Music is the dream of life
Marcel Proust wrote that “It is better to dream one’s life than to live it, but to live it is also to dream it.” Does music represent the dream of life to you?
Yes, in a way. Music is a very strong part of ourselves. It comes from deep inside and amplifies to become reality. I think the two are related: reality nourishes music and vice versa. This world of creation has become my life. It has moulded me and permitted me to express myself.
Is that why you are both composer and pianist?
Of course. I love the piano and music in all its forms, but composing is essential to my life. It’s a whole world that begins with solitary inspiration and is transmitted to others when performed onstage.
Do you think of those “others” when you create?
Yes, music has a universal dimension and is capable of transmitting multiple messages. I don’t intend to change the world. But if my music could bring some happiness and harmony to people’s lives, I would be satisfied. There is a lot of suffering and tragedy around us, but there are also many beautiful things. I try to focus on the second.
You speak of universality. Do you feel that you are a citizen of the world?
I wouldn’t say that. But I feel myself to be a sort of crossroads of different cultures. It’s true that I am Peruvian. But I have lived in the United States, in Miami, where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree and then worked. Then I went back to Lima where I had a Russian piano teacher, Marina Pavlovna, who changed my views on piano performance and on music as a whole. Later, I decided to come to live in France. I feel that I’ve been shaped by all these cultures, but I remain above all a Latin.
Why France ?
To me, France is the cradle of culture and fashion. I need to feel this history around me, but I also need to feel part of the avant-garde. I like this balance between past and future. I also appreciate the love of food that reminds me of Peru.
Your first album Marina Tremolo is a succession of short pieces. Why?
Modernity is speed, zapping. It is also an image, a photo. A piece three to five minutes long is a photo of an emotion. It’s like modern life: we pass from one thing to the other; we live the accumulation of instants but in short sequences. This is among the things that I want to express.
And why do you use such a classical structure ?
I don’t see any contradiction. I like the music to tell a story. I also like it to be in different movements. I think the clarity of the classical structure is good in our times of chaos.
What have been the main influences on your music?
I love the music of Erik Satie. It evokes a state of mind and creates an atmosphere. I like the fact that he wrote many short pieces and defended the concept of ‘not embellishing things’. But I also love Radiohead and (this might seem strange to you) Kurt Cobain as well. I think he was a genius, because of his music and the cultural impact it had in its day. I think of my compatriot, the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa: he handles the mixing of characters and times admirably, taking us on a journey guided by intuition.
How did the idea of music as a profession come to you?
A cousin of my grandfather - Lorenzo Humberto Sotomayor - was a famous composer and pianist. But it is my grandmother who first played the piano to me when I was 11 years old, who gave me the revelation. Music has been central to my life ever since.
How old were you when you started to compose ?
I started when I was 15 years old. It was almost instinctive. The melodies just came to me. But I didn’t realise it was my passion until I finished my studies in the US.
The piano has always been at the centre ?
Yes. I love the piano and always will. It is a world of its own. The piano IS the centre!
And who are your favourite pianists ?
Those who put emotions above the rest. Those who create a colour palette of sounds and add their own personality. Among them, the giant Vladimir Horowitz , the brilliant Maurizio Pollini and the extraordinary Martha Argerich. But I also admire Keith Jarrett and Michel Petrucciani.
Do you think of exploring other areas - film music, for example ?
This interests me too. I have, in fact, a project to mount a show with a video director. I would also like to work someday with the English producer Nigel Godrich. As for the cinema, I would find it a great challenge. I have a passion for the films of Visconti and Jane Campion. And I love the movies of Eric Rohmer and Julio Medem. These great directors know how to work with music and emotional imagery.
And pop music ?
Yes, why not ! In any case, if working with Elizabeth Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins) or Liliane Davis (French singer of famous movie tunes like Bilitis and Les uns et les autres) were in the cards I’d accept immediately. I’m a big fan of them !
Do you have a key-word ?
Nowadays everything goes fast. Everything changes. We no longer live in the illusion of immutability. And we need to know when to take a break within this movement so as to breathe, yet keep life’s beat.