Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Music Portal

These are the entries in Naples: Life, Death & Miracles dealing with music. This includes entries for composers as well as general items about musical theaters (such as San Carlo) and items about popular music, ballet, folk music and the Neapolitan Song.

Audio excerpts are available as indicated here.

An 8-part series entitled "Obscure Composers". All parts link from this first page. The series makes reference to about 40 different composers from the 1700s to the present.

Parts 1         11      12      & 60      of Everything is related to Naples

Also, an article on "Film Music and Nino Rota" at the bottom of this page.
       Also, an article on the Auschwitz Oratorium by Penderecki here.

What's this? Click.                     

ancient music
Barbella, Emanuele
bagpipes, Neapolitan   
Balfe, Michael  
ballet in Naples  
ballo in maschera, un  
Barber of Seville, the
Barenboim, Daniel  
Beethoven (1)   ( 2 )
Bellini, Vincenzo  
Birds of Passage (book review)
Bixio, Cesare Andrea
Bruni, Sergio  
Burney, Charles   
Cantata dei Pastorori (Shepherds' Cantata)
Capurro & di Capua (& authors of 'o sole mio)
Capurro, Giovanni (short bio)
Carasale, Angelo (archt. San Carlo)

Caro mio ben
Caruso, Enrico (& entries linked from this one)  
Carusone, Renato
Castrati (1)  (2)   (3)
Center for Ancient Music  
choir, university
Christmas music   
Cilea, Francesco
Cimarosa, Domenico   
Comic Opera 
composers (other)
conservatory, music (+ linked articles)
copyright (1)  &  (2)
Curcio, Maria
Donizetti, Gaetano
Dove sta Zazà
Eros and music in Pompeii
Gesù Nuovo facade (music symbols)
Gesualdo, Carlo

ghost singers in film dubbing
goigs (Sard. religious songs)
Grossatesta, Gaetano
Guarracino, lo
Guitar in Naples, the
instruments, medieval
Labache, Luigi
Lomax, Alan
mandolin, Neapolitan
macchietta (song type)
Maldacea, Nicola
Melita (tune to "Eternal Father...")  
Mozart 2, a Fantasy
Mozart in Naples
Mozart, Zaide, "Ruhe sanft..."
music (misc.)  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
musical instruments (folk)
music education
musicals in Naples
Muti, Riccardo
National Anthem of Naples
Neapolitan Song (1)  (2)   (3)
Neapolitan songs (pseudo-)
Neapolitan song texts 
Organ restoration  
outlaw music (1)   (2)
Paisiello, G.
Parthenopean Song, archives of
Pergolesi, G.B.
Pompeii, music in
Provenzale, Francesco   
ratchet (instrument)
Ravello (1)  (2)  
Rossini, G. (1)   (2) 
Salas, Esteban
San Carlo theater
San Carlino theater
sceneggiata, the
SIAE (Ital. Soc. Auth. & Ed.) 
street pianos (1)  (2)
Thalberg, Sigismund    
That's Amore  
Verdi and San Carlo
Verdi's music for the king of Naples
Verdi Municipal Theater, Salerno
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra  
zampogna (1)  (2)

auxiliary article #1- added 15 June 2021(Nino Rota, directly below)              auxiliary article #2- Penderecki, added 11 March 2022  here

Film Music & Nino Rota
In what follows I use the term 'film music'. You can also say 'film score', 'background score', 'background music', 'film soundtrack', and, 'screen music'.

I don't remember exactly why I went to see the movie, The Godfather, when it came out (1972). I remember the place,
a theater in Los Angeles near UCLA. I also remember that it cost a hefty four bucks! (That is about ten grand in today's money!) Maybe I had heard it was a great film (which it was), but I knew nothing of the book, story, Italy or the mafia none of that. I do remember that when I sat down, I was very curious what the music would be like. My friends and I were great fans of film music and knew all about Hollywood big-time composers such as Alfred Newman (Captain from Castile-1947), Max Steiner (King Kong-1933), Dmitri Tiomkin (High Noon-1952), and others. When the lights dimmed and the film started, the screen stayed dark at first and then there was music in the darkness a soft, understated melody played by a solo trumpet, moving chromatically [in half-steps]. Very effective. I also got married later that year to a woman from Naples, Italy. I moved there to learn if the music in the film (composed by Nino Rota) was really as Italian as they said it was. It was.

I had never heard of Nino Rota, and I'm very sure that we didn't know that much about many film composers, especially foreign
ones (ugh!). Also, we had never seen a real "silent movie" (that was in the dark times reckoned as B.U. Before Us, so it didn't count). Even silent films (the first "talkie" was in the late 1920s) had pianists to accompany the film, not so much for aesthetics, but rather to drown out the distracting racket of the film projectors. But some silent films had music composed especially for the film, played by a pianist and even orchestras. Examples of this include Victor Herbert's score in 1915 to The Fall of a Nation (a sequel to The Birth of a Nation) and Saint-Saëns' music for The Assassination of the Duke of Guise in 1908. Much of the music was not original, yet known to the general public and used to stir appropriate emotions. Pianists kept their personal music folders of what to play for sadness, suspense, action scenes, etc. so it took pretty sharp pianists to keep even a small movie chugging along, keeping one eye on the music, and the other on the screen, making sure they got the timing just right (hard to do because of inconsistencies of projection speeds!) If you are at all a fan of film history you will know of some silent European films, say Fritz Lang's Metropolis (German, 1927) or Friedrich Murnau's Nosferatu (German, 1922). Both came with sheet music provided by known composers. Other points of  interest in the history of silent films include minimalist composer Erik Satie's, frame-by-frame synchronous film score for director René Clair's avant-garde short Entr'acte (France, 1924) and then the eerie use of no music at all (!) in Fritz Lang's "M" (Germany, 1931) but a human whistle (from Grieg's Peer Gynt) by the lunatic child-murderer (played by Peter Lorre) as he stalked another victim.

Nino Rota

Giovanni Rota Rinaldi (December 1911–1979) is better known as Nino Rota. He was a composer, pianist, conductor and teacher best known for his film scores, notably for the films of Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. He also composed the music for two of Franco Zeffirelli's Shakespeare films, and for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, earning the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Godfather Part II (1974).

(photo: child prodigy Nino Rota at age 12)

During his long career, Rota was a very prolific composer, especially of music for films. He wrote more than
150 scores for Italian and international productions from the 1930s until his death in 1979, an average of three scores each year over a 46-year period. In his most productive period, from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, he wrote as many as ten scores every year, and sometimes more, with a remarkable thirteen film scores in 1954 alone. In addition to this vast body of film work, he composed ten operas, five ballets and dozens of other orchestral, choral and chamber works. He also composed the music for many theater productions by Visconti, Zeffirelli and Eduardo De Filippo and taught for many years at the Liceo Musicale in Bari, where he was the director for almost 30 years.

Nino Rota was born into a musical family in Milan. He wrote
his first oratorio, L'infanzia di San Giovanni Battista at age 11. It played in Milan and Paris shortly thereafter. He wrote a three-act lyrical comedy about Hans Christian Andersen, Il Principe Porcaro, when he was 13 and it was performed in 1926. He studied at the Milan conservatory and then attended the Conservatory of  Santa Cecilia in Rome and graduated in 1930.

Rota was encouraged by Arturo Toscanini, and he moved to the United States where he lived from 1930 to 1932. He won a scholarship to
the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia, where he was taught conducting by Fritz Reiner. Returning to Milan, he wrote a thesis on the Renaissance composer Gioseffo Zarlino. Rota earned a degree in literature from the University of Milan, graduating in 1937, and began a teaching career that led to the directorship of the Liceo Musicale in Bari (noted above), a position he held from 1950 until 1978. That conservatory is named for Bari's native son and composer Niccolò Piccinni. If your tourist tongue is stumbling over the similarities in Pacini, PUCCINI, Piccinni, and Piccinini (Alessando, 1566-1638, a lutenist from Bologna) you should already know the one IN CAPS, known to English tourists as The Big Pooch. Fair enough. Other (P+vowel+c(c)+in(n)i) combos exist, such as "Pecini" and "Poccinni", but one is a lawyer and the other a kick-boxer. Porcini are mushrooms. In any case, there is now a Nino Rota auditorium at the conservatory.

Nino Rota was born to and for music. It was his native language and his life. He wrote film scores, operas, chamber music, orchestral works, choral works, and concertos for various instruments.

Federico Fellini said of Rota:

He was someone with that rare quality from the world of intuition of children, simple men, sensitive and innocent people. He would suddenly say something and dazzle us all. As soon as he arrived, stress left and everything turned festive.

Wikipedia has a list of his compositions here, and a list of his film scores here.
A commercial website on him is here.

auxiliary article #2- added 11 March 2022

When Whispers Speak
Krzysztof Penderecki - Auschwitz Oratorium

I met an American composer in Berlin in the 1960s who was "into" electronic music --not new electronic instruments for Science Fiction movies, like the theramin, but that other stuff, like static and fingernails on blackboards.  I said I didn't like it:
ME: "I don't think it's music."                   HE: "What's music?"       
ME: "Organized sound....."                       HE: "That's organized sound. Took a while, too."
ME: "...that reflects our cultural values."   HE: "Well, we live in a world that is increasingly mechanical,
                                                              industrial, and electronic. You don't get out much, do you?
                                                              I didn't say never listen to Beethoven's 6th."  
ME: "O.K. Maybe I just don't like it."         HE: "Fine. I accept your apology."
I know. I lost that round.

Composers like John Cage, Henry Cowell, and George Crumb may use sounds from outside the orchestra by recording "found" sounds, or by making music out of objects not typically considered musical (amplified cactus, for example). Or like
Charles Ives "stretch" time and mesh harmonies to make it sound as if two marching bands are passing each other in a parade playing different marches in different  keys. A few other things:

4'33" by John Cage  (guy comes out, sits at the piano and doesn't play for 4'33". (Yell "encore"!)
Organ2/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) — John Cage (a cathedral in Halberstadt, Germany has been playing the piece so slowly that it is not expected to finish until some time in the year 2640.
It's not all new music, either: ex. Fugue in G Minor by Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti said his cat,
Pulcinella, liked to walk across the keyboard. One day, in one of pussy's unexpected performances,     the melody we now know as the Cat Fugue caught Domenico's attention, so he ripped it off.
(When Scarlatti died, the cat ate him.)        
Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti — (roughly, "humorous duet for two cats") tells the story of two cats meeting, lashing out at each other, and eventually making friends in an operatically styled duet using only the word "meow". The work was published unattributed, but most critics think it was Rossini.

And so on. A good one is Mozart's Musical Joke, written intentionally to be as bad as possible. Mozart
disobeyed many harmonic rules of the time, created cloyingly repetitive patterns, and even wrote parts that sound as if the musicians were playing wrong notes. We've all been stirred by music, and most of the many things written about that phenomenon say it is pleasurable: "Chills run up and down my spine" (line by Ira Gershwin in "Long Ago and Far Away"), changes in breathing, heart-rate, body temperature, goosebumps, piloerection (look it up). If it all happens at the same time, you're in love.

I'm talking about something else, broadly related as an "emotional response to music"
how music can destroy you. I came across a note to myself from years ago after I attended a performance of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki's (1933– 2020, image, above right) Auschwitz Oratorium for orchestra and choir. It was written for the inauguration on 16 April 1967 of the memorial to the murdered victims in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. The part I recall vividly is at the end, in the "Dies Irae". The choral texts of the whole Oratorium are from the Bible, from the Eumenides by Aischylos, as well as modern Polish and French poems translated into Latin (except for the Greek quotations, kept in the original Greek.) The Oratorium is in three-parts ("Lamentatio" "Apocalypsis", and "Apotheosis"). The "Dies Irae" is a large crescendo and descrescendo, building and fading with pounding rhythms, dissonances, clusters of microtones, and silences so abrupt they were loud. The section I most recall was at the end. I was staring at the seat back in front of me, not looking up until I heard a "white" shuffling, a rustling sound. I looked up and saw that the choir was whispering syllables (maybe Polish, or maybe just broken syllables with no meaning) to represent the voices of the dead. When it was over, no one moved. There was no applause at first. It seemed sacrilegious. I felt exhausted and beaten up. I marvel at the composer's command of orchestral and vocal resources. Truly, Penderecki was an amazing composer, but if I have another chance to hear this pieces, I won't.
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