical career in Argentina and he has been composing film scores since the sixties. Over his long career, he has worked with the greatest Italian film directors- Lattuada, Damiani, Scola, Pasolini and Fellini, just to mention a few of them- and earned many awards, among which the Academy Award for Original Music Score for Il Postino, which made him a star on the world music scene and known to the general public. We met him in Tuscany, during Cortonantiquaria, of which he was special guest.
What is the key to creating the right film score?
First of all, a dialectical and positive interchange with the film director. You have to understand what he wants and needs to make the film more effective through music. Then I focus on the film’s story and I convert my ideas into music, I decide which scenes require music and which not. There are some general rules to follow, but they are very simple. I think it’s an instinctive and rational process at the same time, just like any other artistic creation.
What is the secret behind a successful film score?
Nobody knows. It’s something you never know beforehand, as occurs with films. There are many films expected to be blockbusters or become cult movies and instead they are not. And the opposite is also possible. I never use the word “successful”, that’s for the audience to decide. I just try to do the best for the film. If the music I composed enhances the film, I’ve done a good job.
You have worked with the greatest Italian film directors, beginning from the sixties. How did you start working with them?
I actually forced the hand of one of them. I was working as arranger and composing music at RCA, but I had never written a film score. One day, I was asked to write a song for a film by Damiano Damiani (La Noia, based on the book by Moravia). I asked to meet with the film director, I wanted to compose the whole film score. I had no experience but I asked him to try me. I composed the score and played it on the piano. He liked it. That’s how it all began: the film was very successful and many doors opened up to me.
What is your greatest satisfaction?
My career brought me many satisfactions. I’ve been very lucky, in the right place at the right time, which doesn’t happen to all talented people. It happened to me.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
I’m a voracious listener. I enjoy all kinds of music: from ethnic music to jazz, from tango to contemporary and folk music. There are no boundaries to me and I have no preferences because I’ve changed my musical taste many times in my life. I believe, unlike most academicians who listen only to classical music, that there’s only good music or bad music in all music genres, from pop to avant-garde.
You teach film score composition at Siena’s Chigiana Academy. What is the most important thing to teach young people?
They must realize what others are doing and learn to be critical and self-critical. I simply provide some inputs in order for them to develop their innate skills: they are young, but already composers.