Saturday, June 07, 2008

Profondo Rosso (Italian Prog, '68-'78)

Some years ago, reading a somewhat pulpy but rather intriguing chronicle of the Red Brigades, I found out that the kidnapping of Christian Democrat party president Aldo Moro, in 1978, was almost scuppered when one of the kidnappers, an ex-Potere Operaio member by the name of Germano Maccari, left the apartment where they were holding Moro... to sneak into a Santana concert. Ever since, I've been puzzling about the connections between Italy's red decade of movementism, feminism, autonomism and (counter-)terrorism ('68-'78) and music.

The political novelty of French May '68 was famously far ahead of its capacities for cultural, and especially musical innovation, as this Gauche Proletarienne ditty exhaustively proves. The German scene over the same period, on the other hand - whether in Guru Guru's links to the SDS or CAN ("communism, anarchism, nihilism") - seems at least in part to suggest that unmoored from the need to express politics, because steeped in its everyday presence, rock might find other ways of being political, or indeed progressive.

Until recently, my only knowledge of the Italian prog scene amounted to a passion for The Best Italian Band of All Time. Spurred by a drunken chat with the fine post-workerist economist Andrea Fumagalli, who sang their praises, it seems that the Italian band Area (International POPular Group), cut a middle swath between the French populism of content over form and the German eschewal of political message in a transfigured everyday (CAN as 'anarchistic community'). Witness Area's rather twisted fusion rendering of the Internationale to follow on the Tuvan one in the earlier post.

Or their track from their Arbeit Macht Frei album (the Nazi slogan has often been referred to by the autonomist left in Italy to dispute the constitution's declaration that Italy is "a republic founded on work", for the sake of the strategy of refusal of work), on the Palestinian Black September (in the interval between the song their Greek singer Demetrios Stratos declares the need to "abolish the distinction between music and life"):

A more PCI-prone band, Stormy Six, very much liked by the composer Luigi Nono and part of Henry Cow's Rock in Opposition, took a slightly more doctrinaire line with the rousing folk-rock anthem Stalingrado ("a woman of granite lives on a thousand barricades / on the icy roads the crooked cross knows it will find Stalingrad in every city"):


A future post I'm sure will have to deal with Italian post-punk in the counter-revolution of the late 70s and 80s, when bands such as CCCP Fedeli alla Linea (trans. Faithful to the Line) flourished (above: the cover of their seminal album "Affinities and Divergences between Comrade Togliatti and Us: On Reaching Maturity").


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating staff. Many thanks. With the exception of Goblin, the existence of these other Italian bands was unknown to me. I very much enjoyed listening to them. Stalingrado is indeed a particularly moving song (to me anyway).

Look forward to the post on the Italian post-punk scene (of which I know a little bit more).

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the name of this chronicle and would you please translate all of it,for us?Maybe with an introduction by Negri.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Savonarola said...

Mi dichiaro prigioniero politico, by Giovanni Bianconi. Very much doubt il cattivo maestro would be into prefacing this type of thing. Giorgio Galli's Il partito armato is a useful resource too.

2:21 AM  

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