Beethoven Rebranded

Beethoven Re-branded

Or: A case study in “Meta” red

 

Oh Berlin, Berlin… Du bist so wunderbar indeed!

 

After already two incredible performances in some of the Temples of classical music, first the Musikgebouw Amsterdam and then the Mozart Saal of the Konzerthaus Wien, it is time for Cuarteto Casals to bring my string quartet (ReSolUtIo) also to the Philharmonie in Berlin.

Even if as a classical music composer I´m neither expected to be still alive nor obviously to be able to attend performances of my pieces, the so many memories of my almost ten years residency in one of the most creative cities in the world and the prospect of hearing again Cuarteto Casal´s program were so compelling, that I had to find an excuse to pack my bag and leave in direction of the German Hauptstadt (ticket here).

When I moved to Berlin, during the summer of the 2006 soccer world cup and fresh out of my studies in USA, I fell in love with its almost naive prospect of freedom and its sunny hours cadenced by Radler-bier and grilled meat.

Unfortunately in September 2007, due to a major accident that completely changed my life and my career, I lost for about two years the ability to play cello and found therefore myself in need to find something to do!

curtesy of Metadesign Ag. Berlin

Through a series of fortuitous coincidences (and I suspect to a series of equally fortuitous misunderstanding) I ended up getting a Praktikant job (internee) in one of the what I will later discover being, leading Branding Agencies in Germany.

Even if Meta´s motto is “visible strategies”, they had at the time an inhouse sound branding office, responsible to translate and complement through sound the corporate image of many major companies.

What I learned during that time turned out to be an invaluable asset once I realized how to apply it into the world of classical music.

But first: What is a Sound (acoustic) Identity?

The sound identity of a brand, much like its visual counterpart, revolves around a sound logo, a short motive that embodies in about 1,5 second all the characteristics, goals and objectives of a brand.

It is not my intention to discuss here how to make a new identity (it is a very fascinating topic for another time), for the purpose of this discussion, let me just jump ahead a little describing the process of re-branding based on a preexisting logo.

After an analysis of the current “sound image” and of the future goals of the brand´s client, the agency makes a series of educated guesses eventually creating a sound that once utilized consistently in carefully planned touchpoints (from the customer service waiting tone to the last seconds of a TV spot), will immediately be recognized and associated by the consumer with the brand, improving therewith, sometime dramatically, its identity.

At the time I found very funny the fact that this “sound logo” (a concept still very new in the field) is pretty much a shorter version of a Leitmotif, something that we classically trained musicians know very well!

Now, let´s talk about rebranding a Beethoven quartet:

In 2016 I had the chance to be one of the six composers chosen by Cuarteto Casals for their cycle “Beethoven illuminated anew”: this titanic endeavor, consists in a series of 6 performances featuring the whole string quartet repertoire written by Beethoven paired each evening with one contemporary piece.

About the new piece, like it happens only on a composer´s wildest dreams, I received no guideline: the only condition was to make it short (for a classical music piece) and based on one of the quartets of “my” evening.

I chose the quartet op. 74 called also the Harp quartet.

and here is my short “case study”:

1)     THE CLIENT:

Lucio Franco Amanti with Cuarteto Casals in Munich One of the most well-known string quartets in the world, this Spanish/Catalan-based ensemble is celebrating in 2018 the 20th anniversary of a career that brought them countless accolades and prices … Ok, let me just shorten this a little and just forward you to their website if you want to know more. https://cuartetocasals.com/

 

 

 

2)     THE CUSTOMER:

The string quartet audience and supporters, are a relatively small niche of extremely dedicated music lovers.

In the frame of classical music, many of them focuses especially on string quartet because it is the musical equivalent of a “conversation between four intelligent individuals”[1], in other words it embodies the timeless search of humankind for a perfect society: one where the individual freely express him/herself while allowing the others unhindered to do the same without the need of a conductor.

A very unique experience for both performers and audiences.

3)     THE GOAL

Well, a part for creating a piece that will satisfy the client, the audience and be coherent to the rest of the program (…and that, believe me, would have already been enough!),  I thought my goal was also to consider the prospect of involving a new audience and therefore (here comes the fun part) try to give an answer to a question that is completely changing the classical music world today and I suspect part of the reason why I have been chosen for this project:

Is it possible to Widen the classical music audience base without losing what makes it worth being preserved?

In other words, is it possible to sell fancy wine without having to make it become light Beer on the misguided assumption that “the masses have no taste and are happy to stay so?”

So, after having signed contracts, NDAs, DNR and D&D, worked out all the concert dates, and celebrated a little… I finally made myself a nice espresso and started staring at my blank sheet of paper.[2]

You can imagine the many thoughts and feelings that where going through my mind: what an intriguing task, what a great honor… What a head-scratcher!

How can you possibly rebrand, shine a new light on something that is already perfect and has been known and studied in depth for centuries?

I needed to find a common ground between the Master and myself, a place where to lay the corner stone and start building.

 

…Weeks, months went by, until I finally came to the realization that a word lays “hidden” in the St. John’s hymn that gave musical notes their original name: ‘Re, Sol, Ut, Io’[3]

Perfect! “Resolutio” in Latin means both the resolution of a problem and the re-solution: a re-blend of many elements that will eventually coagulate to make something new. There was finally the melodic and a rhythmical canvas for my piece!

 

On this canvas I wrote the tale of a funny little contest, played on a sunny Mediterranean square, between street musicians and Cuarteto Casals just minutes before the latter is about to go on stage to perform Beethoven´s “Harp Quartet”.

Echoes of the many iconic Beethoven´s motives are used as bridges between the two worlds: almost like a new, made-up universal language, that allows all the characters, each in his own way, to tell their story.

The tale ends when a gentle rain starts to fall, dissolving again the music sheet (Re-solving) to eventually leave us with just a white piece of paper for somebody else to continue the Work.

I hope that after hearing my take on it, the audience will listen again to the Beethovenian masterwork having gained a new prospective not only on the composition but on the person behind the Icon and an artistry that surely was never meant to be enjoyed only from a small elite.

And that’s the story of ReSolUtIo, commissioned by the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam, will be performed at the Philharmonie Berlin Kammermusiksaal on May the 4th (I´ll be wearing something star-warsy)  then Turin, Barcelona, London…

 

It will be published by Schott Music (publisher of most of Beethoven´s music) late in 2018.

 

I hope you will enjoy it.

Lucio

… and to the brave souls that read this until the end… Thank you! now how about a ticket ?

 

 

[1] J. W. von Goethe

[2] Before we go on, it might be helpful to know that the core of my work as composer is based on the believe that a synergy between Classical and Jazz/improvisation-based music, holds the key to gain new prospective and a better understanding between the artists and their audience because after all, every timeless masterwork was built somewhere between pure Inspiration and technical mastery.

[3] (D, G, C, B in English music notation)

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