Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Massimo Mila, the Prismatic Intellectual: An Archival Case Study

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Massimo Mila, the Prismatic Intellectual: An Archival Case Study

Article excerpt


Massimo Mila (1910-1988) was one of the great intellectuals of the twentieth century and an influential figure in Italian musical and cultural life. He was a music critic and historian and well-known for his works on Giuseppe Verdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bruno Maderna, Igor Stravinsky, Johannes Brahms, Richard Wagner, and Bela Bartok. He also had close connections with several musicians of his time, including Alfredo Casella, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Luigi Nono, among others (1). Mila was a multi-faceted and culturally engaged character. He worked as an editor, participating in the establishment of the Einaudi publishing house along with Giulio Einaudi and the two writers Leone Ginzburg and Cesare Pavese. He translated Jeremias Gotthelf, Hermann Hesse, Friedrich Schiller, Richard Wagner, and Ernst Wiechert into Italian, and was a journalist and a "militant" music critic for several newspapers and weekly publications. He taught History of Music at Turin's Conservatory and University, and was an activist in the "Giustizia e Liberta" (Justice and Freedom) anti-fascist movement and a partisan in the Italian Resistance. Finally, he was not only a fine writer about music, but also wrote about the mountains he loved so dearly, and not just for amusement (2).

His documentary heritage is housed in two prestigious institutions: the National Library of Florence and the Paul Sacher Stiftung (PSS) in Basle. The National Library has some of the recordings and books he owned, including some original editions of his own works and those by other authors. The largest part of his legacy is at the PSS and includes a substantial amount of documents. These documents were essential to this article that is based on research carried out at the Massimo Mila Collection in Basle. An analysis of the correspondence contained in this collection has allowed me to demonstrate how archival research can profitably interact with musicological studies in providing a homogenous and complete interpretation of fragmentary and heterogeneous sources.

The Massimo Mila Collection

In comparison to other legacies of the great twentieth and twenty-first century composers found in the PSS, the Massimo Mila Collection is unique because it is the legacy of a music critic and not that of a composer or performer. The following description is based on the internal inventories I had access to during my research (3).

In March 1998, Anna Giubertoni, Mila's second wife, donated the collection to the PSS, and it gradually grew in size until 2015. The internal inventory divides the collection into six parts:

1. Music manuscripts by various composers

2. Mila's own text manuscripts

3. Correspondence

4. Personal documents and objects from his private life (Lebensdokumente)

5. Photos

6. Images (pictures, paintings) and sound recordings

In addition to this material, which was part of Mila's private legacy, we also find other documents, often copies, from other private archives, which are kept in a cumulative fond called Fremdbestande (Foreign Holdings).

In particular, each part contains the following documents:

1. Music manuscripts. Approximately thirty documents including original scores, fragments, transcriptions, or photocopies. Mila annotated some of these manuscripts, and some are annotated by others, and dedicated to him. The majority of these documents refer to the music of contemporary composers, including Casella, Dallapiccola, Nono, Luciano Berio, and Sylvano Bussotti (4).

2. Mila's text manuscripts or those of other authors. These consist of the sketches or the final drafts of already published articles, essays, and concert programmes, but also include comments about a particular composition and its author and again, notes and summaries for various use. Apart from the contemporary composers mentioned in item 1 above, this section also includes many others who were often Mila's friends, for example, Goffredo Petrassi. …

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