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Voices of Dissent

Interdisciplinary Approaches to New Italian Popular and Political Music


Giovanni Pietro Vitali

This book is an interdisciplinary analysis of an art form that is crucial to the understanding of Italian contemporary society: political music from the 1960s to today. The musical activities of left-wing and right-wing bands and singer-songwriters reveal deep rifts in a country which, even today, has not yet come to terms with fascism, the political hatred of the Years of Lead, nor the social division of the 2000s, which climaxed in the Genoa Group of Eight summit in 2001.

This book aims to describe Italian political music, highlighting its relationship with important international genres like American folk music revival, the French chansonniers, punk, ska, reggae and alterlatino as well as traditional music from all over the world. These musical influences shed light on a connection to linguistic dynamics that particularly binds the Italian, Spanish, French and English languages.

A case study based on a corpus of forty-one bands and singer-songwriters uses cultural, digital humanities and literary techniques to provide insights into the sociolinguistic aspects of Italian and reveal the linguistic patterns that are typical of politics and gender discourse. The book also presents a comparative study of the relationship between the lyrics of new popular musicians and literature across the globe.

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Musicians throughout the world have often attempted to express political opinions or convey messages in their work and to use their status and fame as a platform to intervene in public debate. At the time of writing, American musicians are voicing criticism of President Donald Trump. The field of popular music studies has seen a number of academic analyses of the relationship between music and politics in various countries. Regarding the English-speaking world, they include work on the counterculture of the late 1960s in the United States and the struggle against racism in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s or against Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The political thrust of particular genres such as punk and reggae has also been frequently examined. However, with a few notable exceptions, there is a relative paucity of work in English on Italian popular music and its interaction with politics. The non-specialist may be tempted to assume that there is little of interest beyond the annual Festa de l’Unità, which is often referenced. Giovanni Pietro Vitali’s groundbreaking work on New Italian Popular and Political Music (NPP) is therefore an important and welcome addition to the literature.

Vitali situates musicians’ political commitments clearly in the context of developments in Italian society since the 1920s. He thus takes into account the particularities of Italy, such as the rise of fascism, the role of partisans in the liberation of the country during the Second World War, the significance of anti-fascism in post-war...

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