Under his own name, Rossano Baldini has enjoyed a career as a renowned composer for film and television; a jazz pianist and keyboardist who has recorded with the likes of Gianluca Petrella, Michele Rabbia and Pierpaolo Ranieri; and a performer with the revered, Oscar-winning composer Nicola Piovani as well as the most esteemed orchestras in his native Italy. His latest project represents a rebirth of sorts, necessitating a new name: HUMANBEING.
Establishing a wholly new persona as an electronic composer/performer, HUMANBEING finds Baldini reconnecting with his own, long-dormant vision while striking out in stunning new directions. His self-titled debut album, due out May 28th 2021 via RareNoise Records, is a unique hybrid of the organic and the technological, delving deep into the composer’s essential humanity by way of evocative synthetic soundscapes. It’s a timely reinvention, occurring at a moment when we’ve all been starkly reminded of our biological natures at the same time as we’re more interconnected than ever in the virtual realm.
“HUMANBEING is a very personal project,” Baldini explains. “Paradoxically, it’s so personal that I needed to create a new identity, a virgin one separate from the name I’ve made for myself as Rossano Baldini.” It’s no coincidence that the recording of HUMANBEING took place as Baldini and his wife were expecting their second child. It’s a recording that not only feels imbued with the wondrous nature of the cycle of life and birth, but also harkens back to the composer’s own childhood. Born in Rome, Baldini began studying piano at the age of
eight, eventually leading him to the St. Cecilia Conservatory of Music and later to a brief tenure in Los Angeles, along the way studying with the likes of John Taylor, Kenny Werner, Stefano Battaglia, Antonio Valente, Franco Medori and Franco D’Andrea. As a teenager, though, he was obsessed with The Beatles’ White Album, a rich source of inspiration that can point impressionable young listeners in myriad directions, from exquisite pop to experimental sound collage, blistering electric rock to folk-country storytelling. For Baldini, it awoke a desire to realize a personal vision through music – a dream that was waylaid for a number of years as he applied his estimable talents to composing for filmmakers’ visions, accompanying other artists or improvising on other musicians’ work.
“My teenage dream was to compose my own music and to do my own thing,” Baldini says. “But as I made a name for myself as a composer and a pianist, the teenage dream disappeared. I’ve been fortunate to make my living as a musician – in Italy that’s like winning the lottery. But two years ago I finally decided to go into my home studio and start creating with no commission at all, just for myself.”
The first half of HUMANBEING, one of the album’s two suite-like trios of songs, was written in off hours over the next year and half, after Baldini’s newborn daughter had gone to sleep. But when the pandemic hit in early 2020, with Italy being one of the first western countries to report cases of the coronavirus, Baldini suddenly found himself with no touring or composing obligations. As with so many musicians around the world, time, formerly such a luxury, was suddenly available in abundance. So Baldini returned to his deeply personal project, and the album’s second half took place in a matter of mere months.
Each of the album’s six richly-detailed pieces is named for an organ or component of the human body: “Flesh,” “Blood,” “Skin,” “Lungs,” “Liver,” “Heart.” As with their namesakes, each is a vital element on its own, but all interconnect and function together as a complex and vibrant whole. The pieces are inextricable from one another, fusing together to form a dynamic organism. Each of these organs have also been metaphorically associated with human emotions, though Baldini purposely left such ties ambiguous, allowing listeners to find their own personal connections to the feelings suggested by these evocative sounds. “My main goal was to be emotional but not sentimental,” he explains. “I compose music from strong emotions, but what is rage for me might be fury for you and calm for someone else. So I can’t be precise, but I can tell a story.”
As he discusses his music, Baldini references touchstones ranging from as far back as a Beethoven sonata to the fertile 1990s electronic music scene that yielded such genre-defining artists as Aphex Twin and Underworld. In every sense, the music of HUMANBEING is a hybrid – of electronic and acoustic, organic and mechanical, traditional and innovative. It even bridges media, as the package features the mesmerizing images of Paris-based photographer Manuele Geromini, while several filmmakers, including the in-demand director Federico Brugia, have agreed to provide videos for the songs. The hybridization even extends to the instrumentation and sound of the album, which fuses piano, cello and other acoustic instruments into a vivid electronic soundscape where the boundaries between the different elements become blurred.
Most uniquely, Baldini plays the Bercandeon – an accordion-like instrument with two diatonic keyboards, invented by the Swiss polymath Fiorenzo Bernasconi. Baldini has become an ambassador for the eccentric instrument, and shows off his virtuosity as HUMANBEING.
“It’s a very strange feeling because there’s no history to the Bercandeon,” Baldini points out. “When you’re a pianist or a saxophone player, you carry hundreds of years of history on your shoulders. You need to understand and respect that history before you can do
what you want. Here, there’s no literature, no methods – you have to create everything yourself. You have to create the history. It’s very exciting.”
HUMANBEING is itself a voyage of discovery, for the listener as much as it was for the composer. It’s music that conjures far-off times and distant places, while plunging into the profound depths of the alien terrain that is the human being. Deeply interior as well as
expansively expressive, the album offers the daring reinvention of an adventurous artist.