As any anthropologist will tell you, every stage of cultural development is accompanied by its own distinctive forms of art. In the concert halls, the dawning of modernity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the ascendance of the great classical orchestras, led by composers such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. With the postmodern revolution of the mid to late twentieth century came the birth of wildly diverse musical styles like rock and roll, jazz-fusion, hip-hop, punk, pop, metal, and electronica, pioneered by countless more iconic names. But who can imagine what manner of soundscapes humanity’s next stage of evolution will bring?
In the following dialogue with WIE founder (and jazz-fusion drummer) Andrew Cohen, “integral musician” Corrado Rustici suggests he might have an answer or two. As an Italian guitarist and producer who has worked and played with some of the greatest artists of the past three decades—including, among many others, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Sinead O’Connor, Phil Collins, and Luciano Pavarotti—Rustici’s career has encompassed nearly every genre of modern and postmodern musical expression, which perhaps puts him in an ideal position to attempt to discover what might come next. Aided in this quest by his experience as a former student of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and his years studying the work of integral philosopher Ken Wilber, Rustici seems to be well on his way to defining the deeper musical contours for the coming “trans-modern” world—a world in which, he explains, the traditional distinctions between artist, music, and listener will steadily become integrated into something wholly new.
ANDREW COHEN: Our mutual friend Ken Wilber has defined integral art and music as “anything created by an artist with integral consciousness.” Is that basically how you would define it as well?
CORRADO RUSTICI: I agree with that, but I’m also trying to be a little more specific. I am just a musician, so my focus is not so much on the bigger picture but on what I’m really close to. In my life I’ve had the good fortune of playing many different kinds of music. I’ve played jazz, I’ve played rhythm and blues, I’ve played rock, I’ve played progressive, I’ve played pop. I’ve been fortunate enough to be not just a guitar player but a keyboard player and a singer, and I’ve also been a producer. So there are all these different aspects of me, which were all kind of separated. And then something happened, and I found that there is a way of manifesting one’s creativity in a way that doesn’t have to be fragmented. That’s what my new record, Deconstruction of a Postmodern Musician, is about. Working on it was a way of really applying to music what I’ve been trying to apply in myself, which is to get rid of the ignorance, to get rid of all the egoic parts, in order to express something more integrated, more whole. I guess I’m trying to manifest more of who I already am in a much fuller way, and that can take some very practical forms.
In other words, from one point of view, you can say that if you’re a person who’s into integrative activities, then you will obviously manifest that in whatever you do. But from my point of view as a musician, I enjoy the fact that I can also be very pragmatic about defining this new genre. To me, being an integral musician is not only about where I’m coming from as an individual but about pushing the edge technologically and culturally as well.
Cohen: In what ways are you attempting to do that?
Rustici: Well, for the past decade I’ve actually been working to position music as a more vertical, evolving product. I’ve been talking to all the people in my industry and trying to evangelize the fact that the actual manifestation of a musician’s work has to change. We’re seeing that the era of the CD has been over for a while, and a new generation of listeners doesn’t necessarily care about that traditional medium very much.
Ten years ago, I started talking to Sony about trying to create a record label connected with the PlayStation. Back then we didn’t have broadband internet, so I came up with this vision of putting graphics on a music CD, which would be played through a device attached to the PlayStation, called the Synchronicity, in order to connect people to a whole interactive world online that would allow community building, the downloading of new music, etc. I was trying to convince both the gaming industry and the recording industry that there needed to be an integration of these two worlds. And it seems like now that’s finally starting to happen. We’re beginning to see people interfacing through things like Second Life, or the PlayStation 3, or the latest mobile phones. There’s a new way people are relating to digital technology today, and this could create a lot of interesting possibilities for integral musicians who want to push the cutting edge.
For example, I’m currently working on something called generated music, which is something Brian Eno has been doing for a while. Basically, I compose a song made up of different holons—small holons, hundreds of them—which are just little samples or snippets of music that collectively make up the song. But they’re all interrelated, so with the right software, you can download the song and you can hear that piece of music. But it could be different every time that you play it, and it could also be adjusted to get what you want out of the piece of music. You could say, “I want to be more relaxed, I want to be more excited, I want to get this feeling or more of that feeling,” and so that particular piece of music would always evolve and generate itself in different forms.