In Italy, the counterculture of the Sixties lasted until 1979, when it perished in the clash between two paranoias: the Italian state’s fear of terrorism and the radical social movements from which it arose, and the terrorists’ fear of the state’s authoritarianism. Popular musicians were trapped between these paranoias, and their music searches to escape from both while chronicling the closing of the space between them, the only space in which countercultural social and artistic experimentation could take place. This essay focuses on the Italian “international POPular group” Area, which acted, in opposition to the generalized paranoia of the period, as a switching station linking progressive rock, electronic music, free jazz, global indigenous music, Fluxus sound experiments and postmodernist poetics with anti-militarist, anti-racist, socialist-feminist politics independent of the existing political party system. To create those links, the band was compelled to subvert the conventions of pop music from within and to move beyond pop’s traditional boundaries into unstructured improvisation and avant-garde formal exploration. Area singer Demetrio Stratos’s death in 1979 coincided with the Italian state’s final crackdown on terrorism and the counterculture and marked the end of the richest countercultural experiment on earth, which still has much to teach us.

You do not currently have access to this content.