EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Donatoni: a critical re-appraisal of Quartetto III

Massimo Avantaggiato

Corps de l’article sous Spip : Massimo Avantaggiato, Conservatorio G. Verdi , Milan, Italy


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This paper provides an analysis of Quartetto III, a work composed by the Italian musician Franco Donatoni that has often been underrated and has been considered ephemeral by some Italian musicologists. It is Donatoni’s third Quartet: unlike the other quartets, it was produced, under the guide of Marino Zuccheri, at the “Studio di Fonologia” in Milan, by using only electronic instruments.
We’ve studied the historical, musical, and technological context in which this work was conceived by using different historical sources such as texts for broadcasting, documents, letters from the archives of the Studio di Fonologia as well as notes and documents preserved at Paul Sacher Stiftung. These documents offer an interesting perspective into historical analyses, considering that the Studio di Fonologia musicale of Radiotelevisione Italiana, like similar studios in Europe and America, was the result of a meeting of music and new opportunities of analyses and treatment of sound.
This paper also highlights some specific ideas of Quartetto III, the composer’s originality and importance not only in his work, but also in the production of the Studio di Fonologia and in the history of electroacoustic music. We have analysed Quartetto III under different points of view, by using stereophonic and quadraphonic versions of this work-recording “E018” and “Q002” respectively.
In particular, we have pointed out the relationship between ministructure and macroform, underlining the progressive aggregation process, from “Elements” to “Groups” and “Columns”. This objective has been achieved by means of:
a) a partial Genetic analyses by using PWGL;
b) a Listening Analysis, by following different musicological approaches: Smalley and the spectro-morphology; Roy’s Functional Analysis; Temporal Semiotic Unit (M.I.M.); Sloboda’s, and McAdams’ Perceptive and Cognitive Studies.
This approach can give us some information about the macrostructure: Quartetto III, that lasts about 5 minutes, is structured in panels which are sections with different metronomes, but with an internal coherence of articulation and musical development. Much attention has been paid to the structural and poetical use of quadraphonic space: Quartetto III seems to pave the way for the later electroacoustic works because of the use of spatial figures and “structured” electronic gestures. The historical recalling of the 60s, when Quartetto III was conceived at the Studio di Fonologia, has shown the very high level of the Italian research carried out at the Studio.

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