UT Music Professor Returns from Italian Fulbright Trip

Associate Professor Brendan McConville has returned to UT after spending six months in Italy, but the sounds of the Italian countryside continue to resonate in his work.

Associate Professor of Music Brendan McConville in Italy in 2016.

Associate Professor of Music Brendan McConville in Italy in 2016.

McConville, who teaches music theory and composition, received a Fulbright grant that allowed him to spend the spring semester and the summer teaching and doing research in Italy. While there, he traveled the countryside, researching Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and recording sounds in the local towns.

D’Annunzio’s four-part poem “La Pioggia nel Pineto” (“The Rain in the Pine Forest”) inspired McConville to compose a thirty-minute four-movement piece for soprano, tenor, piano, and live, fixed electronic sounds. The composition premiered to a large audience at the Villa Paris in Roseto degli Abruzzi in Abruzzo.

McConville said plans for more performances are in the works as he continues to work alongside musicians to record a commercial release of “La Pioggia.”

The idea for the project was born many years ago when McConville’s wife, Annachiara Mariani of UT’s Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, introduced him to the works of D’Annunzio.

“The poetry I studied is naturally melodic,” McConville said. “The verses are filled with linguistic beauty and clever devices.”

McConville was particularly fascinated with “La Pioggia nel Pineto.”  Researching D’Annunzio, McConville began recording sound samples in regions all across Italy. He traveled to and around areas including Abruzzo, Tuscany, and the town of Pescara, recording sounds of the rain and the pine forests neighboring D’Annunzio’s home—the place that inspired many of the poet’s works.

A scene from the Italian countryside that inspired Associate Professor of Music Brendan McConville.

A scene from the Italian countryside that inspired associate professor of music Brendan McConville.

“I recorded sound samples from Abruzzo and Tuscany and integrated the sounds into the background canvas of a setting of ‘La Pioggia nel Pineto,'” McConville said.

From these recordings and his studies, he worked to put the poet’s words to music.

“I studied the poet’s text carefully and thought about what sounds, both natural and electronic, might best paint the words,” he said. “The goal was to fuse the natural sounds of Italy and specifically Abruzzo with the eloquent and expressive text.”

While in Pescara, McConville also taught a seminar titled Recent American Compositional Trends and Analysis at the Conservatorio Luisa D’Annunzio, named after the poet’s mother. He introduced young composers to what he’s learned about writing music over his years as a musician, professor, and composer.

Reflecting on his time in Italy, McConville said, “It was an invaluable experience that provided me with an opportunity to collaborate with new colleagues, teach in a very different setting, and develop many creative ideas.”

McConville, who has a doctorate in music theory and composition from Rutgers University and has worked at UT since 2007, is an expert in twentieth-century music analysis and the use of emerging technologies in teaching music theory. He has published in a number of music journals, and his recordings are available from ERMmedia and Navona Records.

C O N T A C T:

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@utk.edu)