Why is italian the language of music
This beautiful language is the language chosen by Mozart for many of his most famous operas. Indeed, it is considered the language that sings, and it has been associated with music for more than a thousand years. In addition, a great deal of musical terminology is in Italian. So why is Italian the language of music?
Find out here:
1. Why the Italian language sounds musical
2. How the Italian language dominated the musical scene in the past
3. Why the terminology of music is largely in Italian
4. What were the Italian inventions in music
Why do people love the Italian Language?
Many people fall in love with the Italian language by going on holiday in Italy. They fall head over hills with the language while enjoying the beautiful country, the warm weather, the sea, the cities of art and perhaps by listening to Italians. I have heard of an English speaker who believes that everything ordinary becomes rather special if said in Italian: the modest kitchen towel is asciughino, to rock or swing is dondolare, to whistle is fischiettare and even the garbage has an enjoyable and mischievous sound: spazzatura.
Why does the Italian language sound musical?
I suppose that when you experience mostly blue skies and warm weather you might be inclined to feel positive and happy. You might be on holiday and then most things might feel and sound better.
However, the musical element of the Italian language can be explained technically. Indeed, it is achieved by the fact that most words end with a vowel giving a singing quality to the language. The use of double consonants as well as the length of the words made up a several syllables also helps in giving Italian the distinctive musical sound. To help pronunciation we also use elision, where we drop a vowel to make pronunciation smoother.
Why is the primary language of music Italian?
Having said that, Italian is also the language of music in the sense that Italians have greatly influenced classical music and its language. Therefore, many musical terms, instruments and much of the musical notation are in Italian.
It started in the Medieval times…
We need to go back to the Medieval era, around 1200, when an Italian monk, Guido D’Arezzo, invented the modern musical notation. Prior to his notation, music was not written down consistently or clearly nor in an accessible way. Guido’s book on music notation revolutionised the musical world, opening it to a greater number of people. This was one of the most read treatises on music of the Medieval time.
The Italian authority in the musical world
Later on, the Italians continued to dominate the musical scene, so much so that their innovations enabled the creation of the opera in the 16th century. The Italians had a great influence on much of classical music. They established Italian as the language of music in the same way as, for example, English is used today in most countries for IT and new technology terms because the Americans have mostly dominated this field.
This explains why, if you read music, you will come across Italian words such as allegro, andante, con brio, vivace, moderato and so on. The Italian composers also gave names to the musical compositions they created, such as: concerto, sonata, sinfonia, opera and so on and so forth.
The creation of the opera
Opera was born in Florence around 1550. From then, this new genre took the rest of Europe by storm. However, the Italians and the Italian language dominated the scene for a long time and operas were considered serious and influential if they were written in Italian. Equally important, Italian was considered a more poetic and musical language. Indeed, even Mozart collaborated with the Italian poet and opera librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. He authored the text (il libretto) of the three famous operas by Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte.
The invention of musical instruments
The Italian had a great influence upon the invention of musical instruments. For example the piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori. Even the violin (or violino) as it is known today in its complexity was created by two Italians Amati and Di Bertolotti. It is, therefore, of no surprise that many instruments have Italian names: viola, violoncello, mandolino and even their entire group: orchestra.
Italian music words used in everyday language
Afterwards many Italian words used in music have entered other languages and are still used today in everyday exchanges. These are a few interesting ones used by English speakers:
To summarise: why is Italian the language of music?
In short, this is because Italian not just sounds beautifully melodic but most importantly because Italian had a huge influence in the history of music. Starting from the Medieval time, Italians created an entire music language, new genres, new musical instruments and more. Hence, if you play an instrument or are an opera singer, Italian will be an interesting language to discover.
Join one of our classes to take a dip into this beautiful language, you’ll re-discover words you already know. In addition, you will have the chance to hear the real language. And practise speaking from day one and learn or improve your Italian. And even if singing is not required, we might listen to Italian music from time to time. Ciao!