It’s no coincidence that the recording of HUMANBEING took place as Rossano Baldini and his wife were expecting their second child. It’s a recording that not only feels imbued with the wondrous nature of the cycle of life and birth, but also harkens back to the composer’s own childhood. Born in Rome, Baldini began studying piano at the age of eight, eventually leading him to the St. Cecilia Conservatory of Music and later to a brief tenure in Los Angeles, along the way studying with the likes of John Taylor, Kenny Werner, Stefano Battaglia, Antonio Valente, Franco Medori and Franco D’Andrea.
As a teenager, though, he was obsessed with The Beatles’ White Album, a rich source of inspiration that can point impressionable young listeners in myriad directions, from exquisite pop to experimental sound collage, blistering electric rock to folk-country storytelling. For Baldini, it awoke a desire to realize a personal vision through music – a dream that was waylaid for a number of years as he applied his estimable talents to composing for filmmakers’ visions, accompanying other artists or improvising on other musicians’ work.
The first half of HUMANBEING, one of the album’s two suite-like trios of songs, was written in off hours over the next year and half, after Baldini’s newborn daughter had gone to sleep. But when the pandemic hit in early 2020, with Italy being one of the first western countries to report cases of the coronavirus, Baldini suddenly found himself with no touring or composing obligations. As with so many musicians around the world, time, formerly such a luxury, was suddenly available in abundance. So Baldini returned to his deeply personal project, and the album’s second half took place in a matter of mere months.
Each of the album’s six richly-detailed pieces is named for an organ or component of the human body: “Flesh,” “Blood,” “Skin,” “Lungs,” “Liver,” “Heart.” As with their namesakes, each is a vital element on its own, but all interconnect and function together as a complex and vibrant whole. The pieces are inextricable from one another, fusing together to form a dynamic organism.
As he discusses his music, Baldini references touchstones ranging from as far back as a Beethoven sonata to the fertile 1990s electronic music scene that yielded such genre-defining artists as Aphex Twin and Underworld. In every sense, the music of HUMANBEING is a hybrid – of electronic and acoustic, organic and mechanical, traditional and innovative. It even bridges media, as the package features the mesmerizing images of Paris-based photographer Manuele Geromini, while several filmmakers, including the in-demand director Federico Brugia, have agreed to provide videos for the songs.
The hybridization even extends to the instrumentation and sound of the album, which fuses piano, cello and other acoustic instruments into a vivid electronic soundscape where the boundaries between the different elements become blurred. Most uniquely, Baldini plays the Bercandeon – an accordion-like instrument with two diatonic keyboards, invented by the Swiss polymath Fiorenzo Bernasconi. Baldini has become an ambassador for the eccentric instrument, and shows off his virtuosity as HUMANBEING.
HUMANBEING is itself a voyage of discovery, for the listener as much as it was for the composer. It’s music that conjures far-off times and distant places, while plunging into the profound depths of the alien terrain that is the human being. Deeply interior as well as expansively expressive, the album offers the daring reinvention of an adventurous artist.