On 19 November 1969, two members of Milan’s neofolk music collective the Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano (NCI) armed themselves with portable sound recorders and wandered amongst a crowd of demonstrators near Milan’s Duomo. The resulting LP, I fatti di Milano (The events of Milan), is a puzzling hybrid of artistic and political intent. As the sleeve note explains, the demonstration degenerated into a riot and resulted in the violent—and to this day legally unresolved—death of a police officer. The NCI members presented the recording as sonic evidence of the day’s events, hoping to help the case of the demonstrators accused of murdering the policeman. The record thus constitutes not only a swerve from “music” to “sound” in the collective’s output but also a move from aesthetic artifact to sound document, indeed, to putative forensic evidence. And yet, the evidence grows inexorably murkier with every listening. This essay homes in on the contradiction between I fatti di Milano’s declared purpose and the sound recording it mobilizes toward that end. Drawing on both sound studies and Italian political philosophy, the essay argues that the record embodies and actively stages idiosyncratic but highly contemporary relationships between music and soundscape, between sound event and its technological reproduction, and ultimately between political event and the act of writing history.
Sound Evidence, 1969: Recording a Milanese Riot
Delia Casadei is an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley. She researches the relation between voice, sound reproduction, and ideologies of language, with special attention to the twentieth century, Italy, and matters of nationhood and race.
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Delia Casadei; Sound Evidence, 1969: Recording a Milanese Riot. Representations 1 August 2019; 147 (1): 26–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2019.147.1.26
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