My essentials: Alex Vella Gregory’s cultural picks

No 53 | Alex Vella Gregory 38, composer & musician

Alex Vella Gregory
Alex Vella Gregory

1. Book

Of all the books I’ve read in the last year, Se Venezia Muore (If Venice Dies) by Salvatore Settis has been the one that has stuck with me. It is a stark warning about the way we are destroying our urban centres by turning them into commercial commodities rather than living spaces. I would also throw in David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet, another cautionary tale on the way we are destroying the planet, but also exciting ways forward. I’ve also read Collodi’s original Pinocchio…man, it’s dark…

2. Film

A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick. Absolutely amazing film. It follows the life of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector to Nazism and World War II. I cannot even begin to explain the complex issues raised – issues about loyalty, principle, and love. On the complete opposite end of the scale, I decided to try and explore the whole Marvel Universe films. Good fun, and the occasional poignant moment.

3. TV/Internet 

I must say there are quite a few good internet series’ out there. I loved Severance — so far it’s proving to be a masterpiece. I also finally got round to watching Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and loved it. There’s plenty out there, and I’d recommend Big Mouth, Sex Education and The Crown (yes, yes, I know… but one is allowed a little indulgence every now and then). Also plenty of good documentaries out there: anything by David Attenborough, Jimmy Saville: A British Horror Story, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich and Vatican Girl.

4. Music

Somewhere far far away is an IT guy trying to figure out my musical tastes through algorithms. I can go from high brow Classical Music (we’re talking medieval organum, obscure Baroque and 20th century Modernism) to the cheesiest pop imaginable (90s dance music… I listen to it for the lyrics, of course). I do love my Italian pop music and my folk music. Have a soft spot for sad songs. Ultimately, it’s the story that matters; the way it’s told is a matter of taste.

5. Place

I love my country, but it’s becoming harder and harder every day to sustain that love. Seeing our natural and built heritage being erased every day is one of the hardest things for me to endure. It’s also my duty as an artist to fight for those stories and give them life. There are too many places I love to mention specific ones, but I tend to love cities and sacred spaces. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is certainly among the top on the list. If you have never visited, do so. Worth every euro. It’s the same with my favourite places abroad: Rome, Naples, Lisbon, Athens, Edinburgh, Puglia, Sicily, Vienna… it’s a long list. Oh and ‘sacred spaces’ does not simply mean churches or temples. Sunrise on the Pyrnees, sunset on the Atlantic Ocean… divine.