What is music

What is music


The power of music

Very often while we are working or walking, we hum or whistle a musical tune. Or while we are reading or reflecting on something, we find ourselves drumming our fingers to the rhythm of a tune, almost independently of our will, according to rhythms that are often precise and rhythmic. Why do we do it? The reason is to be found in the pleasure that is derived from it, an unconscious pleasure that only music, even if only as a rhythm, can offer us. It almost seems that music is part of the very nature of man, that it responds to his need and that it somehow influences his physical and mental activities. Often, in fact, when we work, talk or are intent on doing something else, we find ourselves listening to music almost without realizing it. The notes touch us and almost caress us making the passage of time more pleasant. If, on the other hand, we only listen to words and not following the thread of the speech while we are intent on doing something else, the speaking voice does not give us any pleasure. Music, on the other hand, still gives us pleasure and this happens because it is something more, different. It is that harmony of sounds that touches our ear just like a perfume delights our sense of smell.

Physical effects

Music also has repercussions on the physical reactions and movements of our body, regardless of our will. We think of a military march and remember how this arouses in us the desire to walk in time to music. Let's think of a lullaby which is nothing more than a slow melody sung in a low voice that causes the child to sleep. Certain dance music makes us feel the need to move just as certain songs make us shiver.
These are purely physical phenomena that have nothing to do with the emotions that music can arouse. The same thing happens to animals: let's think of the cobra snake that lets itself be enchanted by the music of the fakir's flute or, it is experienced, the music played in the stable, makes the cows produce more milk.


Psychological effects

What distinguishes man from any other living being is that he is endowed with faculties that allow him to increase the pleasure he already feels in hearing music, enriching it with images and emotions. In fact, if while a record is playing we stop to listen to the music, the music penetrates more deeply into us, awakening together with the pleasure of the sounds, even all the sensations of our inner world. So if the music is sad we become sad; if the music is happy we become joyful; if the music is patriotic, the soul lights up in us to fight and win ...

Hello beautiful

When the last notes go out, the echoes of the feelings aroused by that music remain within us. Music is therefore a precious jewel because it is capable of awakening our soul and shaking our feelings.

What is music?


Have we ever wondered what music really is and what effect and role it has in the lives of all of us?

Music has always been a universal language music is art, expression and freedom music is and expresses the deepest part of the human soul but it is also much more ... however, how do you express in words something that replaces words same?

Then, perhaps, it might be easier to understand the role and effect of music within society and man. Since prehistoric times, music has always played an important role within society and has not been limited only to its own sphere but has intervened in any other discipline ranging from mathematics to psychology, from art to history.

Therefore, Pythagoras, an important philosopher of 500 BC, turns out to be the perfect figure to demonstrate, for example, the close relationship between music and mathematics, creating the first important musical foundations, still valid, based on numerical relationships. Furthermore, music is related to physics as it is an energy and, like all energies, has a wavelength and a frequency thanks to which the first musical scale is born. Finally, Pythagoras also inserts music in the astronomical study by considering the universe as a huge system of mathematical proportions in which the movement of the celestial spheres produces a universal harmony that is not audible to the human ear.

But music goes even further ... It is necessary and indispensable as a cure for the body and spirit and provides the human soul with harmony and order.

There are numerous studies that demonstrate the beneficial effects of music, for example, the so-called "Mozart effect", according to which listening to Mozart's sonata in D Major involves a temporary increase in human cognitive abilities and has a therapeutic effect for epilepsy and depression.

There are in fact two types of music: the first enters the bones by raising the adrenaline to the maximum by stimulating a strong desire to dance, shout and rejoice the second is deeper and penetrates into the soul, arousing strong emotions ranging from crying at the enormous relief. At the moment of listening, what causes one reaction rather than another is the different experience and feeling that each piece transmits.

Music has, therefore, a strong penetrating power as it expresses, in all the various shades, the moods of man and serves as an escape from reality, as it creates a world other than each of us, in a different way, want.

Therefore, based on what has been said, all that remains is to refer to Schopenhauer's thought according to which: "Music, therefore, is not at all, like the other arts, the image of ideas, but is instead the image of the will itself, of which even ideas are objectivity: therefore the effect of music is all the more powerful and penetrating than that of the other arts because these express only the shadow, while it expresses the essence. "

Laura Maugeri, Class IV Sec. B - "Ettore Majorana" Scientific High School of San Giovanni La Punta (CT)


Let me explain: 40 years ago it was almost impossible to relate the first intoned stammering of a newborn to an opera song.

In the first case we are talking about sensorimotor activity of a 6/7 month old child who is exercising his vocal system, playing with vocal sounds, in the second example we are talking about music, for the way of singing, for the presence of the melody. , of harmony. Without melody, without instruments, without notes there was no talk of music.

When music like this was listened to in the 1960s, it was thought to be the recording of a child moving a door.

But this is not the case because it is instead contemporary music by the well-known French composer Pierre Henry. And “cultured” music in the sense that the composer studied at the Paris Conservatory, and together with another 20th century composer, Pierre Schaeffer, he composed concrete music.

At the beginning of my career when I listened to this piece I said to myself: "obviously there is a relationship between what children invent and what composers produce". For us it is very fortunate that there is a correspondence between what contemporary composers set about doing and what children do. This is the first interesting discovery of the change in twentieth century music: it comes close to what children do.

Other novelties were things like these for example

This is a sound production - I don't know if it is music - that women from northern Canada play with their voices in a sort of vocal game and which asks us a question: where does the music end and where does the game begin? For us it is a very interesting case because music can actually be 'read' as a form of play, a theme that I will develop in these meetings.

I heard the song of the Eskimo women, which is called katajjaq, as another of the musical forms that exist in the world and that we know very well especially from the 60s onwards. Previously, musical forms of different cultures were known and known thanks to ethnomusicological research, but the great diffusion of many different music began thanks to technology through recordings made in Africa and other continents using portable, battery-operated devices of excellent sound quality.

Then we could say that the concept of music has changed, we can no longer say that music is just melody, rhythm, harmony, now we have a much broader concept after these discoveries: contemporary music, concrete music, the music of the world.

The problem of the concept of music today is still not completely solved because the very idea of ​​music is not universal. There are many cultures where the concept of music does not exist. I'll give you an example: in African languages ​​there is no word that uniquely indicates the concept of music: there is song, drum, dance but to imagine that there is something in common between them seems impossible (Comment by OCM: the case of the Mapuce people - indigenous ethnicity of southern Chile - is identical: in their language (mapudungun) the word music does not exist. They call the action of making sounds: it is said trutrukear (playing trutuka) pifilkear (playing pifilka) etc.)

Often when I listen to music competitions where there are such different popular music, I ask myself: how is it possible that we use a single term, music, to name such different expressions? It is as if you were using a single term to describe what you do with your legs, such as walking, climbing a ladder, jumping. There is no reason. There are many forms of sound production that we call music, but there is a lot of diversity.

Among the Eskimos - the Inuits for example - there are words to define different types of "music" for example: female song, of the shamans, drum dance accompanied by singing. But these three practices, which we call musical, they do not name them with the same term. I wonder then, why do we establish relationships between all these forms of sound production, what is there in common, what is the common denominator between these human activities?

What 8D music is, and why everyone listens to it

Everyone's talking about it, but what is it? And what technology is it based on?

Maybe you too have heard about or read about "8D music" on social networks these days: it's a new thing, of which no one seems to have a clear idea, but in the meantime a series of music tracks that fall into the category grind millions of views and on social networks it is talked about everywhere in tones that we would expect if music had just been invented. There are those who say, in fact, that music will never be the same again, that this is the new frontier of sound and that from now on they will not listen to anything else. On Youtube the "8D Era" channel has 7 and a half million subscribers and another similar one, "8D Tunes" has over 6.6 million.

The point, however, is that even if you google for hours the authoritative sources that explain the phenomenon cannot be found, do you know what comes out if you google "8D technologies"? a Canadian bike sharing company, here's what comes out. Seeing is believing.

The 8D songs, according to what is said and read in the descriptions, should be listened to with headphones: this is where the "magic" happens: the sounds move away from the listener, they seem to come from afar and no longer from our headphones . The sounds, especially the bass, but also the voices and so on, give the impression of being able to go around our head, go over the headphones, spread along the neck and then again walk away as if they came from another room. But calm: it is not, as some crazed commentators say, a magic or a musical revolution, more simply they are sound effects that have always existed, and that for some reason today someone is applying above all to rap and trap songs that are having enormous on the net success.

In fact, technically the term "8D music" means nothing: it is not 8-dimensional music, it is simply that Dolby Surround techniques can be disrupted by creating certain effects, stuff that sound engineers could do with simple software on any song. Headphones usually make sure, for example, that the sound is split evenly between left and right, while in 8D tracks the music shifts from right to left continuously, creating an alienating effect that can make you shiver, dizzy and so on. Street.

Of techniques that break the patterns of Dolby Surround (subdivision of its, highs, lows and voice on different channels) there are others, such as Ambisonics, which today is often used outside the musical world, such as in video games and in general experiences. so-called "Virtual Reality".

The phenomenon of 8D music seems very similar to that of ASMR products, where with the use of particular sounds at certain volumes, synaesthetic effects are created (in the sense that they are sounds, they concern hearing, but also give tactile sensations, such as shivers ). But neither 8D music nor ASMR content is "magic", but mere sounds. The excessive enthusiasm of many who comment online in these hours does not seem motivated, even if the sensations can be pleasant. A bit like what happened with what were called "sound drugs", a good and good hoax that they were really drugs with substance-like effects, but some people liked those sounds, and it may be, it is legitimate.

In any case, enthusiasts remain convinced that 8D is the future. In one of the most popular explanations in these hours, published on, producer Andrés Mayo explains what 8D is and how it works:

"[The 8D] is based on a phase manipulation that prevents our brain from knowing where the sound is coming from. This means that thanks to the mixing work done to generate the 8D - the definition of which comes close to the idea of 360 ° music - our mind enters a sort of amusement park of sounds that come and go, and that give a feeling of spatiality that is better than that experienced with stereo sound. So the music (or at least the feeling that the sound generates) no longer remains limited to the two standard sound sources, the right and left side, but becomes an all-round virtual space where we can appreciate stimuli that seem to come from many more directions. "

What is the Sociology of Music?

There relationship between music and society it is central to human experience and has been the subject of investigation since the origins of theoretical reflection on this specific form of expression. The social dimension is recognizable on several levels: from the public performance of a piece, seen as moment of cohesion among the spectators, at historical and social influences that affect a work to a different extent relative to its historical period.

Over the last hundred years there has been an increasing attention to the contextual aspects of the musical fact, so much so that today the study of musical history, united from the point of view of the social sciences, has become an established fact. Some important sectors of musicology tend to develop interdisciplinarity by intensifying the link with other study disciplines such as, for example, anthropology, psychology, sociology and music therapy.

The Sociology of Music is a discipline that, unlike criticism and musical analysis focused on the observation of the object itself, tends to focus his interest on problems related to distribution, to disclosure and to fruition:

Sociologists analyze the "social construction" of aesthetic ideas and values, rather than the "intrinsic" quality of art objects.

Marcello Sorce Keller (from the book: "Music and sociology " Milan, Casa Ricordi, 1996, p. 7).

In the field of socio-musical studies, we are concerned with those musical forms and genres that have a concrete and strong impact on social life through internal analyzes of the cases and contexts that correspond to them. In the context of contemporary studies, it is the sociologist of music who studies the phenomena related to mass culture e, in particular, the popular music: a genre of musical production linked to standardized production and fruition logics.

Compared tohistorical and social evolution of relations between patrons, clients, entrepreneurs, producer, artists, public and users, interesting are the contributions of the Sociology of Music in reference to the differentiation of the figures of the "professional" and "amateur" musician: from the musician who served at the Courts rather than for the Church, up to the contemporaneity that sees the musician tied to the logic of mass music market.

In modernity new situations have arisen that Sociology does not fail to analyze: the new large audience created by the mass media, totally different from the one that in the nineteenth century used to meet in concert halls the question of the recognition of Copyright and the institution of copyright which began to assert themselves following the French and American Revolution, as proof of the protection of an individual's intellectual property.

The contribution made by Theodor W. Adorno with regard to these issues it is fundamental. Adorno considers contemporary society as a consequence of the Enlightenment myth of progress, which has ended up subordinating individuals to a process of alienating massification. The engine of this process is what he calls "Cultural industry": a technological-industrial complex that with the means of communication makes possible the production, reproduction and distribution of artistic products. According to Adorno, therefore, the instruments of reproduction of works of art, and therefore also of music, they demean art by reifying it and distorting its meaning.

This totally negative view of the condition of music in our modern society is not shared, for example, by Walter Wiora, which speaks of a current "fourth age of music", That is the one that"unites the heritage of all previous cultures in a kind of universal museum, creating an international concert life, as well as the developments in technique, research, composition etc ..., which manifest themselves in front of a world audience ".

It is evident that the Sociology of Music is not to be considered a discipline in the strict sense, but rather a field of study. In this regard, we talk about:

Dual nature of musical sociology: empirical research on the one hand, philosophical reflection on the other.

Marcello Sorce Keller

What is music

The origins of music are hidden, like those of language, in the most remote past in the history of humanity. Regardless of the starting point of the speculation on origins (rhythm as an inner beat that translates into sound? The primitive consciousness of the imitative and expressive potential of the human voice?), The reconstruction of the evolution of music depends on the definition given to it. and, vice versa, the possibility of defining it is conditioned by the knowledge of its manifestations and developments. Phenomenon and activity, scientific discipline and delight of the senses, symbolic language and cultural code: from any point of view you look at it, music always offers a further perspective. Like life, myth, philosophy and religion, it does not lend itself to a univocal and absolute definition. What we Westerners call "music" has been transformed and continues to transform itself with the change of civilizations, taking on different functions in the different societies and in the single individuals that compose them. An exhaustive answer to the question posed by the title of this section would therefore imply the study of the phenomenology of sound and its perception of the ways in which sounds become vehicles of expression of the functions of music in different cultural contexts and of the various aspects of its praxis.

The idea that music is a "universal language" has ancient roots and runs through the entire history of Western thought (music and language) in a more or less explicit way. Our choice to circumscribe a large part of the treatment to the music of art in the West is above all pragmatic: the impossibility of understanding the entire universe of musical languages ​​and practices in a single hypertensive, but it is implicit in the belief that only knowledge of the elements and processes constituting this tradition - in the full awareness that it is not the only one - can demystify the abstract idea of ​​its superiority, and provide concrete and conceptual tools for the study of other musical traditions. The identification of the specific features of each tradition, and the distinction between these and those common to all music, can increase the understanding of today's music scene which seems to broaden the boundaries of the concept of music, evolving towards an ever more open and " universal ”of the art of sounds.

Definitions and etymologies

Modern attempts to provide a synthetic and universal definition of music reveal the complex generality of the phenomenon and imply the conceptual density that distinguishes the reflection on music in the West.

Here are some examples, others can be viewed in the aphorisms and reflections tab:

"Art of combining multiple sounds based on defined rules, different according to places and times" (Vocabulary of the Italian language by Nicola Zingarelli, from 1967 onwards)

"Humanly organized sound" (John Blacking, 1973)

"Sound built and known by a culture" (Jean Molino, 1975)

"Music is everything we listen to with the intention of listening to music ... everything can become music" (Luciano Berio, 1993).

As has been repeatedly reiterated by ethnomusicologists, most non-Western cultures "have never had a term in their languages ​​whose semantic extension corresponds, in whole or in part to the Eruropean concept of music, but this has not prevented them from producing and using , over the centuries, even extremely elaborate forms and sound structures ”(Francesco Giannattasio). In these cultures, music is not conceived as a "thing in itself" but is identified in its concrete manifestations (the singing voice, the instruments that produce different sounds) and in relation to its functions in the life of the community (rites, celebrations, work activities, family celebrations, etc.). Even in Western antiquity, music was not conceived as an art in itself but as the sound component of a set of intellectual and physical, creative and executive activities that participated in all the ritual and artistic manifestations of the societies in question. The Greek term mousikè - from "muse" (etymology of obscure and debated origins: it could have been born from a root that indicates "mountain" in reference to the peaks of Olympus, or from the verb "to conceive") - was closely linked to that of “Techné” (art) underlining the complex synergy between the three components of the art of the muses: poetry, dance and music.

On the other hand, the mythological origin of the concept of music transpires without a similar denomination in other ancient civilizations for which the sound element was considered the founding principle of the universe: the laughter of the Egyptian god Thot, cosmologies and astrological study of the planets in Mesopotamia, the creative word of the God of biblical Genesis are the best known examples. The idea of ​​a harmony of the spheres has crossed East and West over the centuries from the most remote antiquity to the threshold of the modern age, attributing to music a divine and sublime power and aura. In addition to the etymological derivation of the Greek word from "muse", also appears in the Middle Ages the hypothesis that refers to the Egyptian word "moys", water (in turn linked to Moses which is therefore indicated, without any support in the scriptures, as the inventor of music - a role that the Bible entrusts to Lamech's son Jubal). On this juxtaposition of music and water sources (which finds ample confirmation in Mesopotamian literature - both in the Hebrew Bible and in Assyrian and Babylonian mythologies) medieval treatises build theories on the movement and flow of the voice - channel and sound vehicle of the moods of the 'human being. In the voice the two distinct and essential components of life meet and merge, of which music is the most faithful and complex expression: matter and spirit, human and divine, body and soul, senses and reason .

The history of music and Western musical thought is crossed by a dialectic between a rational approach, which sees music as the science of combining sounds according to objective rules that also establish its expressive modalities, and a subjective approach that starts from the sound reality and explores the expressive modalities of music and its effects on the listener. The first, which has its roots in the Pythagorean tradition, prevailed in the transmission of an "objective" musical knowledge based on number, proportions and on a modal system that regulates the sound universe assuming, in the scientific-philosophical thought of late antiquity and of the Middle Ages, a cosmological, theological and therefore religious value. Severino Boetio's distinction between "musica mundana" (of the spheres), "humane music" (of the mind and soul) and "musica instrumentalis" (the music actually sung and played) (the text is reported in the aphorisms and reflections) which had a decisive weight in subsequent schools of thought, draws attention to another dialectical opposition, closely linked to the first: that between theory and practice. Knowledge ("musica scientia") - reserved in the Middle Ages to the few and learned theorists of music ("musicians") - had long remained distinct and separated from musical practice - field of action of those who "made" music by singing and playing ("cantores"). The evolution of musical notation and the written codification of the liturgical repertoire starting from the sixth century have increased on the one hand the compositional invention and on the other the theoretical vocation relating to the scientific status of music as part of the Quadrivium of the liberal arts (together to arithmetic, geometry and astronomy). The medieval concept of ars musica reflects this evolution by indicating the set of technical and speculative knowledge relating to sounds: the combination of words and melody, instrumental techniques and the evaluation of the works produced, but it does not cancel the real distance between the sphere of theory. and of the compositional technique and that of artistic practice and its effective and affective reception.

The rise in the Renaissance of the idea of ​​"poetic music", which proclaims the expressive quality of musical sound as a natural and human phenomenon, marks a fundamental stage in the long process of emancipation of music, which tends to renew itself and overcome both grids of theory and the religious appellation, to assert itself as a human and autonomous art, endowed with expressive codes and capable of communicating moods and ideas. The dialectic between old and new, which manifests itself punctually throughout the history of Western music, sometimes with real controversies between opposing schools of thought, is a further indication of the intrinsically dualistic and eventful nature of the musical phenomenon and experience.

On the concrete level of invention and practice, one of the main factors in the process of emancipating musical creativity was the gradual crystallization of tonality with the related compendium of compositional principles that governed invention and writing without stiffening their creative freedom. The flowering of instrumental music as an expressive vehicle as rich in potential as that of vocal music was an important aspect of this new freedom. Already starting from the XII century, with the lyric compositions of the troubadours and the first polyphonic compositions for the church, the musical creations (later defined as works) bore the signature and the stylistic mark of an author, were equipped with certain Forms and attributable to different genres (see formal principles). The trees of this magnificent tradition have nourished and have been nourished for centuries and generations of composers whose status changed from submission to ecclesiastical authorities and courts to artistic and material independence that was fully achieved only at the beginning of the nineteenth century. With the emergence of the bourgeoisie, even the public of cultured music changed its physiognomy, expanding, breaking class boundaries and promoting an ever greater interaction between musical life and social reality.

From the second half of the nineteenth century, the musical production of the past, hitherto the object of inspiration, study and exercise for professionals, became more and more an object of passive consumption and "museum" cult at opera houses and concert company. The political and moral upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century and the contemporary technological revolution (see technologies) with the introduction of means for the reproduction of music (see means of diffusion), have radically changed the music scene in Europe and in the world. The so-called "tonality crisis" at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the overcoming of the old system with the search for new compositional principles (dodecaphony, integral serialism) or in the explicit renunciation of every rule (randomness and chance), coincided with a profound rethinking of the concept of opera and music in general. La materia stessa della musica – il suono – è diventata oggetto di indagine e di sperimentazione aprendosi a fenomeni che prima non erano considerati “musicali” (il rumore, i suoni registrati nella strada e nella natura, i suoni prodotti sinteticamente) generando nuove visioni dei processi e dei linguaggi compositivi, nonché del contenuto e della funzione socio-culturale della musica.

La cultura musicale occidentale si è sviluppata e trasmessa attraverso la scrittura allontanandosi sempre più dalle forme spontanee della “musica quotidiana” delle tradizioni orali – quella che accompagna il lavoro, le ricorrenze, lo svago della gente comune. La musica d’arte europea ha inglobato in sé gli idiomi popolari delle diverse comunità sublimandoli e inserendoli in un sistema complesso di tecniche, valori estetici, costumi sociali e dinamiche economiche. Il sapere musicale accumulatosi nei secoli e istituzionalizzato in un sistema di istruzione sempre più specializzato e mirato, si è diffuso nei cinque continenti rendendo fruibile il suo splendido “prodotto” (il grande repertorio della musica occidentale) ma – all’interno del processo di globalizzazione socio-economica – ha messo a repentaglio un enorme bagaglio di tradizioni locali che, grazie alla sensibilità e alla lungimiranza di antropologi ed etnologi (v. etnomusicologia), che a volte si trovavano tra i missionari e altre volte operavano in conflitto con loro, sono state salvate come documenti (v. oralità e scrittura) ma non più come realtà.

La forza prorompente con la quale sta avanzando, negli ultimi decenni, la musica popolare (c’è chi preferisce l’inglese “popular music”, per sottolineare la differenza con la “folk music”) in tutte le sue espressioni e generi, potrebbe essere spiegata, tra l’altro, come una rivendicazione di un diritto all’espressione musicale spontanea, comprensibile e, volendo, eseguibile da tutti, ovunque, con o senza appellativi, con o senza istruzione. Musica della gente e per la gente. L’esame di questo fenomeno fa emergere alcuni punti in comune con altre culture musicali, lontane nel tempo e nello spazio dal mainstream della tradizione colta europea:

1) la natura essenzialmente orale del fenomeno
2) lo stretto rapporto tra espressione poetica ed espressione musicale tra sentimento, parola e canto
3) l’esigenza di novità
4) la spinta della musica a farsi veicolo delle tendenze rituali di una società: i miti e i culti individuali e collettivi hanno bisogno della componente dionisiaca della musica, della sua risposta a e del suo stimolo di una fusione di corpo e anima, che trova espressione spontanea nel movimento, nel ritmo, nel canto e nel suono degli strumenti che accompagnano canto e danza.

L’individuo, la comunità e la società che si evolve nell’interazione tra individuo e comunità, rispondono a questi stimoli con i mezzi che la musica del tempo e del luogo mette a loro disposizione. Non è un caso che in un’epoca di sconfinata e saturante “comunicazione” come la nostra, in un pianeta sempre più piccolo (perché sempre più globalizzato) troviamo nell’ambito della musica popolare un po’ di tutto: dai ritmi autenticamente indigeni ai recuperi nostalgici di melodie dal sapore antico, dalle semplici canzoni d’amore alle sofisticate costruzioni elettroacustiche, dal rituale di un ballo iberico all’estasi di un concerto rock, dalla musica “etnica” suonata con alle batterie amplificate con potenti mezzi tecnologici dalla musica “classica” resa jazz o rielaborata per tastiere midi a una “world music” che annega le proprie radici in un idioma uniforme e ibrido. Lo statuto stesso dell’ascolto si è modificato radicalmente all’interno di questa nuova cultura musicale, ed è emerso il fenomeno di un ascoltatore/arrangiatore che assembla e manipola musiche altrui rivendicando la competenza e il diritto di costruirne creativamente un proprio mélange personale da consumare o ascoltare a piacere, liberamente dalle norme estetiche formate nell’ambito della musica “seria”.

Uno dei compiti più importanti di chi insegna e studia la storia della musica oggi, è quello di analizzare questa realtà alla luce dell’esperienze del passato e all’interno dei contesti culturali, sociali ed economici del presente. La prospettiva antropologica nella ricerca etnomusicolgica, i nuovi approcci alla cultura musicale in epoche remote (dall’antichità al Medioevo), la crescente diffusione di studi sulla musica “leggera” in quanto un fenomeno centrale anche dal punto di vista musicale (e non soltanto da quello sociologico), e l’apertura sempre maggiore degli studi musicologici ad un’impostazione interdisciplinare – tutti questi possono favorire una visione più ampia e più realistica di una realtà musicale in continua e profonda trasformazione. ( TPB )

Carl Dahlhaus e Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, Che cos’è la musica? (1985), trad. it. di A. Bozzo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1988.

Francesco Giannattasio, Il concetto di musica in una prospettiva culturale, Enciplodeia della Musica, diretta da J.-J. Nattiez, vol. III (Musica e culture), Torino, Einaudi, 2003, pp. 679-1004.

Jean Molino e Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Tipologie e universali, Enciplodeia della Musica, diretta da J.-J. Nattiez, vol. V (L’unità della musica), Torino, Einaudi, 2005, pp. 331-366.


  • 1 Sottogeneri
  • 2 Storia
    • 2.1 Il secondo dopoguerra
    • 2.2 Gli anni Sessanta
    • 2.3 Gli anni Settanta
    • 2.4 Gli anni Ottanta
    • 2.5 La ricerca di una "nuova chiarezza"
    • 2.6 Gli anni Novanta
  • 3 Didattica musicale
  • 4 Festival
  • 5 Note
  • 6 Bibliografia
  • 7 Voci correlate
  • 8 Collegamenti esterni

Possiamo dividere la musica contemporanea in due grandi periodi:

Il secondo dopoguerra Modifica

Il secondo dopoguerra vide la nascita dei Corsi estivi di composizione per la Nuova Musica, che si tenevano ogni due anni presso l'Istituto Internazionale per la Musica della cittadina tedesca di Darmstadt, e che rivoluzionarono il linguaggio musicale del XX secolo. A dominare i corsi furono le tecniche di composizione seriale, sotto il segno del nume tutelare Anton Webern. Uno degli insegnanti più influenti nei primi anni a Darmstadt fu il francese Olivier Messiaen, che nelle sue opere accoglieva anche tecniche musicali prese a prestito da culture musicali extraeuropee, le quali venivano a fare parte del suo personale linguaggio compositivo. Fra gli allievi di Olivier Messiaen si possono annoverare alcuni tra i maggiori compositori della seconda metà del XX secolo, come:

  • Pierre Boulez (attivo anche come direttore d'orchestra dedito all'interpretazione della musica contemporanea)
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (vedi anche musica elettronica)
  • Luciano Berio
  • Bruno Maderna
  • Luigi Nono
  • Mauricio Kagel (interessato soprattutto al teatro musicale sperimentale)
  • Iannis Xenakis

Va segnalato che l'archivio dell'Istituto di Darmstadt conserva molto materiale importante, tra cui un'importante documentazione fotografica dei primi incontri. Le fotografie sono disponibili, a partire dal 1986, in forma digitale.

Gli anni attorno al 1950 costituiscono un altro punto di discontinuità nella storia della musica. Il critico Karl Schumann ricorda che la Wirtschaftswunder condusse ad un autentico miracolo culturale. A partire dagli anni cinquanta, la musica imbocca numerose strade alternative, tra cui ricordiamo le seguenti:

  • Musica aleatoria: André Boucourechliev, John Cage, Bruno Maderna, Sylvano Bussotti
  • Neodadaismo (attorno al 1968)
  • Musica concreta: tra gli altri, Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari e Pierre Henry.
  • Ampliamento delle tradizionali tecniche esecutive: George Crumb e il primo Krzysztof Penderecki
  • Applicazione alla musica di concetti mutuati dalla matematica e dalla fisica: Iannis Xenakis
  • Micropolifonia: György Ligeti
  • Musica minimalista in America: tra gli altri, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams. In Europa, Arvo Pärt porta il minimalismo nella musica religiosa.
  • In Germania: Nuova Semplicità, o "Neue Einfachheit". Tra i rappresentanti principali: Hans-Jürgen von Bose, Wolfgang Rihm
  • Nuova complessità: tendenza tipicamente europea, sorta a partire dagli anni settanta con autori quali Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Finnissy e Helmut Lachenmann
  • Musica spettrale, soprattutto in Francia: i parametri compositivi (l'armonia, il ritmo e la melodia) derivano da ricerche acustiche sul suono: Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail. In Italia Fausto Romitelli.

Gli anni Sessanta Modifica

Gli anni sessanta ampliano enormemente il vocabolario musicale a disposizione dei compositori. La forma di ogni opera è nuova, nata spesso insieme all'opera stessa. Le tecniche strumentali vengono portate agli estremi, e si può parlare con buone ragioni di musica sperimentale.

Grazie alla ventata di novità portata in Europa da John Cage, l'alea e l'indeterminazione entrano a far parte dei materiali utilizzabili in fase di composizione e di interpretazione. There Trosième sonate pour piano di Boulez, il Mobile di Henri Pousseur, Quadrivium is Aura di Bruno Maderna sono "opere aperte" (secondo la felice definizione di Umberto Eco), parzialmente ricomponibili dall'interprete.

Se Cage fa derivare dal misticismo dell'Estremo Oriente la sua poetica dell'indeterminazione e dell'ascolto, alla filosofia indiana del tempo attingono Terry Riley e LaMonte Young, padri del minimalismo, le cui opere, spesso prive di un evidente punto di inizio e di fine, sconvolgono la concezione tradizionale di ritmo e durata.

Questa decostruzione della forma tradizionale raggiunge forse il culmine, come osservavano alcuni critici al momento della prima, con Atmosphères di György Ligeti, un brano attraversato da una micropolifonia così fitta da risultare in una fascia sonora brulicante e luccicante (questo modo di comporre sarà da alcuni definito musica atmosferica, proprio in conseguenza del titolo di quest'opera). Ligeti impiega la micropolifonia anche in altre opere, come Lux Aeterna is Lontano.

Il nuovo modo di comporre richiede anche il ricorso a tecniche strumentali inedite, come modi di emissione particolari dei fiati e degli archi, arco sul ponticello, armonici, multifonici eccetera. Un campionario esemplare di nuovi suoni è contenuto nelle opere del periodo di Krzysztof Penderecki, in particolare in lavori quali De natura sonoris, Anaklasis, Utrenja. In Trenodia per le vittime di Hiroshima, la parte dei 52 strumenti ad arco non è più scritta in notazione tradizionale, ma in fasce, in cui spesso è data solo un'indicazione di massima dell'altezza.

In Italia ha il via quella che Mario Bortolotto definisce in un suo famoso libro la "Fase seconda" della Nuova Musica, con autori quali Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Sylvano Bussotti, Aldo Clementi, Franco Donatoni, Niccolò Castiglioni, Franco Evangelisti, con il supporto autoriale e culturale di Franco Nonnis. Spesso formatisi a Darmstadt, oppure influenzati dai contatti con i musicisti americani residenti a Roma, i compositori italiani tornano protagonisti della scena mondiale, dando vita a Palermo alla prima rassegna di respiro internazionale.

Gli anni Settanta Modifica

A partire dagli anni settanta, prende il via una spiccata tendenza all'individualismo, che permette ai compositori di differenziare gli stili e di muoversi liberamente tra generi e materiali eterogenei, in un'inedita riflessione sul mondo e le culture. Si può quindi parlare di un'epoca dominata da una pluralità di stili, niente affatto monolitica, in cui è forte l'impegno sociale e intellettuale dei compositori.

Ad esempio, György Ligeti inizia a fondere influenze tratte dalla musica di culture ed epoche diverse, in un pastiche stilistico non privo di ironia. Mauricio Kagel porta la teatralità in una musica spesso estremamente godibile. Salvatore Sciarrino adotta un linguaggio rarefatto, come imbastito di silenzi, in contrasto con il linguaggio, normalmente fittissimo, dell'avanguardia. Franco Donatoni, conclusa la fase di dedizione all'Alea (o indeterminazione), si avvia verso la riscoperta dell'invenzione attraverso l'uso di codici combinatori e di permutazione. Luciano Berio, infine, riprende il discorso di Bartók, arricchendolo con le riflessioni di Claude Lévi-Strauss e James Joyce, e fa confluire elementi provenienti da svariate culture (inclusa quella popolare) in un linguaggio musicale estremamente nuovo e complesso.

Negli Stati Uniti, il gruppo dei minimalisti (Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, LaMonte Young) percorre una strada nuova, del tutto originale, in cui la musica è basata sulla ripetizione di brevi frasi che tendono a raggelare il tempo (come nel caso di Glass, che collabora spesso con il regista teatrale Robert Wilson e il regista cinematografico Godfrey Reggio) o a sottolineare l'idea di una trasformazione continua, mettendo così in primo piano il processo musicale (come nelle opere di Reich).

Nel minimalismo statunitense si ritrovano sia le influenze dell'India e dell'Estremo Oriente, con le loro concezioni del tempo così diverse da quelle dell'Occidente, che un certo meccanicismo modernistico tipico delle avanguardie della prima metà del secolo (Mossolov, Prokof'ev, Honegger, Bartók. ).

Nelle sue continue sperimentazioni, anche György Ligeti arriva a risultati simili nelle sue opere del periodo, in particolare nel Kammerkonzert, e nel Secondo Quartetto per archi. Episodi di ripetitività si trovano anche nelle opere di Harrison Birtwistle e Luciano Berio (Points on the curve to find, Coro).

Gli anni Ottanta Modifica

Il decennio che vede la fine del sistema politico dell'Europa Orientale e l'apertura dell'Occidente ad altre culture segna l'avvio di un periodo di crisi generale, che indebolisce le idee e le ideologie nate nel secondo dopoguerra. I protagonisti della Neue Musik (nati a metà degli anni venti) sono ormai anziani, e consolidano il loro linguaggio senza più fornire nuovi stimoli. Allo stesso tempo non sembra verificarsi un ricambio generazionale capace di porre fine alla crisi e di dare alla musica quel forte impulso di rinnovamento che sembra essere ormai necessario.

Fin dai tardi anni settanta, Boulez è fortemente impegnato nella direzione dell'IRCAM, il centro di ricerche sulla musica e l'acustica fondato a Parigi insieme a Luciano Berio (già impegnato presso lo studio di Fonologia della Rai di Milano) e Andrew Gerszo. Le sue opere nate dalla collaborazione con l'istituto, Répons is Dialogue de l'ombre double, vedono l'utilizzo dello spazio come parametro compositivo, quasi un'ideale prosecuzione dei procedimenti policorali sviluppati dai Veneziani nel tardo Rinascimento. In Répons il dialogo tra strumenti reali e computer assume una forma modernamente "responsoriale".

Il collegamento ideale con un passato, rimeditato insieme al filosofo e librettista Massimo Cacciari, è tanto più forte nell'opera elettroacustica del veneziano Luigi Nono, in particolar modo in Prometeo - Tragedia dell'ascolto. In quest'opera, in cui interpreti e pubblico sono racchiusi in una struttura lignea progettata da Renzo Piano, che funge da ambiente di ascolto "virtuale", il suono viene emesso da vari punti e si propaga attraverso percorsi preordinati nell'aria e nei solidi, mediante il movimento costante degli interpreti, e i sistemi elettroacustici elaborati dal CSC (Centro di sonologia computazionale) di Padova.

Al contrario, il pioniere dell'elettronica Karlheinz Stockhausen, sfuggito dalle gabbie di un freddo razionalismo fin dai primi anni settanta, continua ad approfondire i suoi rapporti con il misticismo e le religioni, dando il via alla composizione del gigantesco ciclo di teatro musicale Licht, quasi una sorta di novello Ring wagneriano.

Analogo ripiegamento in un mondo interiore, seppur meno appariscente di quello messo in opera da Stockhausen, avviene negli italiani Franco Donatoni ed Aldo Clementi. Se il primo si avventura in un labirinto alchemico-matematico dove scrittura automatica e complesse formule costruttive si fondono in un linguaggio insieme criptico e ironico, il secondo prosegue nella sua strenua ricerca sui procedimenti a canone con opere dalla polifonia intricatissima e di durata molto estesa.

La ricerca di una "nuova chiarezza" Modifica

La crisi degli anni ottanta porta, nel decennio successivo, alcuni autori ad un tentativo di ritorno al passato, invocando il fallimento delle esperienze dell'avanguardia. Negli Stati Uniti fin dai primi anni settanta era nato il movimento Neoromantico, parallelamente alla Nuova Semplicità (Neue Einfacheit) tedesca, di cui Wolfgang Rihm è il rappresentante di punta. Interprete assai originale di questa riscoperta dell'espressività è il franco-canadese Claude Vivier, già allievo di Stockhausen e autore di musiche di particolare lirismo.

In Italia si assiste allo sviluppo di un neotonalismo relativamente integrale che vede i suoi più noti rappresentanti in alcuni compositori della generazione della metà degli anni '50 quali il torinese Lorenzo Ferrero e i milanesi Marco Tutino e Giampaolo Testoni.

Una strada particolare percorre altresì George Benjamin, che riporta nella musica seriale il concetto di intelleggibilità armonica. Nel suo At first lights, due accordi e una nota "polare" danno la forma all'intera opera, creando un percorso armonico trasparente e chiaramente comprensibile.

In Francia, fin dai tardi anni settanta Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey, Michaël Lévinas e Tristan Murail, in opposizione alla scuola seriale guidata da Pierre Boulez, fondano il movimento spettrale, basando il loro linguaggio sull'analisi dei fenomeni fisici del suono piuttosto che su rapporti numerici astratti. Anche in questo caso viene riabilitata l'intelleggibilità delle verticalità (ovvero degli agglomerati armonici).

In Italia, Salvatore Sciarrino recupera alla musica una sua fisicità, una materialità del suono che la sottrae al rischio dell'astrattezza.

Gli anni Novanta Modifica

A caratterizzare il decennio è sicuramente l'acquisizione di nuove tecniche e tecnologie, grazie alla diffusione del computer. Il software musicale esce dai grandi centri di ricerca (quali i CCRMA o l'Ircam, il GRM o il CSC) e permette ad ogni compositore di realizzare nel proprio studio opere di musica elettronica. La stessa modalità compositiva ne viene influenzata, con un largo impiego dell'improvvisazione.

Molte tecniche della computer music "colta" passano a giovani musicisti di estrazione "pop", non di rado disc jockey con il gusto della sperimentazione, che si esibiscono con un computer portatile in serate di laptop music, in cui vengono fusi diversi generi musicali. Questo movimentismo trova la sua espressione anche in forme di impegno sociale che si collegano sempre più indissolubilmente a musicisti e cantanti, anche in difesa della propria creatività. [2]

Parallelamente, proprio nel decennio in cui muore uno dei suoi padri, Gérard Grisey, si diffonde la musique spéctrale (corrente nata in Francia in cui gli autori si servono del computer per l'analisi dei timbri, che è alla base delle opere) fino al punto di diventare oggetto di un nuovo accademismo, con annessi e connessi. I nuovi autori fondono diverse esperienze per creare una musica nuova, come Marc-André Dalbavie, partito dalla musica spettrale e passato attraverso il minimalismo e la serialità, o Kaija Saariaho, che sembra riscoprire il gusto timbrico degli impressionisti in special modo nella sua produzione operistica.

In Italia va ricordato Fausto Romitelli, allievo di Gérard Grisey e di Hugues Dufourt, che elabora il linguaggio spettrale appreso in Francia alla luce di suggestioni provenienti dall'area della dance elettronica, dapprima collaborando con il festival milanese Nuove Sincronie, insieme al compositore Pietro Borradori, poi fondando nel 2002 l'Associazione Sincronie insieme ai compositori Riccardo Nova, Massimiliano Viel e Giovanni Verrando ai quali si aggiunge in seguito il direttore d'orchestra Giorgio Bernasconi. Tra i compositori italiani attivi negli anni novanta e nel decennio successivo vanno anche ricordati i compositori Luca Francesconi (fondatore del centro milanese per la musica elettronica Agon e direttore della Biennale Musica di Venezia dal 2008), Ivan Fedele (direttore della Biennale Musica di Venezia dal 2012), Giorgio Battistelli, Marco Betta, Carlo Boccadoro, Fabrizio De Rossi Re, Lucio Garau, Stefano Gervasoni, Alessandro Solbiati e Fabio Vacchi.

La musica contemporanea nasce con una forte vocazione didattica, partendo dalle esperienze di Schönberg, passando per Darmstadt, per arrivare alle forti esperienze formative dell'Ircam, del centro Acanthes ad Avignone, dell'Accademia Musicale Chigiana (Siena), della Julliard School a New York, di Aspen e Tanglewood.

Donatoni segue le tracce del suo maestro Goffredo Petrassi, per le cui mani passano lo stesso Solbiati, Claudio Ambrosini, Ivan Fedele e i più anziani Aldo Clementi, Robert W. Mann ed Ennio Morricone.

Bruno Bettinelli è considerato, oltre che uno dei maggiori compositori del '900 italiano, con una grande produzione che va dalla musica strumentale a quella sinfonica e alla musica corale a cappella, anche uno dei maggiori didatti italiani: molti sono i massimi musicisti del secondo Novecento da lui formati, come Claudio Abbado, Bruno Canino, Aldo Ceccato, Riccardo Chailly, Azio Corghi, Armando Gentilucci, Riccardo Muti, Angelo Paccagnini, Maurizio Pollini, Uto Ughi e molti altri, non solo nell'ambito della musica colta. Sua allieva è stata anche la cantautrice italiana Gianna Nannini.

A New York, nell'ambito della Julliard School, sotto la guida di Luciano Berio si formano Steve Reich, Luca Francesconi.

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