If you play an instrument or are familiar with music, you are likely to have heard of terms like tempo, crescendo, adagio or sonata. One thing these words have in common, apart from the fact that they belong to the semantic field of music, is their Italian origin.
Have you ever wondered why Italian had such a powerful influence on the art of music?
First of all, you probably don’t know that the modern musical notation was invented by an Italian, Guido d’Arezzo, who lived in the 11th century. He came up with the revolutionary idea of substituting the old systems with a four-line staff, which is still used!
One more reason is to be found in the prestige of Italian culture during the Renaissance, a flourishing time when all the other major conventions used in classical music were slowly developed. Italy played a big role in shaping European music also by educating the most famous musicians of the time: composers such as Giovanni da Palestrina, Claudio Monteverdi and Alessandro Striggio created some of the most appreciated masterpieces all over Europe.
Also, one of the most popular musical genres in the world is Italian! It is the Opera, born around the 1600, which owes its popularity to composers like Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini, whose works are still the most performed across the world.
But what are exactly those Italian words which are part of the universal language of music?
A lot of instruments in the first place, such as piano(forte), viola and tuba.
Moreover, among the most popular musical forms, there are cantata, aria and intermezzo.
Even the roles held by professional singers have a specific Italian terminology: soprano, tenore and basso are just some of them. Also, when dealing with the volume the most common terms are calando, diminuendo and forte.