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Carl Baldassarre: A Composer’s Journey Through Decades of Musical Influence

By Ivan Gomez

Embark on a melodic voyage with acclaimed composer and musician, Carl Baldassarre, as we delve into the profound influences and creative evolution that have shaped his illustrious career. From the 60s and 70s to the symphonic grandeur of today, Carl Baldassarre reflects on a lifetime of musical exploration, sharing insights into his diverse repertoire and visionary approach to composition. Join us as we unravel the harmonious threads of his journey, from early inspirations to groundbreaking projects, offering a glimpse into the enduring legacy of a true maestro of sound.

Your musical journey began at a young age, influenced by so many iconic artists. How did these early experiences shape your approach to music?

When I was growing up in the 60s & 70s it was a very compelling time. There was an explosion of musical creativity and culture coming from artists like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Burt Bacharach, and Stevie Wonder. Plus, we had all the truly progressive rock artists like ELP, Jethro Tull, Yes & Genesis. At the same time, I was also drawn to the great jazz artists like Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, and great arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones. When I look back, I think the exposure to all these artists and genres lit the burning desire inside me to compose all kinds of music.

From your first band, Abraxas, to your progressive rock group Syzygy, and all of your orchestra work, you’ve navigated through so many musical landscapes. How has your sound evolved over the years?

As a composer, I’ve certainly evolved from experience. I‘m sure I have some harmonic tendencies that I favor, but I think I create very visual music. Most of my musical ideas start with a visual concept or mosaic and I try to evoke that in the listener. As a guitar player, my sound is probably best described as passionate and multilingual. I draw from many influences.

How did your business experiences outside of music impact your creative process as a musician?

Surprisingly, the creativity and imagination you learn from composing and performing is 100% applicable to being successful in other walks of life. I think what I learned most from business was a clear understanding of what excellence looks like. A resolve not to settle for mediocre. I also think the ability to listen and respond to the needs of customers, colleagues, and other constituents keeps you connected and increases your differentiation and value. My measuring stick for success is, “will the customer miss you if you’re gone?” I try to bring that to my music and performances. For example, I think the work I’m doing with the Baldassarre Rock Orchestra is not easily substitutable and is a niche. You try to give your audience something unique to keep them coming since they can only get it from you!

Your last album, “Grand Boulevard”, seems to encompass a wide array of genres, from rock and funk to orchestral pop. What inspired this eclectic mix of styles?

I was just trying to find the best possible musical settings for each story. Each story is, in and of itself, a unique universe. I chose the best genres to bring realism to those characters. Living, working, and studying in different parts of the world exposed me to a wide range of musical languages and Grand Boulevard allowed me to work on becoming fluent in each of those musical dialects.

Burt Bacharach is cited as one of your personal heroes. How has his music influenced your own compositions?

Burt was a master composer. He did everything so well: harmony, melody, lyrics, storytelling, visual prosody, song form…he was a titan. When I was a boy in the late 1960s, I heard a song on the radio that made me cry. It was so moving. I didn’t know it was Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s in Love with You”. Years later during one of my formal harmony classes, my professor, Dr. Marshall Griffith, asked all his students to pick a song that moved us when we were young. I, of course, picked that song. Dr. Griffith taught us how to do detailed harmonic analysis on these pieces to understand the technical devices a composer uses to move us. That was a life changing moment for me as an artist.

Your YouTube channel, the Professor of Classic Rock, has gained considerable traction in a short amount of time. What motivated you to share your expertise on classic rock with a broader audience?

When I was a student, I was blessed with some great music teachers that opened the mysteries of music to me. I also have teaching in my blood coming from a long line of teachers in my family. I always wanted to inspire others the way great teachers did for me. I decided during the pandemic to create a YouTube channel to make this happen. I think my background in music history and music theory gives me a perspective which some people find interesting. I’m more interested in sharing “why” a piece is played or written a certain way, rather than “how” a piece is played.

As someone deeply knowledgeable about classic rock, what do you think sets apart the music of the ’70s from other eras?

There was a lot more uncharted territory as we were still only a couple of decades into the rock era at that time. There was more room for artists to grow and differentiate. New technologies were introduced for instruments and new sounds were emerging. Also, the 70’s was the peak era of “bands” where bands were writing and performing together.

Today music is far more individualized with more single artists/entertainers vs. bands. It’s also far more difficult to find new sonic spaces to inhabit. So much has already been said. There’s now a mind-boggling number of genres and subcategories where lines of demarcation are not as clear. In the 70’s, there were only a handful of genre labels. Overall, it’s not unlike every other industry that matures. It gets harder and harder to compete and stand out. But artists will always continue to innovate and find a way.

You’re working on a new album called, “Deep Grooves”. Tell us about that project and when might it be released?

The concept of “groove” and what makes a good groove is something I’ve been fixated on the last few years. I began studying the great grooves of the 70’s and made some interesting discoveries about what the common elements were and how they contributed to the great funk, soul, R&B and groovier rock artists at the time. I was particularly interested in what got audiences up and dancing sensually to their music. There’s a community and congregational element to it. Looking at everything from the drums, bass, vocals, lyrics, and hooks to find the tendencies.

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