Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Jairo Moreno


This thesis explores the relationship of voice, language, and politics in Italian musical history. I do this through a double geographical and chronological lens: first, the city of Milan, a powerful political and cultural interface between Italy and Central Europe; secondly, the years 1955-1974, key decades in the constitution of Italy’s first democratic government and years of vertiginous anthropological changes across the peninsula.Across the four chapters of my thesis, I sketch a heterogeneous and thickly populated network of musical activities—ranging from high-modernist tape music to opera, neofolk records, to pop hits. I argue the musical production for voice of this time expresses long-standing anxieties about speech and communication through the recurring use of nonsense languages, distorted recorded speech, and para-linguistic phenomena such as

laughter as musical materials. The root of these anxieties lies in a version of Italy’s fivecentury-old language question—the question of Italy’s absent common tongue—and at the same time, a European Enlightenment tradition that sets Italy as the southern land of the beautiful voice, and yet also ineffective policies and underdeveloped language faculties. What is at stake in the musical and vocal production of 1950s and 1970s Milan, then, is a potential philosophy of the voice as neither aesthetic excess nor as carrier of language, but as an unresolved multiplicity of articulations, languages, and political subjectivities.

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