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Giacinto Scelsi

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Giacinto Scelsi


Giacinto Scelsi (8 January 1905, Pitelli, Italy – 9 August 1988, Rome, Italy) was an Italian composer and poet.

Scelsi, of noble birth, spent most of his youth in his mother's old castle where he received education from a private tutor who taught him Latin, chess and fencing. Later, his family moved to Rome and his musical talents were encouraged by private lessons with Giacinto Sallustio. In Vienna, he studied with Walther Klein, a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. He became the first exponent of dodecaphony in Italy, although he did not continue to use this system.

He is best known for having composed music based around only one pitch, altered in all manners through microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics, as paradigmatically exemplified in his Quattro pezzi su una nota sola (Four Pieces on a single note, 1959).

Scelsi collaborated with American composers including John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown, as well as being a friend and a mentor to Alvin Curran. His music influenced composers like Ennio Morricone,Tristan Murail and Solange Ancona.

Giacinto Scelsi was not only a composer but also a surrealist poet, writing exclusively in French.

His musical output, which encompassed all Western classical genres except scenic music, remained largely undiscovered even within contemporary musical circles during most of his life. However, a series of concerts in the mid- to late 1980s finally premiered many of his pieces, to great acclaim, notably his orchestral masterpieces in October 1987, in Cologne, about a quarter of a century after those works had been composed and less than a year before the composer’s death.

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