Interview with Balazs Alpar (Fugato Orchestra) in April 2008

May I introduce one of Frank Zappa´s musical sons to you; like Frank he is a genius (even if he denies it in the interview) but his best years are yet to come. His favored instrument is the so-called Fugato Orchestra. If you think I exaggerate please read on or - even better - listen to his music that fuses many influences to an alloy clinking similar to the sound of the spheres... Compared to Mr. Alpar Mozart is some sort of performing monkey(board player) on my opinion.

ragazzi: "You are a musician, composer and conductor; what musical education did you get?"

B.A: "I started to play the piano at the age of six. My music studies included classical education and a few years of jazz. After finishing secondary school I learned music (composing) at Bartók Béla Music Conservatory and than I began my studies at Liszt Ferenc Music Academy of Budapest in 2003. I spent one year with Erasmus scholarship in Vienna, Austria, attending the Media Composition and Jazz Faculty of the Music University Vienna. After receiving my university degree, I am planning to go to study in San Francisco for a few years."

ragazzi: "At what age did you start composing?"

B. A.: "Very early. I do not really remember my first composition, but my parents say, it was some song I always kept singing in the bathroom instead of washing my teeth."

ragazzi: "Do you think of an average listener when you are composing?"

B.A.: "I do not know what an average listener is. I realized that there is some connection between a man's personality and musical taste. Since music is communicating with people, I think those people understand my music best who have more or less similar way of thinking, similar emotional needs to what I have. For me the first and most important reactions on my music that I take into consideration is the reaction of my best friends - no matter if they are musically trained or not."

ragazzi: "How do you choose the musicians for the FUGATO ORCHESTRA and what´s their average age?"

B.A.: "All of Fugato's members listen to many different genres of music at home. They love classical just as jazz and rock. This open-minded thinking is the most important thing. Most of them attended the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest. It is always an advantage if - aside from beeing a well trained classical musician - they can improvise too. The majority of the pieces is written on sheet music, but I always keep some free spaces for improvisations, and we compose these parts together with those members who play jazz as well."

ragazzi: "Did you ever think about composing a 21st century version of the "Young Person´s Guide to the Orchestra" by Britten? (This on my opinion means reflecting the musical styles of the last fifty years and using (also) modern musical instruments.)"

B.A.: "I have just finished a symphonic jazz-rock poem called NOÉ (Noah). The main idea behind this piece is to create a very colourful, versatile, yet homogenous type of crossover music, a musical atmosphere, in which many musical "creatures" live together inside an ark which is aimed to save and preserve values for the future in a chaotic flood of cultural mass production. NOÉ combines the elements of classical, film music and jazz, partly influenced by the art of composers like George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, or bands like Dream Theater, Jethro Tull and After Crying."

ragazzi: "Can you give any tips for introducing the world of the so-called "classical music" to teenagers (which seems to be much more difficult than introducing it to children)?"

B.A.: "I sometimes teach young people and my experience is that the first step must be the showing of enthusiasm we have. Then they start thinking: "There must be something interesting in this music if this teacher is so mad about it". The second important step is to teach to hear different layers in music. There are different funny games and excersises which help to improve this ability. If we can show these different layers, and the relation between them, it can become an exciting game finding out what happens e.g. in a fugue or a symphonic piece."

ragazzi: "Concerning to rumors you plan to record your next CD; can you give us any details about the recording?"

B.A.: "We are planning to start the studio works this summer. NOÉ is going to be the main highlight on the new disc, which is going to be quite eclectic, but exciting. We plan to put some contemporary chamber music on it as well as jazz-rock compositions and choral works."

ragazzi: "You got several prizes for your music (placed 9th at the Austrian Band Contest and won the Hungarian Live Award). What´s the story behind and did these prizes help you in any way?"

B.A.: "Winning at different rounds of the International Live Award was always a kind of surprise because this talent contest is mostly for trendy pop-rock bands, so we were competing with bands playing music from thrash metal to funk. We were really the odd ones out. But it seems the jury liked what they heard: something completely different : We won precious prizes, we could improve our audio technical stuff, and we made some good friends during the finals, which can be useful in the future."

ragazzi: "The very special sound of the FUGATO ORCHESTRA can be labeled as a hybrid of "musica seria" and "musica buffa"; from which musical hemisphere do you get more feedback?"

B.A.: "Being right in between these two is very difficult. The elder classical fans would like to hear less drums, the pop fans would like to hear simpler structure and less jazz. But I find that the new generation of classically trained music lovers also listen to some demanding popular music as well, so they know the bands that had effect on the music on Fugato as well. So they understínd more easily what this music is about. It has the energy of rock, the intelligence of jazz and the diversity of classical music."

ragazzi: "Ralf Hubert, the founder and bass player of the German avant-garde thrash metal band MEKONG DELTA told me once that composers like Mussorgsky or Bartok would write some of the hardest and heaviest music around if they lived today. Do you agree?"

B.A.: "I perfectly agree. They would compose music like a heavy version of Gentle Giant I suppose."

ragazzi: "Who are your favorite composers, musicians and conductors and why?"

B.A.: "Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Bernstein. I love Bernstein's works because they have this coolness of jazz but have yet lot of tension in them. I can recommend his first symphony to everybody."

ragazzi: "Some experts say that twelve-tone music was probably the last musical quantum jump made by Hauer and Schoenberg almost one hundred years ago. Which way will the evolution of the so-called "classical music" and the music in general take on your opinion?"

B.A.: "I think sound itself is more and more important in popular and in classical music as well. The tonality and the harmonies tend to be simpler and simpler, but the new layer in which the remarkable musical events happen is the sound design. I think this is because the tonal possibilities are expanded to an edge, this 12 tone culture is such a strong basic inheritage that we will not develop it any further, but the technical possibilities with computer music are still expanding."

ragazzi: "Couldn´t a possible next step be a synthesis of the arts as Wagner postulated long time ago?"

B.A.: "This is one possible option. If you have a fixed number of elements you can play with, and you are not a genius to create brand new elements, then you start making combinations from the existing ones. It is also a way of creating new things."

ragazzi: "What do you think of working on a synthesis of the arts in order to combine the "septem artes theatrales" ?"

B.A.: "It would be an interesting task, but I think none of us can tell that we are well trained enough in all these fields to feel the ability of trying it. The time of polyhistors is over. Everybody is specialised, and you have to learn so many new things in a lifetime, that you do not get a chance to try to combine them. I think we learn and deal with too many useless things. The gist remains unrealised because of the details."

ragazzi: "Are there any plans for releasing a live DVD of the FUGATO ORCHESTRA?"

B.A.: "We recorded and mixed a live concert in 2004. This is going to be released in the following months."

ragazzi: "Is there a possibility to see the FUGATO ORCHESTRA in Germany in the near future?"

B.A.: "We are trying to build connections, and collect sponsors for such tours. We often apply to festivals, but it is hard to manage the travelling of 14 musicians. We try our best. It would be great to perform in Germany."

ragazzi: "What are your plans for the future and what are the goals you want to reach in life? Do you have a vision for (your) life? (A man with a mission always has a vision...)"

B.A.: "It is a hard job leading a group of so many members. But when we play together, all my problems fly away. The sound of the real, acoustic instruments is the heart of this music. We believe that this treasure (real orchestral sound) is more important than to make a lot of money in a short time. The orchestra is a really good company. Friendship is one of our most important engines. We aim to bring classical and popular music closer together, enabling listeners of both genres to widen their perspectives. We are against mass-produced, conventional, and primitive hit-songs that are unfortunately often in the top 10s of the world nowadays emitted all day in the media.
We try to show the people that the word "Music" does not only mean what they hear in the commercial radios and TV channels. There are several groups playing a lot more artistic, spiritually more deeply inspired, more expressive sort of music than these days' mega-hits. Fugato also plays progressive pieces of the 1970s and 80s, to show the audience that there are many masterpieces composed in those decades that we should not forget about. It's a difficult but very important mission preserving, saving real artistic values for the future. I think all of the members will have to find a fixed day-time job as well, because it is almost impossible to make a living with playing this kind of music today. But if it only remains a hobby, Fugato still remains our love child and this way we can possibly avoid commercial compromises."

ragazzi: " You seem to be a very idealistic person; do you believe in the possibility to change - very subtly - the world or at least human beings with sound creating special resonsances (that interfere with the natural and artificial everyday life audio frequencies)? (Well, methinks Hovhaness and Scelsi for example had such a vision; they probably had a deep faith in the power of sound which means energy which means GOD to me ... even spoken words are sound by the way.)"

B.A.: "I sometimes feel that music is a healthy drug. It is good for the soul. It will not solve humanity's big problems. I would not say that. But if it can make one feel better than he felt some minutes before, than it changed the world. To me music can really mean GOD, there are some emotional events happening while listening to music, that can not be reached in any other ways. These are sometimes answers for me. Answers without words for questions without words."

ragazzi: "Thank you for answering my inquisitively questions."

B.A: "Thank you very much."

Frank Bender