1. A Brief History of the Tarantella Revival: Exploring Tarantella through the “Southern Question” Debate
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chap ter 1 A Brief History of the Tarantella R evival Exploring Tarantella through the Southern Question Debate As is often the case with folk-revival movements, the changes inaugurated by thepost-1990srevival,thefocusofmyfieldworkresearch,havenotonlypopularizedthetarantellarhythms —especiallythepizzicatraditionfromtheApulia region—but also created tensions, as each individual or group participating in this process holds a specific understanding of what these music and dance traditions mean and how they should be diffused and preserved. While it is not my concern to define what southern Italian folk music and dances should be, in this chapter I seek to reflect on the social and political stakes that have informed the production and transmission of tarantella since the 1990s. I plan to do so by drawing on the terms of these debates, which center on the notions of authenticity, tradition, identity, and place. In addition, my analysis of these debates suggests that they are important especially because they reflect the ways inwhichscholars,performers,andculturalbrokersnegotiateaparticularimage oftheItalianSouth,animagethatoftenchallengestheonesportrayedthrough popularculture,boththroughouttheItalianpeninsulaandintheUnitedStates. Inthefirsthalfofthischapter,Iwilltraceabriefoverviewofthemajordynamics and themes emerging from the post-1990s tarantella revival, as well as its antecedent, the 1970s folk music revival; in the second half, I will analyze the majorscholarlyargumentssurroundingthecurrenttarantellarevival,particularly their connection with the Southern Question debate, in order to illustrate the significance of these two revival moments in relation to southern Italian culture today. 32  •  chap ter 1 1970s: Politically Engaged Italian Folk Music The “global tarantella” phenomenon represents the tip of the iceberg in a processofrevitalizationthatstartedinthe1960sand1970s .Thefieldworkresearch conducted by American folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in Italy in 1954–55 together with Italian ethnomusicologist Diego Carpitella, and the collection of Italian folk-song recordings derived from that experience, largely contributed to the study of Italian folk music in post–World War II Italy. The collection contained about three thousand recordings dated July 1954 through January 1955 and collected for the Columbia World Library project; the materialgatheredbyLomaxandCarpitellainsouthernItalywassovastthatthetwo scholars also decided to publish it as a separate disc anthology titled Southern ItalyandtheIslands(Plastino2008,47).BothLomax’savant-gardemethodological approach and his observations about Italian folk music spurred a renewed interest in the field and in many ways contributed to the contemporary field of Italian ethnomusicology (18, 31); for example, Lomax noted that “Italian folk musichascomedowntoourtimeasthemostvaried,themostantiqueandvery possiblytherichestoraltraditioninwesternEurope”(quotedinR.Cohen2003, 129).Inparticular,Lomaxwasinterestedinexploringandrecordingforthefirst time “Italian peasant music” (126), such as tarantella, which “has lived almost withoutcontactwiththegreatstreamsofItalianfine-artmusic.Ithasfollowed its own course, unknown and neglected, like a great underground river” (127). He also pointed out that a “complete hiatus between folk art and fine art is one of the distinctive features of Italian cultural history” (127), thus suggesting a general lack of interest in oral culture at the time. HavingworkedextensivelywithLomax,DiegoCarpitellawasabletorealize not only the importance of this work of documentation, but also the need to continue researching oral cultural material that had never been documented beforeandwasabouttobecoveredoverorinexorablychangedbytheincreasing urbanization and industrialization of the 1950s (Carpitella 1974, 87). In those sameyears,otherItalianscholars—suchasmusiccriticandjournalistRoberto Leydi, who had assisted Lomax during his fieldwork trip and later founded a folk-revivalgroupcalledAlmanaccoPopolare(Fabbri2015,640),1 andhistorian andpoliticalactivistGianniBosio,thefounderofIstitutoErnestodeMartino— similarlystarteddocumentingandstudyingItalianfolkmusicandalso“beganto thinkthatpopularsongscouldbemadeintoalessapoliticalmedium”(Carrera 2001, 330). Indeed, what all these scholars had in common was a more or less explicit commitment to bringing the “life struggles of ordinary ‘folk’ . . . to the attention of the general public in order that their plight might be ameliorated A Brief History of the Tarantella Revival   • 33 (andthattheymightnotbeforcedtoemigrate)”(DelGiudice2009b,7).Gianni Bosio, for example, created the Istituto Ernesto de Martino in Rome in honor of the anthropologist who famously studied southern Italian folk culture; the institute was committed to “documenting and enriching the counterculture expressed by the rural and working classes” (Carrera 2001, 331). An important attempt in this direction was also made by the politically engaged group Cantacronache, based in the city of Turin, which was founded in 1958 and included both musicians and major literary figures such as Italo CalvinoandUmbertoEco .Soonenough,thegroupstartedaddingItalianfolksongs totheirrepertoireandalsocollaboratingwithMilan-basedfolkloristsRoberto Leydi, Gianni Bosio, and others (Fabbri 2015, 640); this choice was an explicit reaction to the clichéd popular songs that were being increasingly advertised by the media as well as by Festival di Sanremo, a nationally renowned venue formainstreamItalianmusic(Portelli2001,263).Infact,muchItalianpopular musicofthe1950sandearly1960sconsistedof“songsthatwereoftenpleasant to listen to, and cheerful in tone (with occasional touches of a gentle irony— never permitted to transmute into social comment . . . and most importantly, they were acceptable to the establishment” (Pestelli 2013, 155). In this sense, Cantacronache’s phenomenon, with its attention to lyrical quality and social issues, was a “significant break with the existing popular music tradition, always resolutely closed to even...


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