In an interview with Ulisse, the in-flight magazine of Alitalia, Riccardo Muti discusses the responsibilities of being an artist and of living a life spent in service to art.

“The podium is an island of solitude, surrounded by two vast multitudes, the musicians in front and the audience behind, and managing beauty is a big responsibility,” says Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He amplifies his point by using an analogy from the film “Amarcord” (1973), director Federico Fellini’s coming-of-age tale set in a seaside Italian village in the decade before World War II. “Amarcord” is constructed as a series of vignettes. A professor ruminates on the town’s history, children carry out various pranks, and in one surreal scene, the grandfather of the film’s young hero gets lost in the fog. Each episode illustrates the film’s central theme: a lack of individual responsibility characterizes modern society.

Arguing for the importance of music education, and the crucial role of the arts in building a better world, Muti observes, “Here we are, like the old man, not lost in the fog but behind half figures, who even when they speak, show their smallness, using language that is often banal if not downright vulgar. … Harmony is a shared concept. … The teaching of music is not ‘tootling on a whistle,’ but instilling a fundamental civic principle of a participatory, respectful society. In an orchestra, all contribute to the total harmony. And dissonance must be there, as a moment of tension and crisis flowing into harmony. Then we will come out of the fog.”

To read the full interview (conducted in Italian but the magazine provides an English translation), click here. The interview starts on Page 64.

TOP: A detail from a photo on the first page of the Ulisse interview. | Photo by Todd Rosenberg