We approached composer Fabius Constable, founder and conductor of the famed Celtic Harp Orchestra, with a few questions aimed at digging a little bit in his secret, fascinating world. Fabius kindly agreed to being interviewed.
Q Young Fabius, how did he approach music? Why did he?
I started studying music when I was 4, I approached it unwillingly and forcibly. My parents saw something in me, like all parents should, and they had me studying piano whether I liked it or not.
Q Would you explain the meaning of the C.H.O. albums titles?
Recording “Got the magic” was a dare, we were a very young orchestra then, with just a few dozens of concerts in our brief history. I was aware of that and I asked one of my musicians “How could we possibly make a decent CD?” He just replied “Because we got the magic” and that was it.
“The Myst” was intended to be a mixed word, between mystery and mist. This was the ambience that I had in my mind when writing the songs: a place out of time and space, where everything can exist.
“The Tale of the Fourth” came from the focus I gave to the fourth CD that I published: based on the Fibonacci sequence, it is a tale of geometry, symbolism, numbers. The whole CD is rich in these.
“Three Letters from the Moon” is the first of two works (followed by Three Letters to The Sun, which will soon be re-released). It’s a musical experience with all the romaticism, the magic, the shadows and lights of a full moon night. Three letters because the CD is divided in three different parts.
Q Celtic harp vs classical harp: is such a ‘rivalry’ important in any way?
The celtic harp is the ancestor of the pedal harp, though it may sound like a more modern instrument nowadays. Needless to say, the techniques are very different as well as the repertoire and the imaginary they carry. I often had to challenge the prejudice of the harp being just a soft and dreamlike instrument, the consequence of the image that the classical harp created since its birth, around 150 years ago. This, anyway, gave me the chance to develope a new sound for my instrument, more passionate, aggressive and revived by new techniques.
Q You have been working on a new project, Keltango, for a while: would you care explaining it more in detail?
Tango played with the Celtic harp, and more: Tango mixed up with celtic music, dance rhythms and baroque fragments. It’s one of my most successful live shows, where the passion and accents of Tango music shrug away the misconception of the harp being a lullaby-for-kids instrument. Tango was born in Argentina, written mostly by Italian hands, in particular Northern Italy. Since a part of my family in Buenos Aires and I was born in the Northern Italy makes my need for Tango something that I couldn’t delay anymore.
Q Once upon a time there were wild, young rockstars. Today we have some young wild classical musicians such as Lang Lang or the 2Cellos. What’s your opinion about it? Is Classical music the answer to r’n’r senility?
I’d rather bet on the doubt that music industry finally found out that the “rockstar format” could be more lucrative if expanded to other music styles. But we shouldn’t forget that the first rockstar was actually a classical musician: Niccolò Paganini. After his performance in London in 1832 his fans turned so delirious that papers started to imagine that he had a sort of demonic power over the people.
Q Do you fancy jazz music?
Absolutely yes, until Bebop. Excluded.
Q Vinyl, cd, k7 or mp3?
I ride a 1947 bike, collect 17th century books, wear mechanical watches. Vinyl forever!
Q Do you enjoy recording music in studios?
I do, though it’s an incredibly long and challenging process. The focus needs to be over the top during the whole time of recording and so many different colours and aspects of temper are required: concentration, vision, rational thinking, inspiration, social skills and physical endurance. It’s a gym for the soul.
Q Japan was very important for the Impressionists. Why is Japan so important for you?
For some reasons I avoided Japan for a while and I raised my eyebrow when a manager offered me three concerts in Hiroshima. I was biased by the prejudice of Japan being a place for manga-lovers or wannabe ninjas. Though when I first saw it, I felt a weird and unexpected sense of longing that never ceased, until now. The Japanese audience is acknowledged and respectful, critical but warm at the same time. The Japanese society is a mystery that even now, after 7 years of concerts there, hasn’t unveiled yet.
Q Your least favourite among the C.H.O. songs
I have some, but hey, I’m not going to follow you there!
Q Major or minor?
Sun or moon? The two dance in me like if they were two different sides of my temper. To find an easy dodge from such a potentially philosophical question, I say “sus4”.
Q Explain what a live concert represents for you
The chance to be one with the audience, to be one with my musicians, to be one with the music and to reach a sort of shining void in myself. The best gift of the concerts are the moments when I disappear to myself, I feel I am nothing but a sort of electricity, and that’s pure ecstasy.
Q You are a composer, a musician and a conductor: how do all these blokes fit in your dress?
That’s a question for my therapist. ;)