Direct Your Attention: Ludovico Einaudi’s most intimate concert

By Owen Mason-Hill

PIA CONTRERAS BALBUENA

Covid-19 wreaked havoc across the world both physically and mentally, stripping some of their loved ones and others of their mental health. I thankfully fell only into the latter category, and while I was spared the full extent of the pandemic’s destruction, I did not leave unscathed. In returning home, I found that an incredible paradox arose, one in which I was simultaneously greeted with overwhelming love and inescapable loneliness. After months of seeing the same four faces day in and day out, I found that the repetition only served to push me further into myself. That is, until one day when I was scrolling through Apple Music and happened upon an album with a beautifully simplistic design that demanded my attention. It was a plain off-white canvas with a simple image drawn only from five deliberately imperfect lines and inside, written in a soft handwriting, “12 Songs From Home.” 

I pressed play and tossed my phone to the other side of my bed, laying down with my eyes closed. I was soon enraptured by a delicate piano melody played directly from the composer’s home to mine. Accompanying his deft keystrokes was a light crackle of the recording and muffled sounds of Einaudi breathing. This is not a studio album; it is precisely the opposite. You can hear the soft creaking of footsteps in his home; a light shuffle as he readjusts his seating. The album is designed as an invitation into his life, an intimate human connection I hadn’t experienced in weeks. 

After putting his European tour on hold because of the pandemic, Einaudi set out to record an album of his own, performing an impromptu concert inside his living room during the height of Italy’s lockdown. There was a boom of amateur art being produced during the pandemic, much of it truly wonderful, yet something about the honest intimacy of Einaudi’s album has lingered with me long after lockdown ended and I have begun my life anew. That is not to say that “12 Songs From Home” changed my life or cured my mental exhaustion — rather it offered me a form of reprieve I hadn’t experienced in some time. 

PIA CONTRERAS BALBUENA

The quiet optimism of Einaudi’s music represents the incredible heartbreak that accompanied recent losses of life and social connection. But it also provides a reserved hopefulness that looks forward as confidently as one could in a time where nothing is certain. “12 Songs from Home” became a part of my daily routine, serving as a constant reminder of the forgone social interaction that I missed so dearly. 

Einaudi released an accompanying video of himself playing the song “Nuvole Bianche” from the album. The making of the video is even simpler than that of the album. Seemingly recorded from an iPhone placed on top of his home piano, it shows the aged composer, shot slightly off center, sitting atop a well worn stool, playing a more modest piano than the astounding grands one would see in his usual concert shows. I have never been to a classical concert, nor do I have the faculties to accurately describe the music being played; I only have my own experience of it. I listened to a great deal of music this past spring and summer, and watched a great deal of film and television, yet the modest empathy of this album still rings through my mind far louder than any other. 

Perhaps it is the emotional resonance that the album possesses, to have been as timely as it was whilst seeming to urge  its listeners forward toward a better tomorrow, and perhaps it is the sheer intimacy of it that lured me in and provided me with something I’d been deprived of. Either way, “12 Songs From Home” provided me with a reserve of what I would consider companionship during the months I needed it most. Listening to this album will not cure you of your mental ails, but it will provide you with another source of hopefulness in your life. In a time where everything was beyond my control, I found it to be a constant upon which I could draw my strength. I still listen to it often just before I fall asleep because its quiet presence is enough to drown out the silence. And sometimes that’s enough: to quiet the overwhelmingness of silence. I hope you will listen to “12 Songs From Home,” and if you do not prefer this kind of music, I hope you have found something else that helps.