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CODE 84418
SEMESTER 1° Semester


Starting from the second half of the 20th century, Western art music has experienced a vertiginous acceleration in terms of the elaboration of new writings, aesthetics, technologies, ways of performing, and the relationship with society and production systems; the status of the composer and the work of art has changed over the years. The course deals with the plurality of these phenomena, relating them to the historical-political processes and artistic-cultural trends of the western world from the post-World War II period to the present.



The aim of the course is to introduce students to the fundamental questions in the historical course of art music in the 20th and 21st centuries, to bring them to a more than naive awareness of today's aesthetic horizon of composing, and to provide them with the theoretical tools necessary for a well-informed evaluation of the phenomenon of music today.


The course aims at introducing students to the fundamental issues of the historical course of Western art music in the 20th and 21st centuries, contextualising it with respect to the historical-political changes and artistic-cultural trends that have animated the international scene from the post-World War II period to the present. The aim is to provide students with the theoretical tools necessary to orient themselves among the main aesthetic-compositional issues, to distinguish the main musical genres and to understand the contribution of the most relevant authors. An interdisciplinary approach will be privileged, so as to make the student more aware of the close interaction that music has established (and continues to establish) with literature, the arts, philosophical, political and social reflection, proving to be a fundamental component of western culture.

At the end of the lessons, students will be able to find their way through the varied panorama of Western art music from the post-World War II period to the present day, will have acquired the necessary skills to distinguish the most representative genres and trends, and will have developed the tools to understand the main linguistic, stylistic and aesthetic issues, which they will be able to correlate with contemporary developments in the artistic-cultural sphere and with major historical and social changes.


Lectures will be held in presence.

Although not compulsory, attendance is strongly recommended due to the didactics based on constant audio and video exemplification.


Avant-garde musical theatre in Italy in the second half of the 20th century

The course will deal with the main paths that western art music traced in the second half of the 20th century, illustrating both the elements of continuity with respect to the previous European tradition and the factors of innovation and, in certain aspects, even of rupture. It will introduce the new artistic and intellectual challenges that composers faced in the Europe undergoing material and spiritual reconstruction after the trauma of World War II, the contribution of musicians to the political and cultural turmoil of the following decades, and their different relationship to a world in continuous and unstoppable change.

After tracing an overview of western art music production in the second half of the 20th century, the course will focus on the Italian experimental avant-garde and, in particular, on their fruitful but not easy approach to musical theatre. In fact, the young composers active after the Second World War approached this issue with a certain caution and only after articulated theoretical debates, feeling the need to dialectically confront the cumbersome legacy of opera. This led between the end of the 1950s and the 1980s to various experiences of rethinking the traditional mechanisms of musical theatre, starting from the relationship between 'libretto' and score to the very nature of the verbal text, dramaturgical structures, the role of performers, the management of stage space, and the use of new technologies, in some cases arriving at the dismantling of the idea of authorship in favour of collective projects. In addition to serving as a fundamental space for linguistic, dramaturgical and performance experimentation, post World War II Italian musical theatre was also a privileged place for the expression of political, ethical and existential conceptions, actively participating in the great debates that animated those decades.

These issues will be exemplified on the basis of the most representative composers and works of the various tendencies, which will be discussed in class through extensive use of audiovisual aids.


1. Guido Salvetti, La nascita del Novecento. Torino, EDT, 1991, only sections 14-16, 18-21, 30-31, 33-39, 45-46.

​2. Andrea Lanza, Il secondo Novecento. Torino, EDT, 1991.

3. Philippe Albèra, Il teatro musicale, in Enciclopedia della musicaIl Novecento, I, a cura di Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Margaret Bent, Rossana Dalmonte, Mario Baroni, Torino, Einaudi, 2001, pp. 223-282, only sections 7-10 (pp. 256-282).

4. Teatro di avanguardia e composizione sperimentale per la scena in Italia: 1950-1975. A cura di Gianmario Borio, Giordano Ferrari e Daniela Tortora, Venezia, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 2017, only pp. 1-103; 235-257 (

For non-attendees, add also:

5. Paul Griffiths, La musica del Novecento. Torino, Einaudi, 2014, only Parte seconda. Posizioni e direzioni. Dal 1950, pp. 161-323.

N. B. Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 are available at the university library and/or in the bookshop; No. 3 can be consulted online and downloaded free of charge as a PDF file. Audio-visual examples, readings, and in-depth digital resources will be offered on the Aulaweb: although they are not part of the examination programme, these materials will allow some of the issues addressed in class to be explored in depth.

The bibliography may be subject to change and it is therefore advisable to wait until the start of the lectures before purchasing or borrowing.


Exam Board






Wednesday 21st September, 4 p.m.

Class schedule




Oral examination


The examination will consist of checking the teaching content and the relevant bibliography. Knowledge of the history of Western art music from the post-World War II period to the present day, the ability to distinguish the most relevant genres and trends, and an understanding of the main linguistic, stylistic and aesthetic issues will be ascertained. Particular attention will be paid to avant-garde musical theatre in Italy in the second half of the 20th century, of which the student must be able to comment on the most relevant experiences. In addition to the knowledge of the syllabus (topics dealt with in the lessons, readings indicated in the bibliography, materials available on the aulaweb, works dealt with in the course), the assessment will also take into account the student's expositive ability, the use of the disciplinary language, and the ability to critically re-elaborate.

Exam schedule

Data Ora Luogo Degree type Note
18/01/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale
01/02/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale
10/05/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale appello riservato ai laureandi
24/05/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale
07/06/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale
21/06/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale
13/09/2023 15:00 GENOVA Orale


It is strongly recommended to register on the course's Aulaweb, where in-depth materials and course-related news will be provided.