Music for Music: Alberto Giurioli’s Life
Alberto Giurioli’s Life
By Dan Ursini
Life, a debut album of instrumentals by composer/pianist Alberto Giurioli, tells the stories of the private anxiety, tenacity, and hope within those who take a headlong plunge in pursuit of their dreams. Giurioli’s ten compositions blend Neo-Classical, pop, movie soundtrack, and other elements, and the whole of it is conveyed with a composed yet ardent elegance.
It is a remarkable achievement given the scope of challenges that Giurioli himself faced. He shares that “in 2015, exactly on the 15th of September, I left my home country Italy to move to London, with just one piece of luggage and very little English.”
He had been born and raised in a small town. His encouraging parents introduced him to piano when he was five and he soon began writing his own songs. As he grew up, Giurioli explored a variety of musical genres: rock, blues, metal, and electronics.
But in the autumn of 2015, he came to a personal crossroads. He explains, “I had seen that in London there was an opening for someone like me. I think sometimes we need to take a leap of faith. I took that jump, booked a ticket, and in four days I was on a plane to London.” Once situated there, he says, “I lived in a shared house with six other people.” He remarks, “To create a new life, far from family and friends, is an experience of fears, doubts and long nights questioning your choices. But I believe we humans are dreamers and we need to try to follow them as much as possible.”
Of course, Giurioli needed a piano—but there was none where he lived. So he made resourceful use of one of the street pianos in London’s St. Pancras International Station.
As you may know, in 2008 a UK installation artist named Luke Jerram conceived an ongoing live arts project called Play Me, I’m Yours. Jerram and his team installed 2000 street pianos in over 70 cities across the globe. They were decorated by local artists and community groups and played by local musicians. They have since inspired a global movement, making street pianos an element of contemporary culture.
There are a half dozen of these pianos in London, and two of them are located in St. Pancras International Station. It is a Victorian-era train station, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Many musicians would be daunted by doing serious composing in the rush and hustle of such a place. But Giurioli explains, “Honestly, that was the best choice possible because it brought me directly in touch with people.” A pause. “Sometimes the nearby shops would bring me a classic English tea to warm me up after hours of playing and entertaining them.” In time, a Huffington Post journalist posted on Facebook a video of Giurioli playing. Online attention began, as the five-minute docufilm below attests:
Among the valuable contacts Giurioli made was that of composer and orchestrator Geoff Lawson, who has orchestrated the music of a number of films, including Black Panther. He shares with Giurioli composition and production credits on half of the tracks on Life, including the album’s opening song, “Gocce di Notte.”
Giurioli explains, “It was written during a rainy night thinking about the day I left Italy. I tried to express the fear, but also my determination to follow my dream.” It is a haunting composition filled with anticipation and yearning, tension and conviction. Arranged for piano and strings, its muted beauty is captivating.
“Rising Above” has a soaring energy. The piano and strings convey a remarkable dynamism. Like all the collaborations between Giurioli and Lawson, this composition brilliantly displays their shared gift for engaging music’s capacity for narrative.
Of all the compositions on the album, the one with the deepest emotional reach is the title track. There is an urgency to Giurioli’s piano that is matched by the acutely expressive orchestration:
A personal favorite is Il Tempo Delle Cose.
The song’s form has a nimble elasticity; and it is imbued with a serene joy. As the YouTube video for it suggests, its subject is a tiny but vital one: the grace of an autumn leaf whirling slowly in a puddle. Giurioli remarks, “From the ‘ticking’ melody in the beginning, each note becomes part of a motif expressing an appreciation of the time that we have before it passes us by.” He adds that the imagery in the video “derives from a photo I took while I was trekking in the alps in Italy.”
There is considerable variety to Life beyond that which I have discussed here. For example, 4AM is about one’s mindset in the aftermath of a night spent clubbing. The piano is supported by electric guitar, loops, and other kinds of processing
One more thing: the music is incredibly listenable. There is a winning energy throughout Life. Perhaps it expresses a spirit of exhilaration within Giurioli—who has, after all, taken the leap, and is well on his way.
Photo credits for Alberto Giurioli = Marcus Maschwitz
Dan Ursini and his wife Valerie live in Oak Park, Illinois. Over the years he has done many kinds of writing. Ursini served as the first resident playwright for the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago (1978-1983); he worked for ten years as a Contributing Editor for Puerto Del Sol magazine; he wrote performance art pieces presented at Chicago venues as Club Lower Links and Club Dreamerz. Ursini wrote radio theatre presented on NPR in the early 1990s. Throughout all this, he has worked full-time at the Law Library at DePaul University where for a decade he also wrote articles for Dialogue, the DePaul law school’s alumni publication. In addition, he was active for some years as a bass guitarist in various Chicago blues/gospel/funk/lounge configurations. Currently Ursini is working on his latest novel. A play he wrote with Robert Rothman, A Mensch Among Men, a fictionalized account of real-life Jewish Chicago-area gangsters, has had two staged readings in Chicago. Dan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org