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Franco Fabbri & Goffredo Plastino (eds.), Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music

Rachel Haworth
p. 238-241
Référence(s) :

Franco Fabri & Goffredo Plastino (eds.), Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music, New York & London, Routledge, 2014

Texte intégral

1This collection of seventeen essays constitutes a fundamental contribution to Italian popular music studies outside of the Italian-speaking community. It is edited by Franco Fabbri and Goffredo Plastino, two leading voices in popular music studies and important figures for IASPM. The volume is part of Routledge’s Global Popular Music Series, also edited by Fabbri and Plastino, which aims to provide specialist and non-specialist audiences alike with a well-informed and up-to-date introduction to different world popular music scenes. The series thus begins to re-dress the balance in the field, which has tended to privilege British and North American music as an object of study. As a result of these aims, the volumes in this series have been written by those living and working in the countries in which they write. All chapters in Made in Italy, then, are by leading scholars and journalists of Italian music in Italy. The contributions cover major figures, styles, and social contexts of popular music in xxth century Italy. Together, they provide a comprehensive introduction to this field that is particularly useful to non-Italian speakers, and allows the reader to access and understand the genres and figures that have had and continue to have lasting significance for the Italian popular music soundscape.

2However, the aim of the volume moves beyond offering a mere introduction. As Fabbri and Plastino explain, “the goal of this book is […] more ambitious than simply to provide a perspective on the popular music of a more or less ‘remote’ country: it offers examples of different ways to approach popular music, which can be applied to other genres and scenes” (xiv). What is also important here is the variety of disciplinary approaches that permeate all chapters of the volume, which demonstrates that Italian popular music studies have always “been strictly related to an international context” (Ibid.). The narratives that the volume constructs about what constitutes Italian popular music, how Italians refer to it, its place within academia in Italy, and the types of genres that make up music “made in Italy” thus interact with the wider critical frameworks of musicology, sociology, discourse analysis, star studies and cultural history.

3The volume itself is divided into three sections, which focus on significant themes, figures, and genres. The chapters on themes “deal with conventions and stereotypes that have contributed to the creation of an identity for Italian popular music and popular music studies” (13) and thus question Italian specificity as far as popular music is concerned. Marcello Sorce Keller traces the existence of a “musical Italy” with particular reference to the process of unification during the xixth century and to the musics that were popular and were consumed during this period. Roberto Agostini examines the Sanremo Festival and its role in establishing a particular way of “doing song” in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s. Franco Fabbri analyses the Italian bitt (beat) movement and the extent of its relationship with and independence from 1960s Anglo-American music. Goffredo Plastino focuses on 1970s Neapolitan music, demonstrating the exchanges, influences and collaborations that were taking place as part of the Naples power music scene. And Francesco D’Amato highlights the specificities of the music markets in Italy, tracing the changes that have taken place in recent years from the point of view of consumption of recorded music, live performance, new businesses, funding, and practice.

4In the section on singer-songwriters, the writers focus on the canzone d’autore genre and on its key proponents. The genre itself plays “a special role in the history of both Italian music and popular music studies” and can “be identified with the renewal of Italian culture that took place during and after WWII in literature, cinema, theatre, visual arts, and modern classical music” (83). Jacopo Tomatis sets the scene with his chapter on the conceptualisation of the singer-songwriter as an artist, and the significance of ideology, authenticity and style within the genre rules of the canzone d’autore. Luca Marconi then focuses on Luigi Tenco, and offers a semiotic analysis of a selection of his songs that illustrates the singer-songwriter’s new and individual approach to songwriting. Individuality is also key in Jacopo Conti’s reading of Lucio Battisti as an (un)orthodox singer-songwriter. Errico Pavese then analyses the stylistic features of the late collaborative work of Fabrizio De André and Ivano Fossati, “two of the most representative Italian cantautori” (123). Finally, Alessandro Carrera examines the works and career of Franco Battiato.

5The third section of the volume focuses on stories which “all share a peculiarity that has made and makes them instantly recognizable in Italian popular music” (149). The case studies here are diverse yet they again pick up on some of the geographical and cultural specificities about Italian popular music that the previous chapters highlight. For example, Carlo Pestelli’s chapter outlines the impact in 1960s Italy of the Cantacronache, a group of musicians, singers, novelists, and poets who sought to revolutionise the Italian popular music scene by writing “serious” songs. Here, aspects of the previous analyses of the Sanremo Festival and of the political potential of the cantautori are contextualised further. Questions about what it means to be popular, which emerge in the analyses of specific singer-songwriters and of the Italian music industry, are the focus of Paolo Prato’s chapter. He examines the careers of two of the most successful and popular Italian pop singers, Mina and Adriano Celentano. Alessandro Brutus expands on the ideas about Italian progressive rock presented in part I in his chapter on the presence of this music in the UK during the 1970s. Elena Boschi adds to our understanding of singer-songwriters in Italy by analysing the film Radiofreccia to examine how the rock singer-director Luciano Ligabue uses music in this film to discuss issues of cultural identity. Vincenzo Perna’s chapter then revisits the Naples music scene, but moves the analysis to the present-day by considering the depiction of contemporary Neapolitan neo-melodic music as “problem music”.

6The volume then features a coda, which examines how “Italian” Italian music actually is. Here, Dario Martinelli analyses the way in which “Italian music is portrayed and marketed abroad” (209) and considers the extent to which cultural stereotypes from within and outside of Italy influence conceptualisations of what constitutes Italian popular music. His chapter picks up on the relationship between music and identity that Sorce Keller introduces in the volume’s opening chapter. The concluding chapter is then an interview with the renowned Italian musician and composer, Ennio Morricone, and further opens up the debate about what constitutes Italian popular music. These are both key ideas that will continue to inform future research in this area.

7The wide range of contributors and topics in this volume is one of its strengths. Many important figures, movements, and features of the Italian popular music landscape are introduced here. Of course, the length of the chapters included here often leaves the reader wanting to know more, and there are genres, individuals, and movements that are only mentioned in passing. The inclusion of a detailed bibliography, which suggests additional reading on the topics covered here, will be useful to students and researchers alike to begin to explore these areas in more depth. Overall, the volume is well-written and readable. The writers’ individual styles come through each chapter. Occasionally, this means that there is some influence of Italian syntax on the English but this does not impede the reader’s enjoyment or appreciation of this well-researched volume. This is a significant volume for the introduction of Italian popular music to an English-speaking audience and will be fundamental reading for students, researchers, and non-specialist readers alike.

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Référence papier

Rachel Haworth, « Franco Fabbri & Goffredo Plastino (eds.), Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music », Volume !, 14 : 1 | 2017, 238-241.

Référence électronique

Rachel Haworth, « Franco Fabbri & Goffredo Plastino (eds.), Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music », Volume ! [En ligne], 14 : 1 | 2017, mis en ligne le 13 décembre 2017, consulté le 01 octobre 2020. URL :

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Rachel Haworth

Rachel Haworth enseigne l'italien à l'Université de Hull. Ses publications portent sur différents aspects des musiques populaires italiennes et françaises des années 1950 et 1960. Sa recherche s'intéresse notamment aux questions de genre, de performance, de notoriété, de légitimation et de valeur dans les musiques populaires françaises et italiennes d'après-guerre.

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Droits d'auteur

L'auteur & les Éd. Mélanie Seteun

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