The ‘godfather’ of neo-classical music, Ludovico Einaudi’s expressive and accessible style of romantic minimalism has inspired countless pianists and composers the world over. Composing from his home in Milano, Italy, Einaudi’s artisanal melodies have provided the perfect accompaniment to millions of rainy days and sentimental moments.
Here are ZoneOut’s top 5 essential albums by Ludovico Einaudi.
1. Cinema (2021)
A collection of Einaudi’s most evocative works for film and television, Cinema is a testament to the composer’s impact on the broader world of media and storytelling. The album includes music featured in the Academy Award-winning films Nomadland and The Father, from the 80s working class coming-of-age tale This Is England, and from the film that introduced many to Einaudi – the contemporary classic of French comedy, The Intouchables.
Einaudi’s music was not only integral to the films the finally reached audiences, but also to the creative process, as Australian actor and director Russell Crowe explains:
“When I was directing The Water Diviner, I had a setup with the sound department, they had a little PA system, so I could play music on location. Between setups, you want to keep the crew focused on what they’re doing, but you also want to keep the actors in the mood. I was using [Einaudi’s] music a lot on the set just to keep the goosebumps on people’s skin… it makes you feel like you’re actually inside the movie.”
2. Seven Days Walking (2019)
Immense in scope and ambitious in nature, Seven Days Walking is a 6-hour, longform work of ‘slow music’, containing seven sets of variations (or ‘Days’), originally released over the course of seven months. The project was inspired by time the composer had spent walking in the Alps, where the heavy snow helped his thoughts “roam free inside the storm, where all shapes, stripped bare by the cold, lost their contours and colours.”
Einaudi describes the project: “I associated everything with walking, with the experience of following the same routes over and over, discovering new details each time. And so in the end I decided to thread them all together in a sort of musical labyrinth, a little like stepping inside the twists and turns of the creative process, to understand how a musical idea can develop in multiple directions, and changing once again at the moment in which it is heard.”
For a true deep-listening experience, follow in Einaudi’s footsteps, and enjoy Seven Days Walking as the musical accompaniment to time spent surrounded by nature.
3. In A Time Lapse (2013)
A suite for chamber ensemble, In A Time Lapse takes the listener through a dreamlike and slow-burning emotional journey. It is a cinematic experience – clearly influenced by the composer’s work for film – that relies on instrumental colour and melody to evoke an intangible narrative. There are parallels to the romantic minimalism of composers like Joe Hisaishi and Yiruma, the music of Asian cinema more broadly – and of course the American minimalism of Philip Glass.
Adorning Einaudi’s piano are the delicate sounds of glockenspiel (a metallic, tuned percussion instrument) and the kalimba, a traditional African thumb piano (Einaudi has explored the sounds of African music on 2003’s Diario Mali, a collaboration with Malian Kora player Ballaké Sissoko). Enriching and enveloping these percussive melodic instruments is a string ensemble, with violinist Daniel Hope lending virtuosic flourish to several standout tracks.
In A Time Lapse includes the track ‘Experience’, notable for its recent viral popularity on Tik Tok as the soundtrack of choice for videos about studying and creativity. The popularity of this track among Gen-Z is a testament to the timeless and directly emotional quality of Einaudi’s music.
4. Elements (2013)
On 2013’s Elements Einaudi channels his interest in rock music and – like Bob Dylan – ‘goes electric’. A repetitive palm-muted guitar kicks off the album’s title track, soon joined by electric Rhodes piano. The arrangement continues to build, as the electric duo are joined by a tense violin melody, then the full string forces of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in a driving, mechanical ostinato.
On the popular track ‘Night’, Einaudi’s piano is joined by delayed, electronic blips and digital ambience. Throughout the album the rhythmic pulse of electric energy reappears in various guises, giving the entire experience a progressive quality – reminiscent of classic album bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles – and other rock groups introduced to Einaudi as a young man by his older sisters and time spent travelling in England.
5. Una Mattina (2004)
From the mid-90s and into the 2000s Einaudi’s recognisable style of romantic minimalism began to take form, with albums such as Le Onde (1994), Eden Roc (1999) and I Giorni (2001) breaking through to a popular audience. The title tracks on each of these albums epitomised Einaudi’s trademark qualities of simple, haunting melodies, lucid harmonies and a vaguely mystical sense of being taken on some kind of inner quest. It was meditative music full of inviting spaces, and new worlds to explore.
2004’s Una Mattina is a standout of these early albums, if only because it contains Einaudi’s two most popular works – the titular ‘Una Mattina’, and ‘Nuvole Bianche’, the latter a track so popular that it has joined the canon of contemporary piano music. The YouTube search results for ‘Una Mattina’ yield myriad cover versions from professional and amateur pianists alike. Such is the work’s accessibility that even non-pianists have joined in the action – with covers versions on cello, harp and guitar all racking up millions of views.
And ultimately it is this democratic quality of Einaudi’s music that has endeared him to a new generation of creators, whose creative media – YouTube, Tik Tok, and other online platforms – demand the instant emotional appeal of a simple, heartfelt melody.
But someone has to write those melodies. And Einaudi’s music is only deceptively simple. Here is a man schooled in the high art of avante-garde, post-modern classical music, and yet who chooses to compose an accessible, popular style. (Einaudi’s contemporary and fellow institutionally-trained composer Max Richter made a similar career decision).
To compose with only the most essential elements of music is to rebel against the establishment, and to embrace – with love – the human experience.
Follow Ludovico Einaudi at ludovicoeinaudi.com