Colloquium:Delia Casadei, UC Berkeley: Contagion, Erasure, and Laughter as the Reproduction of Sound in Two 1890s Laughing Songs

Colloquium | September 28 | 4:30 p.m. | 128 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

My research focuses on the relationship between voice and politics in Italian 20th-century music. My doctoral thesis examined this relationship by way of Milan in the 1950s-70s. In this way, I investigated a question usually asked about Italian operatic production in the nineteenth century, namely: what is the political role of language—spoken, written, heard, and misheard—in the musical history of a country that has been mythologized for its sheer vocal prowess?

This question has led me to research a variety of Milan-based centers of musical production—from the electronic music center nestled in the broadcasting headquarters, to the Gramscian efforts of Neo-Folk collectives, to home-grown rock n’ roll.

So far, I have found that the Milanese 1950s (the first decade of democracy in Italy) present us with a collision of epistemologies of voice and sound, resulting in a cultural production that, across the following two decades, often privileges misheard speech, misspoken words, and nonsense as a musical resource.

I am currently expanding my thesis into a book that argues that key political theories formulated in Italy between the 1950s and today (from Gramsci to Operaismo, Agamben, Esposito, and Cavarero) are informed by political ideologies of the voice—from the plebiscitary metaphor of vox populi, vox dei to more specific notions of orality tied to the use of recording technology.

Alongside my Italian research, I have a long-standing interest in the historical relationship of music and laughter in the twentieth century, where laughter is no longer necessarily a reaction to humor (musical or otherwise) but an event with a negative charge, something that actively disrupts articulate speech.

I completed my undergraduate degree and Master’s degree at King’s College London, and received my PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. My dissertation was supported by a Hopkinson Graduate Research Fellowship and Mellon Humanities Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Completion Fellowship. I have just finished a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge.