Reception and impact of Italian popular music abroad: stereotypes and national identity
Although Italian music is mainly identified with opera, its popular music repertoire has found a place in the international arena for more than 150 years. It crossed the borders via the ambulant musicians who wandered all along Europe and the Americas in the late XIXth century, then it became a steady feature of the recording industry in its many versions. The lecture focuses on the globalization of songs, particularly on the import/export between the Anglophone market and a peripheral country: Italian popular music is viewed from the perspective of cover records, which provides quite a different story of the domestic product. Contrarily to the most obvious approach, which considers Italy as one of the countries which have been imitating foreign styles and translating English and American hits for decades, I will offer another, less known view, when Italian songs are covered by English speaking artists and become part of a worldwide shared culture. Music examples will include Neapolitan songs, dance songs, instrumentals, tarantellas and pop songs from the Sixties, which was the golden age of cover records in Italy.
The extraordinary raise of popular music in the years between the wars, involved a unprecedented discovery of the body and its energetic potential both in the human relationship sphere and in the entertainment industry. Doing away with traditional dance practices such as the waltz, the polka and the quadrille – associated with the Old World - the jazz dances which had appeared in the New World in the early XXth century brought along a wind of change that impacted on cinema, theatre and music. For the first time, Afro-American culture played a central role in shaping new nation's habits, something which was soon extended to the whole Western world. The lecture will trace a brief history of popular dance from the Jazz Age to the Swing Era, mainly focusing on musical theater and film musicals. Not a technical lecture on dance practices but an attempt at locating these dances at the center of cultural studies. We will watch footage from Fred Astaire to the Nicholas Brothers, from the Whitey Lindy hoppers to Judy Garland: a tale of effervescence which can help understand contemporary developments on the dancefloor.