Setting the Tone of the Southern Question

Music and/as Fatalism in Italian Cinema of the Economic Miracle

  • Maurizio Corbella Università degli Studi di Milano
Keywords: Italy’s questione meridionale (Southern Question), orientalism in one country, fatalism, Italian film music, topic theory

Abstract

This article explores film music’s role in shaping the discourse of Italy’s questione meridionale (“Southern Question”) during the long 1960s. Part of its main argument is that music, working as a subliminal agent in film dramaturgies, impacted the perception of the Italian south on an affective, non-verbal level. It focuses on the trope of fatalism, which has often been attached to southern-ness, and examines how it was musically fleshed out in film narratives. Each of the article’s three sections tackles one specific nuance of fatalism (“sublime,” “grotesque,” and “cynical”) as it is elicited by the combination of music and the moving image. It unpacks film music’s agency by referencing topic theory and leitmotif theory, discussing film composers’ backgrounds and production practice, and tracking the historical-cultural timeliness of specific musicodramatic configurations, with reference to the Italian economic “miracle.”

Author Biography

Maurizio Corbella, Università degli Studi di Milano

Maurizio Corbella is senior lecturer in musicology at the University of Milan, where he received his PhD in 2010. He had previous appointments at the Universities of Vienna and Kiel and received research grants from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel. He co-chairs the Sound and Music in Media workgroup of the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS). His chief interests and publications focus on music and sound in audiovisual media, popular music and cultural musicology. He has published articles on Italian film music, electroacoustic music in film, and the music biopic in international peer-reviewed journals (Music and the Moving ImageCinéma&Cie,CinémasIASPM@Journal) and essays collections (Leuven University Press, Routledge). He co-edited (with Ilario Meandri) the special double issue "Music, Sound and Production Process in Italian Cinema (1950-75)" for the journal Musica/Tecnologia (2015). He is the English translator of Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words (Oxford University Press, 2019).

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Published
2019-09-09
How to Cite
Corbella, M. (2019). Setting the Tone of the Southern Question. Journal of Film Music, 8(1-2), 32-50. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.37319