Giovanni Renzo

Messina, Italy

The Ocean Suite


Behind the Music

Ian had an incredible intuition in designing this fusion of words, sounds, music and images. The kind of investigative journalism showcased through the reporting of The Outlaw Ocean is of fundamental importance because it brings to light facts that would otherwise remain unknown to most. Music, as a language, is void of words but capable of a strong emotional impact and can give even more depth to these stories. 

The book and source material from Ian’s reporting provided an immense source of inspiration when it came to my tracks. The audio clip of the weeping widow who lost her husband to sea slavery was used in my song “Cry.” For “Into the depths of the sea,” I imagined the bodies belonging to victims of violence aboard fishing ships floating in the water, until they sink deep into the sea and are greeted by the melody of a piano slowly materializing among the whirlpools. The story that impacted me the most when composing my album, however, was the videotaped murder at sea featured in the chapter, “Armed and Dangerous.” It’s a jarring visual to see the blue sea suddenly tinged with the red blood of these men being shot at. This visual is one that moved me to tears as I wrote the music for “Bloody Ocean." It remains one of the most dramatic songs of my work.

Giovanni Renzo
About Giovanni Renzo

Giovanni Renzo was born in Messina, Italy, in 1962. He graduated from the Conservatory in his hometown in 1986, continuing his musical education in Rome. He made his debut in 1979 as a jazz pianist. He regularly plays in music venues and festivals, alternating concerts with teaching and composition. Renzo has composed music for films, theatrical works, ballets, opera, multimedial performances. 

His first recording, “Eclisse” (1989), is a collection of piano solo compositions. Then he produced “La distanza della Luna” for piano and orchestra (1996 and 2007), “Il mare” (2001), live recording featuring Paolo Fresu, "Atlas Coelestis," book plus DVD (2008), and the piano solo albums “Infanzia” (2008), "Racconti per pianoforte" (2010), "Live in Marsala" (2018). Since 2010, he is the protagonist of the “Cosmic Concert,” an annual event for the Global Astronomy Month organized by Astronomers Without Borders and broadcast live streaming worldwide. Renzo was quoted by the Spanish Blog "Pianistas del Mundo" as one of the world's greatest pianists, mainly for his original work about music and astronomy.

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

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