Interviewer Christina Gomes
Photography Sarah Roberts
Asleep under the DJ booth, one-year old Marcello Ritondo’s fate as an aspiring musician had already been set in motion. In 1995, Marcello attended his very first Loft party. Since its conception by David Mancuso in 1970, the Loft, New York’s first underground dance scene, curated an exclusive atmosphere celebrating music, dance, and love. Mancuso’s famous Loft party is still preserved today. Hosted in the East Village, the invite-only party brings together long-time attendees as well as a few fresh, new faces approximately four times a year preserving its unique culture for over four and a half decades. Having attended practically every single party since that first day he slept to the sound of house music, the Loft has been both an inspiration and influence for the 22-year-old musician today.
Mancuso, Marcello’s uncle, was only one of the family members inspiring his lifelong love of music. Both Mancuso and Luis, Marcello’s oldest brother, sparked his love for and knowledge of audio technology. Growing up, his parents frequently filled their home with jazz, which he cites as the roots he carries with him throughout his musical experimentation. Luis can be credited for consistently introducing Marcello to new music as well as his first experiences with an instrument. Marcello fondly recalls drumming circles he and his family often engaged in as the foundation of his interest in rhythm. Following his exposure to percussion, Marcello took piano lessons, and picked up guitar with guidance from his father as well as a junior high teacher. His formal education includes studying comedic theater in high school, and majoring in music in college.
Marcello’s roots heavily influence the music he produces today. He incorporates sounds from the Loft and his childhood home to create “music [that] really pulls the soul to dance.” Motion, physical or otherwise, has been thematic in much of the work he’s shared thus far. Along with dance, Marcello has found inspiration in motion from artists like Keith Haring who can be found all over his room from his door, to his laptop case, to the tattoo on his very forearm. As a Brooklyn-native, his work also features the motions of the city. While Marcello describes his music, he reflects that “a lot of it has to do with motion, a lot of it has to do with being on the move, the world passing you by, feeling the seconds going by, the sun setting, anything.”
For Marcello, music is an opportunity to exemplify different perspectives of the world. It’s a conduit for making people think differently and feel strongly. In his latest project, Marcello scored a philosophical film titled Qualia where he truly got the chance to exemplify emotions through sound. His music is all created using Ableton. Often times, he will record analog—playing an instrument into a mic or through an interface, or he will hear something in his environment that may be of use later and record it onto his phone. In his free time, he will search the depths of the internet for anything he could possibly use—new music, new inspiration, new sound samples, or new plug-ins—anything that can be used as a base to let his creativity flourish. “Sound can be manipulated a lot, and that’s what I love to mess around with. That’s where the sparks fly for me.” His recent work features house, trance, hip-hop, and jazz, and focuses on tunes to get people moving onto the dance floor, as well as beats that others can perform spoken word over.
Describing his creative process as sporadic, Marcello points out that the timeline for a finished piece can vary tremendously. It relies primarily on when inspiration presents itself. Be it at work, at home, or in the middle of a commute on the train, when something catches his ears it is the beginning of yet another work in progress. Along with continuing and perfecting some of the songs Marcello has already begun, he will soon be working on scoring his third film. He will collaborate with the same director of Qualia on a full feature film.
Music has been central to Marcello’s life and the shine in his personality. He urges all aspiring musicians to “Be free with everything you do. Don’t restrict yourself when you’re creating something that is experimental…everything that I have created that I think sounds good has come from an accident. Be free in starting the creative process, and don’t be so quick in extinguishing the fire even if you don’t know where you’re going with it. It will lead itself.” This is the same advice that guides his creativity, and has led to many of the beautiful pieces he’s already created. As WIP’s very own resident DJ, you can experience his music at any of our monthly events. To explore some of Marcello’s other work, check out his soundcloud.