Franco Cioci (31 January 1940 - 29 March 2021)

Maestro Franco Cioci left us.

I had spoken with him a couple of weeks earlier over the phone, which was a call I had postponed far too long. He told me he finally felt better after several difficult months of health issues and when I asked him if he was writing again, he said that he was for the first time in many years. He was very peaceful, and we agreed to meet again as soon as the restrictions were over.

It is impossible to express my immense gratitude for him in a few lines.

At the conservatory, a critique session with Maestro Cioci was never a standard one-hour class. We used to spend days together: this way, without the need to make it explicit, he taught us that music has a lot to do with life, that it is a relationship and a mutual gift between humans.

He had an “initiatory” approach, not a “methodical” one: his lessons were never about verbally expressed rules related to precise compositional practices; instead, he explained in the way music itself communicates, by sitting at the piano and playing, occasionally asking the most challenging of all questions: “Can you hear?”. It was damn hard to follow him sometimes, and yet, he was right: music cannot be reduced to words; it’s not the chatter that makes a musician, but the sound; it’s not the technique that defines him, but his ability to listen.

He was very critical of the lack of freedom of writing in the years of his youth: he described them as having been too often devoted to a disjointed schizoid mumble and a sophisticated musical artifice not inspired by authenticity but by an extreme ideological conformity. He always said: “in music you can do everything, nothing is forbidden”. He wanted to spare us students the inevitable fate of personal failure, oblivion and historical irrelevance resulting from other-directed choices into which too many composers had fallen, withering their creative flair. And so, while many of my schoolmates repeated the music of their teachers, from Maestro Cioci I learned to write my own.