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Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
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Why This Composer Cuts Violins in Half and Sets Pianos on Fire
01/10/2018
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Music & Sound
London, UK
157
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BMGPM investigates composer and sound designer Diego Stocco’s fascinating methods as he launches his new label
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The day Diego Stocco decided to split his violin in half with a hacksaw, he realised he wasn’t cut out for classical studies. Since then, no instrument has been safe from his mission of creative destruction: his workshop is littered with dismantled body parts of instruments and he is infamous for setting fire to a piano.

Contrary to what people might think, Diego doesn’t have a vendetta against music. In fact, he is an accomplished composer, sound designer, and performer, whose music and performances have been featured on campaigns for brands such as Adidas, Burt’s Bees, Bottega Veneta and Kashi. He has also done audio branding for Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Panasonic and General Motors.

A prolific longform composer, Diego has scored feature films such as Chernobyl Diaries, high-profile trailer campaigns such as Halloween, IT, Glass, and Unsane, as well as the video game, ‘The Conduit’. As a featured soloist, he was chosen by Hans Zimmer to perform on Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes score and has also performed on video games, ‘Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’ and ‘Assassin’s Creed Revelation’.

Diego’s fascinating and unconventional methods are all in aid of his highly unique sonic signature. A relentless creator of original sounds, he’ll stop at nothing to discover new ways to blur the boundaries between music and sound design. For Diego, any object has the potential to be used in a musical way: a tree can be played as an instrument and broken instruments can collide together into new forms. 


Diego’s adventure in music began in a small town in northern Italy, playing Beatles’ songs by ear on a small Bontempi organ. His parents, encouraged by his musical inclination, supported his decision to study at the local Conservatory of Music - a decision that backfired spectacularly when Diego decided to take a hacksaw to his violin.

As Diego’s classical education abruptly ended, his personal journey of musical discovery had only just begun. He spent the following years broadening his musical repertoire by playing in bands, and studying synths and sound engineering. Throughout this time, he became active in production music - doing studio work, creating radio jingles, music for ballet, synth programming and large-scale live events.

The maverick’s flair for incorporating natural elements into his music reached a breakthrough in Los Angeles. He had moved there in search of creative inspiration, equipped with his belongings, a computer, and a box full of strings. The big revelation came when he realised he could make music by ‘playing’ an olive tree that was in his back garden. This was followed shortly after by playing a bonsai tree and more natural elements.

Not content with these boundary-pushing innovations, Diego set his sights on a truly ambitious project. One day, he asked the owners of a local dry-cleaners if he could ‘play’ the whole place as an instrument. Unsurprisingly, they had no idea what he meant - but they were blown away when they saw the final result. Without any additional sounds from traditional or electronic instruments, Diego managed to create music using items such as a puff iron, press and dry-cleaning machines, a washer, clothes hangers, and a bucket full of soap. He created the bass and lead sounds from the buzzing tones of the conduits and engines.


Every year, hundreds of musical instruments are thrown away or sold for parts only, including pianos and classical strings - but Diego saw opportunity in every damaged instrument. Spurred on by the success of his dry-cleaner project, he increasingly began to experiment with building unconventional instruments. In 2012, he unveiled ‘Custom Built Orchestra’ – where Diego wrote and performed an orchestral composition for each of his many handcrafted and otherworldly instruments. His twelve or so weird and wonderful creations include, the ‘Expericello’, a cello with the top replaced with a zither, the ‘Arcophonico’, an upright electro-acoustic instrument made from a tree branch, and the ‘Luminopiano’, made from pierced light bulbs.

One of his most well-known instruments, the ‘Experibass’, led to Diego becoming a featured soloist on Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes film. Hans Zimmer took a liking to the unique pounding tonal grooves and aggressive depth of the quadruple neck upright bass. On the score, Diego was able to demonstrate his unique performing technique called ‘Stickato’, where he plays the custom tuned strings with a drum stick, creating a rich resonant sound that produce both rhythm and tonality.


As Diego’s videos began to increasingly attract attention for their organic sound and unique performing style, they gave rise to opportunities to collaborate with a whole host of high-profile brands.

Diego’s one-of-a-kind sounds now form part of the core libraries of multi award winners’ virtual instruments, such as Atmosphere, Stylus RMX, and the flagship synthesizer Omnisphere 2. As a principal creative sound designer with Spectrasonics, Diego created a kaleidoscope of iconic sounds with his original instruments, customised objects and creative recording techniques. True to his fierce spirit for creative destruction, Diego created the (in)famous ‘Burning Piano’, capturing eclectic samples from his upright piano, which he set on fire. 

Now, Diego consolidates his exceptional repertoire in a new label - ‘Sonic Artifact’ - which is available for licensing worldwide through BMG Production Music. ‘Sonic Artifact’ is a sonic exploration created with original instruments, ordinary objects, and elements of nature and presents Diego’s evolving music production as selected albums. An anomaly in production music, the label throws out the rule book of sound crafting. 

Throughout his career, Diego has proved that being a musician, inventor, and explorer are far from mutually exclusive. His extensive work on high-profile features and with brands dispel any ideas that his unorthodox methods are a gimmick - rather, they confirm his hugely promising talent and bright future. As Diego continues to push the boundaries of music, many eyes will be on him.

You can find out more about about Diego here.
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