Antonio Coppola: Music strictly on the movie's terms

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Italian movie composer and pianist Antonio Coppola visited the Sibelius Academy last week. The seven pianists on his master class came from different departments – from classical piano and lied, music education, music technology and folk music. 

Coppola started playing the piano at the age of five and had his first concert at the age of nine. That wasn’t a good experience for him, and pretty soon he dediced that the career of a concert pianist wasn’t the one for him.

– I decided to simply enjoy my life with the piano and begun playing in theatres and dance studios. In this field, I had to improvise, since the dancers never wanted the same music twice, he recalls.

In 1975 Coppola was asked to accompany a silent movie in the opening of a small cinema near him. He said yes, after a little of convincing. 

– I don’t know what happened – maybe it was some kind of an illumination at the moment when the lights went off and the movie begun. That position was ideal for me since I was a little bit scared of the audience: this way I could play the piano and no one was looking at me, he smiles. 

The rest is more or less history: since the 1970s, Coppola has been involved in the movie music field and seen its various sides. During the May week in Helsinki, Coppola is guiding seven Sibelius Academy students to the world of silent movie accompanying. During the course they for instance practised live accompanying and improvisation to Charlie Chaplin's movie The Kid.

– Speaking about the silent film: since there was no dialogue, the movie producers dedicated all their attention to the image. So, 97% of the expressivity is already on the screen and the pianist has to really know the borderlines. Once you know how to operate and the limits within which to work, whatever music can be used in the films – even an engine of an aeroplane – if you know where to put it, when to put it and how to put it in the soundtrack, he says.

Listen to Coppola's interview on Soundcloud!

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