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Simone Varriale, Globalization, Music and Cultures of Distinction, The Rise of Pop Music Criticism in Italy

Marilisa Merolla
p. 280-181
Référence(s) :

Simone Varriale, Globalization, Music and Cultures of Distinction, The Rise of Pop Music Criticism in Italy, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

Texte intégral

1This book focuses on the rise of Italian pop music criticism as a new cultural institution which, according to the author, contributed to the “artistic legitimation” of popular music and culture between 1969 and 1977, particularly of American and British pop-rock in Italy. It is a sociological study which, using an interdisciplinary approach, also aims to promote an historical research about the rise of the Italian music press. The volume is organized into three parts.

2Part I. Situating the study. The book’s first part situates the study of the Italian case within a transnational context across three areas of debate: the sociology of cultural taste, the sociology of cultural evaluation and popular music studies, highlighting overlaps and complementary findings. The author here reveals one of his major intellectual influences in this study: the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, particularly Bourdieu’s Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. From this perspective, Varriale aims to expand “Bourdieu’s field theory towards a consideration of global forces and their influence on processes of artistic legitimation” (3).

3Part II. Pop Music Criticism in Italy (1969–1977). The second section of this volume aims to shed light on social and cultural process which, according to the author, signalled the birth of the so-called “specialized music magazine in Italy.” It investigates how the rise of Italian pop music criticism contributed to the drawing of “new distinctions between Anglo-American and Italian, valuable and debased, popular music” (5). The author argues that the emerging of music press “obscured the inequalities of education, class, gender and geographical location” (5). From this perspective, Varriale underlines the role played by the exploding of the Italian Economic Boom in the homogenisation of the Italian youth. This study doesn’t consider the relevance of the national political context of the transition toward the first governments of center-left which, starting from the first 1960s, contributed to the spread of a more secularized society. In fact, previous research has connected the diffusion of Anglo American music to the political process of laicization of the youth, starting from the late 1950s, and highlighting the influence of the international context of the early Cold War (see bibliography). This omission affects Varriale’s thesis: to underscore the role played by Italian Pop Music Criticism in the shaping of two “competing projects” which, between 1969-1977, promoted an “artistic legitimation” of popular music.

4The author considers two different music magazines. The first case is the weekly Ciao 2001, which as one of the most successful music magazines of the 1970s had the function to promote an “Economic Cosmopolitanism,” which according to the author “implied a view of cultural globalization as economic modernization and a subjectivist understanding of cultural hierarchies, which I describe as ‘loose’ aesthetic boundaries” (5). Representative of the second case are the monthlies Muzak and Gong. Two music magazines which were strongly distinguished for their political engagement and, according to the author, had the function to promote a “Political Cosmopolitanism” i.e. “their strategy of engagement privileged the demands of aesthetic innovation rather than political propaganda” (134). Varriale here offers a general overview of the political landscape of the Italian 1970’s and of the increasing connection between music and movements, which only give a few clues to explain how Muzak and Gong contributed to a so-called “Political Cosmopolitanism”.

5Part III. Evaluating Music and Music Criticism. The third part of the volume analyzes the role played by music critics in the shaping of cosmopolitan projects and in the legitimizing of the discourses. Particularly, it considers how critics evaluated rock, jazz and soul, drawing distinctions between the genres and indicating musical trends. Finally, it explains how music critics’ discourses were received by the readers, through the letters published by Ciao 2001, Muzak and Gong in order to explore the reception of their projects of legitimation.

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Capozzi Eugenio (2013), Innocenti evasioni. Uso e abuso politico della musica pop (1954-1980), Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino.

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Merolla Marilisa (2016), “Il rock nell’Italia della guerra fredda culturale,” in Cavallo P. & Iaccio P. (eds.), Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più. LItalia del miracolo tra storia, cinema, musica e televisione, Napoli, Liguori, pp. 135-152.

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— (2005), “La storia d’Italia nei programmi musicali della Rai,” Storia e problemi contemporanei. Cantare la storia, 39, pp. 9-24.

— (2000), “La musica. O della condizione giovanile,” in Morcellini M. (ed.), Il MediaEvo. TV e industria culturale nellItalia del xx secolo, Roma, Carocci.

Piazzoni Irene (2011), La musica leggera in Italia dal dopoguerra agli anni del boom : cultura, consumo, costume, Milano, L’ornitorinco

Pivato Stefano (2007), Bella ciao: canto e politica nella storia dItalia, Roma, Laterza.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Marilisa Merolla, « Simone Varriale, Globalization, Music and Cultures of Distinction, The Rise of Pop Music Criticism in Italy », Volume !, 14 : 2 | 2018, 280-181.

Référence électronique

Marilisa Merolla, « Simone Varriale, Globalization, Music and Cultures of Distinction, The Rise of Pop Music Criticism in Italy », Volume ! [En ligne], 14 : 2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 26 avril 2018, consulté le 17 janvier 2019. URL :

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Marilisa Merolla

Marilisa Merolla (Napoli, 1970) est professeure d’histoire contemporaine à la Sapienza Università di Roma. Elle a fondé et dirige la “Music Making History Research Unit” ( qui collabore avec diverses universités et unités d’enseignement (à travers l’Europe et les États-Unis), ainsi que le GRAMMY Museum. Elle enseigne le son comme source historique.

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Droits d'auteur

L'auteur & les Éd. Mélanie Seteun

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