AUTHOR: Massimo Claus
Interview to Massimo Claus
Why this album? Where did the inspiration for an album like this come from?
I was thinking about this project for a long time and then the composition of the Taima Mandala documentary soundtrack suddenly came to me. The original idea comes from “A Heart Lost in Japan”. I’ve been an enthiusiast of Japanese traditional music for many years and I listen to it regularly – at least, those forms of it that I can understand. In studying the Japanese musical system, I realized that the emotions I felt were similar to those I wanted to put into an album. Then I came to the difficult decision to use only a typically Japanese sounds. I thought that this would reduce considerably the expressive possibilities available to me, but I soon realized that this was really the way I wanted to follow. The challenge was to let the initial composed sounds suggest other new ones spontaneously. I lived, and still live, each song like a meditation on the sensations created by these sounds.
In your career you have dealt with different musical genres. What was the biggest challenge that you encountered in this recording?
To me, various musical genres are only a means of capturing different sensations. Just like everybody else, I am not always consistent in my moods and so am subject to impermanence which doesn’t worry me much. I rather not be subject to haste or laziness. When I achieve this, I can sleep better. I am lucky to reach many people in the world through my music and I hear and see how important my works are for people who are able to respond to it. So I try to pass into the hands of people something I really feel and believe in.
Have you been inspired by any particular author?
Rather than being inspired by any particular authors, I tend to entrust myself to emotions. I am Italian, and as much as I am capable of deep inspiration, this is not to say that what I have composed is real traditional Japanese music, but I do believe it resembles it in many ways. What do you think?
From the first song, I imagine that few would be able to connect those sounds to a Western composer, much less to an Italian one. Listening to it, it sounds like it has been written all together as a seamless whole, one song after the other. It is very homogeneous. How long did it take you to write and record it?
I discovered that much depended on how intense the feeling was which lead me to that particular project. It happened, in the past, that in the middle of realizing an album, I lost the inspiration and gave up – the project was dedicated to the Tibetan situation. I do not know how it happened. What I know is that I have more than half of the album ready but no spark to continue with it. This has been the case for years now. However, for “A Heart Lost in Japan” everything came very naturally. I think this quality can be heard when listening to the album. The homogeneity of the track sequences is due to a meditative need: who listen to this during meditation will find themselves immersed in a soothing ambience. Otherwise, instead of being a help, the music becomes a distraction. The production was achieved in a relatively short period of time. The recording of the album took place almost simultaneously, because I wanted it to be as natural as possible and close to the original idea. The spirit behind the album is that it had to appear much more like a concert than a recording. This is something I very much like in “A Heart Lost in Japan.”
Has your commitment to the study and practice of Buddhism influenced your music?
Dharma has changed me, therefore it has also influenced the music I have written. My contact with Buddhism started when I read a story of the Buddha and His encounter with a flutist. Because of this, next to my altar there is always a wooden flute to remind me of where it all started and to not lose my way.
Does music help to lose yourself or find it?
I have always found myself by getting lost. The more I get lost, the more I found what was needed to follow my path. I am certainly able to entrust, but letting go of ballast can often change the direction one is heading in. Sometimes it seems to be upwards and it really is; at other times, one is less challenged and can walk more comfortably. Music is much more than what we are exposed to through radio or TV, because it manages to touch you deep inside without even touching you physically. Imagine if those who hold the reins of power in this world noticed that: for sure we would get to witness a bombardment of sounds. Music is here to help. If we want to lose ourselves, it takes us away; if we want to find ourselves, music asks us if we were ever really lost.
Certainly you are a very controversial figure and those that criticize you for your commitment to Dharma assert that you are an introverted person, immersed in your own world.
I live in an isolated house in the woods with my wife and seven cats. I do not have many opportunities to meet people lately, because I have ceased holding my regular Dharma meetings in order to dedicate myself full-time to my books and my music. But who is really isolated with a computer and a satellite internet connection? I am a fairly reticent person actually and the welcome reception my books receive often embarrasses me, although it does make me feel useful. My books dedicated to the Lotus Sutra sell more than my music albums and this helps me to write more. Yes, I like to be alone, to walk in the woods or watch the color of the trees change with the changing of the seasons. My world is made of nature, music and prayer, although not necessarily in that order. I have realized that I am more able to write than talk to people, but am certainly not the surly person they describe. I often laugh, especially when I am wrong !
By Polimero from BuddhismoLoto