Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

International Colloquium
Italo Calvino: Lightness and Multiplicity
Leggerezza e Molteplicità
March 28-29
Department of Italian Studies of the University of Toronto

Le connessioni invisibili: A Musician’s Reading of Calvino

By Damjana Bratuž

This contribution originated in the smithy of a piano studio, a realm in which “lo sguardo dell’orecchio” is developed. It is the site where by being “in ascolto” one learns to decipher the signs, the codes, and also that senso that hides not only in the sounds themselves, “ma in mezzo, nelle pause.” [Quotations from Un re in ascolto, 1986 ]

In Calvino’s works the name of Béla Bartók appears only once, in a jocular statement [Esami, 1955]. However, a Bartók researcher can find a whole gamut of connections and analogies, beginning with Calvino’s Introduction to his Fiabe italiane (1956). Here he dismisses the efforts by Finnish folklorists to establish the exact historical and geographical origins of folktales. He attributes their concern to the “comparatist passion peculiar to the literary culture of the period.” Indeed, in their concern to discover and analyse the primogenitura of Hungarian folksongs, Bartók and Kodàly turned to the Finnish system of classification and methodology, at a time when ethnomusicology was still known as “comparative musicology.”
Calvino’s statements regarding variation (tessere-ritessere); the folktale as a “model of conciseness”; the healing power of literature through the “antibodies” it can create; his “discomfort…for the loss of form in life,” find an uncanny resonance in Bartók’s similar statements and aesthetics.

In a paper presented during Bartók’s centenary celebrations (1981) at Indiana University, I had singled out certain categories which become manifest only when one listens to the composer’s own recorded performances, and when one correlates them with those taken from an oral tradition of musical literature, from Bartók’s own collections of peasant music. Among these categories were: the metamorphosis of weight (bagpipe music) into lightness and levitation; the flexibility and pauses in the vocal parlando style; the exact, natural proportions of peasant tunes which Bartók considered to be “masterpieces in miniature;” the ancient shamanic echos found in them.

In March 1988, in his review of Six Memos for the Next Millennium in La Stampa, on the day of the American publication, Masolino d’Amico described and commented upon Calvino’s qualità fondamentali in literature, “re-translating” the terms into leggerezza, rapidità, precisione, visibilità, and molteplicità. For a Bartók researcher, it was like hearing “from the mute distance of things… un segno, un richiamo, un ammicco” [Mr. Palomar, 1983]. It was then that I began to develop a series of seminars based on the two Harvard lectures by Bartók (1943) and Calvino (1985)
In this presentation , the five fundamental properties of Calvino’s lessons are translated/transposed/transcribed into their musical, Bartókian, manifestations.

Equipment needed: CD player; Overhead projector [OR: Power Point]


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