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Donatella Restani

Full Professor

Department of Cultural Heritage

Academic discipline: L-ART/07 Musicology and History of Music

Coordinator of PhD Programme in Cultural and Environmental Heritage


Keywords: musical heritage travellers' musical tales music archaeology musica humana classical tradition and librettos musical theory musical myths ancient Greek music historical ethnomusicology classical musical heritage Boethius

- Travellers' music from Antiquity to Modern Age: texts and images.

- Musica humana:  history of Boethius' idea from Antiquity to Middle Age.

-  Seeing the musica mundana: diagrams in the musical treatises.

The research topics are to be understood into two broader perspectives. The first one concerns the extension of the sources used for musicological research. The other one concerns the study of the transmission patterns of knowledge, in which the music has took part from Antiquity to the Modern Age. The constant presence of ideas about music in the cultural life of the past is one of the musical heritage assets to preserve and transmit consciously.

1) Travellers' music from Antiquity to Modern Age: texts and images.
This project derives from a wider  research based on an idea by Franco Alberto Gallo twenty years ago.  The first time, it was presented in  1995 with the title Across the Mediterranean: A Proposal for a Study of Travelers' Reports as Documents of Musical Life (Venice, Levi Foundation), at “Past and Present. Perspectives for the Anthropology of Mediterranean Music”. The meeting was organized by the ICTM Study Group on “Anthropology of Music in Mediterranean Cultures”, which was chaired at the time by Tullia Magrini. After the 1995 presentation, the research has developed the topic of music and travels from Antiquity to Modern Age all over the world known to European people at the time: Africa, Asia and Europe(«Musica e Storia», IX/2, 2001, pp. 377-529; XIII/1, 2005, pp. 83-175) ; «Itineraria. Letteratura di viaggio e conoscenza del mondo dall'Antichità al Rinascimento», VI, 2007 ; Per una storia dei popoli senza note, a cura di Dessì, Bologna, Clueb, 2010).

In time the group of researchers has increased, including scholars from different disciplines –  history, archaeology and history of art, literature and philology, and of course history of music – who discuss images and texts describing music events, facts and  experiences related to travelling.

 The true focus of this research – whose key words are “music”, “world”, “travels” and  “historical atlas” – is to collect images and texts concerning musical encounters with ‘other' people, ‘other' music, ‘other' ideas and functions of music, in ages when most documents – or the only documents recording music – were images or texts. Images and texts record sound events from different places, providing information about available representations of musicians, performances and relevant meanings, musical traditions of ‘other' peoples, as well as the functions of musical instruments in different groups and societies. When handling this kind of sources we must be careful and aware of the many filters they contain. It means considering travelling as a subject as well as a medium. Considering travels and travelers as a literary and iconographical medium implies looking for information which has been neglected until now, or underestimated by scholars in musicology, history of music and ethnomusicology. It implies crossing conventional boundaries, both material and symbolic.

One of the main themes of this (neverending) project regards the representation of Alexander the Great's legacy from the musical point of view. No systematic research has ever been carried out in this perspective and we have just started: Alexander the Great's Travels and Musical Encounters: a Project, in Travelling Music and Music for Travelers: Archetypes and Documentary Evidence of Music Itinerancy in Ancient Greece, panel with D. Castaldo, C. Lo Muzio, E. Rocconi, in   Crossing Borders: Musical Change and Exchange through Time, XIII Symposium of the ICTM Study  group for Music Archaeology, Universidad del Valle, Guatemala City, April 8-12, 2013, now published inthe Proceedings of the Meeting (Ekho, Berlin 2019); and in "Itineraria", 16, 2017, pp. 19-36.

Other related studies have been published in:

(con L. Mauro), «Ascoltiamo il canto armonioso degli uccelli, il grido delle aquile». Incontri filosofici e sonori nei racconti su Alessandro, in Itinerari del testo per Stefano Pittaluga, II, Genova, Dipartimento di Antichità, Filosofia e Storia, 2018, pp. 653-660.

Listening between lines: Alexander’s musical legacy in Italy (13th-15th centuries), in The Music Road. Interculturality and Regional Traditions from the Mediterranean to India, ("Proceedings of the British Academy: Themed Volumes”), ed. by Reinhard Strohm, London, pp. 87-100.

The conclusive editorial project about this subject will be: Atlante della musica nei racconti di viaggio, a cura di F. A. Gallo, V. Minazzi, D. Restani, Milano, Jaca Book, 2020 (in press).

2) Musica humana:  history of Boethius' idea from Antiquity to Middle Age.

For about two decades, I've been studying the historical contexts and texts , in which it appears the formation of the Boethian concept of music and , in particular, of musica humana .The research deals with various kinds of treatises , not just musical ones , to look for any trace of the reflection on this subject at the time of Boethius . In this direction I looked , therefore, the Christian anthropological treatises from 4th and 5th centuries , and in particular the texts of Chalcidius , Macrobius and the writings De anima , with particular reference to Claudian Mamerto .
Currently , this research is aimed to check the context in which Boethius may have developed the concept of musica humana, in relation to the texts in which he had dealt with the anthropological theme of the soul of man in relation to the experience of sound. The next extension of this research will involve the development of a monograph, which will include two parts, one on the sources of the idea of musica humana and the other on the musica mundana (the fourth line of research set out below).

Of these studies have given so far account numerous conference papers , then merged in the third chapter of the book Musica per governare. Alessandro, Adriano e Teoderico (Ravenna , 2004) and in the papers below:

- (con L. Mauro) Musique du corps et musique de l'âme : la musica humana de Boèce, in Musica corporis. Savoirs et du corps de l'antiquité à l'âge humaniste et classique, par F. Malhomme et E. Villari, Turnhout, Brepols, 2011, pp. 159-178;

- Le radici antropologiche dell'estetica boeziana: anima humana e musica humana, in Le fonti dell'estetica musicale. Nuove prospettive storiche, Atti del convegno (Venezia, 26-28 ottobre 2006), in «Musica e Storia», XV, 2007, pp. 243-258;

-  La musica humana e Boezio: ipotesi sulla formazione di un concetto, in Music in the Roman Empire: Theoretical Evidence and Archaeological Findings, Atti del secondo meeting di MOISA. The International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and its Cultural Heritage (Cremona, 30-31 ottobre 2008), a cura di E. Rocconi, «Philomusica online», 2010, pp. 21-27.

3) Seeing the musica mundana: diagrams in the musical treatises.

Maps and diagrams are one of the many representations of thought which the multidisciplinary research is now on focus. In particular, this project concerns a group of diagrams yet little explored , as the diagrams in the manuscripts and in the early modern editions of the ancient Greek and Roman musical treatises. Among them, this research deals with the diagrams which represent the connections between the cosmos and the music. Until now it concerns the diagrams in the first two centuries of the printed editions of the Commentaries to the " Dream of Scipio " by Macrobius .  I would like to extend it to the manuscripts of  Macrobius. Then I'll take care of the diagrams of Bryennius'Harmonika, for the connections with Macrobius' 1535 edition, by J. Camerarius .

The first draft of this project - The Renaissance of musica mundana : the early printed editions of  Macrobius' Commentary on Cicero 's Dream of Scipio ( 1472-1597 ) - was presented for the first time at the international conference Sing aloud harmonious spheres: Music , philosophy , and the order of the universe in the Renaissance , Venice, University of Warwick, May 12 to 15 ), then published in 2013 ( Ricerche sulle immagini musicali nelle prime edizioni del Commento al Sogno di Scipione di Macrobio, in Polidoro. Studi offerti ad Antonio Carile, a cura di Giorgio Vespignani, Fondazione «Centro italiano di studi sull'alto Medioevo», Spoleto 2013, pp. 919-928 e tavv. I-IV).


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