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Music as an Integrative Element in Immigrant Communities. The Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, an Intercultural Community Initiative in Rome1 Karolina Golemo


talian society is becoming increasingly multicultural. The presence of numerous immigrant groups from various parts of the world means that one of the main challenges facing Italy’s politicians is the development of effective means of integration on the socio-cultural, civic and economic planes. Integration programmes involving training, the jobs market and bringing immigrants into the country’s political life are all typical strategies employed by government agencies and third sector organisations alike, while effective integration into Italian society is also supported by undertakings promoting immigrants’ participation in the cultural life of the nation. This article sets out to demonstrate that a shared and active participation in culture can serve as an integrative element amongst various ethnic groups within an immigrant community.



owadays, immigrants are a highly important constituent part of Italian society and forecasts indicate that their numbers will continue to rise in forthcoming years. Their presence in Italy today should be treated as a new multiculturalism dimension, co-existing, in greater or lesser accord, with the other elements that make up the mosaic of Italian identity. Immigration is becoming an ever more enduring aspect of the country’s reality, contributing to her continuing transformation. Italians thus need to accept a situation whereby their society will be undergoing a growing ‘hybridity’, or ‘creolisation’2, to use Ulf Hannerz’s terminology3 [2006].

1 Work on this article was completed in May 2011. As such, all the comments made and information given in the text pertain to a period prior to that date. 2 The anthropologist Chiara Mellina writes of this phenomenom in Problemi di coabitazione in una società multiculturale, [in:] Stefano Petilli et al, (ed.) Mediatori interculturali. Un’esperienza formativa, Sinnos Editrice, Roma 2004, pp. 65-72; “Whether we want it or not, the world’s destiny, and this includes Europe, will be to accept the concept of ‘hybridity’, understood as a kind of cultural pluralism born of the multiple, intercontinental movement of women and men and thus of the proliferation of material, spiritual, linguistic, physiological and traditional cultural elements which must, with time, fuse and create a syncretic ‘cultural mix’, something that, after all, has always been a part of human existence.”, ibidem, p. 72 [all the quotations from Italian publications have been translated into Polish by the author. This quotation has been translated into English from the Polish]. 3 Hannerz defines Creole cultures as “those which draw in some way upon two or more historical sources, often originally widely different”. As he perceives it, a world in creolization is a “world of movement and mixture”. He also describes the process of creolisation and the “new syntheses capable of existence” emerging from it. (Polish source: ibidem, p. 291; English source: first quotation: cited in Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture, Rowman and Littlefield, Maryland 2009 http://tinyurl. com/3wfam4n, 15.08.2011; second quotation: cited in Charles Stuart (ed.), Creolization: history, ethnography, theory, Left Coast Press, USA 2007, 15.08.2011; third quotation: translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article.

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Karolina Golemo PhD, assistant professor at the Jagiellonian University Institute of Regional Studies, Department of Ethnocultural Politics; graduate of Sociology and Journalism and Social Communication at Jagiellonian University. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs scholarship holder; the author of a monograph on the image of Poland and Poles in Italy. She cooperates with the research centre Immigrazione Dossier Statistico in Rome and the universities: La Sapienza, Roma Tre and Universidad Castilla-La Mancha. Research field: Italian and Spanish society and culture, migration, national stereotypes, media images of social and ethnic groups, political culture.

Italy was traditionally an country of emigration, sending its citizens forth to other parts of the world, both near and far. During the Great Emigration of the latter half of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th, Italians travelled en masse to other European countries and beyond, across the ocean. The next phase of departures occurred during the years of World War II and the post-war period. The Italian state was weakened at the time, with the historical imbalance between the North and South becoming more profound. Southerners, particularly from the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia, thus sought a better quality of life in the richer countries of Europe, in France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.4 Immigration, on the other hand, is a phenomenon which is relatively new to the Italians and one which become observable in the 1980s. Mass immigration to the countries of the Mediterranean basin, including the Italian state, came about primarily as a result of the introduction of restrictive immigration policies on the part of other Western European countries which had previously functioned as a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants [see: Romaniszyn 1999, p. 61]5. During this period, Italy thus emerged as an attractive alternative for potential newcomers from abroad. Contemporarily, immigration is becoming an ever more visible phenomenom there. According to figures produced by the IDOS Study and Research Centre, the National Contact Point for the European Migration Network in Rome, which has been systematically monitoring the situation of immigrants in Italian society for over a dozen years now, they numbered almost five million (4,919,000)6 as at January 2010. This means that, over the past twenty years, there has been a fourfold rise in the number of legal immigrants (immigrati regolari) arriving in Italy. Today, they constitute 7% of Italian society, in other words, above the 6.2% average for the

European Union Member States [cf. Immigrati, uno su 4… 2010; Sintesi del Dossier Statistico 2010;; Immigrazione Dossier Statistico 2010… 2010]. Following recent events in the countries of North Africa7, Italy experienced a further wave of refugees from that quarter, which triggered a series of polemics in the European forum.8 The Italian press maintains a running description of the crisis engendered by the unanticipated and abrupt arrival of thousands of escapees from the northern regions of Africa. Some commentators define the problem as falling into the category of a ‘humanitarian crisis, particularly in the South and on the islands, especially Lampedusa.9 In late March 2011, in Palermo, one of the regional editions of la Repubblica, a daily paper, published information to the effect that six thousand refugees had arrived on that island, the majority of them from Tunisia. In April 2011, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) stated that, since the start of the year, the island had seen 20,000 immigrants coming from Tunisia, which became a subject of discussion at the EU level. Deliberation of the problem constituted by this wave of immigration, dubbed “a human tsunami” by Berlusconi, stimulated a debate around the topic of the EU’s common immigration policy [see: Czerny, e-doc.]. Most recently, the Italian and French media have published information regarding an agreement reached between Berlusconi and Sarkozy in respect of a ‘reassessment’ of the Schengen Treaty in view of the exceptional development of a massive influx of refugees from the Maghreb [Pszczółkowska, e-doc.; Jarry, e-doc. and Vertice tra Berlusconi…, e-doc.]. Foreign newcomers to Italy originate from various parts of the world and represent diverse cultural milieux and faiths. Current statistics show Romanians, Albanians, Moroccans, Chinese, Ukrainians and Filipinos to be amongst the numerously

4 For Italian emigrants to Latin America both at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and contemporarily, see, for example, AA.VV., America Latina - Italia. Vecchi e nuovi migranti, Edizioni Idos, Roma 2009; for the contemporary situation vis a vis Italian emigrants around the world, see Fondazione Migrantes, Rapporto Italiani del mondo, IDOS, Roma 2006. 5 All the quotations taken from Polish authors have been translated into English for the purposes of this article. 6 The article refers to the data current at the time of writing and the author is thus commenting on matters as they stood in May 2011. 7 As per the previous footnote. 8 See, for example, Lampedusa, 4 mila arrivi in quattro giorni. E i barconi continuano ad approdare, “Corriere della sera”, 12.02.2011; Maroni accusa: “L’Ue ci lascia soli”. E propone invio agenti a Tunisi, “Corriere della Sera”, 13.02.2011; Ragusa, fermato motopesca egiziano stava trasbordando molti immigrati, “la Repubblica”, 15.02.2011; A Lampedusa esodo biblico di clandestini. Frattini vola a Tunisi per discutere dell’emergenza, “Il Sole 24 Ore”, 12.02.2011. 9 See, inter alia, the communiqué in the Italian section of Amnesty International, at

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represented nationalities in the country.10 Besides these predominant and most frequently occurring nationalities, Italian society is also enriched, or ‘contaminated’, as some radical commentators would have it, by other nationalities, namely Poles, Senegalese, Asian Indians and representatives of a number of Latin and South American states. In the 1990s, a strong incoming group consisted of inhabitants from the Maghreb. This was then superseded by Central and Eastern Europe. Contemporarily, the situation is again undergoing a visible change. In recent months, we have been dealing with a mass exodus of inhabitants from the countries of North Africa, namely, Libya and Tunisia. The majority are people who have arrived illegally and have yet to be incorporated into the official statistics. However, we can put an approximate figure to their number, on the basis of the ad hoc estimates which have appeared in the Italian press, for example. In 2010, when the mass displacement of Africans brought about by the wave of revolutionary change had yet to occur, the number of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy was estimated as being between five and seven hundred thousand [Immigrati, uno su 4…, 2010], a number which may very well be much higher today. The integration of foreigners into Italian society is a crucial social and political issue, just as it is in many other Western European states. The past few months have demonstrated that the problem of co-existence as regards newcomers to European countries from various parts of the world is one that requires collaboration at the international level Ensuring that local communities and immigrants live in harmony constitutes an enormous challenge, not only to the agenda of states, but also to those of regional and local authorities, as well as various non-governmental organisations. Today, Italy enjoys a great many civic initiatives which aim to promote concerted and peaceful functioning among individuals and groups of diverse origins. Of these intercultural projects, it

is worth mentioning the Forum per l’Intercultura Association, Roma multietnica [see http://www.] and the Polo Intermundia programme11. Another association of this type is Apollo 11, a cultural initiative closely bound up with the founding of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio. The immigration policy of the Italian state has changed over recent decades, which has found expression in the range of laws, varying in their restrictive and permissive force, which have been adopted by the country’s successive governments. When discussing the initiatives of the Italian authorities as regards the reception of foreigners, there are several successive regulations endorsed with the names of politicians governing at the time12, namely legge Martelli (1990) legge Turco-Napolitano (1998), legge Bossi-Fini (2002), legge Amato-Ferrero, which was, in fact, a draft bill that never became law, owing to the collapse of Prodi’s government and Berlusconi’s subsequent return to power in 2008, and pacchetto Sicurezza, a controversial law which came into force in 2009 under the latter’s government, introducing, amongst other things, the equation of an illegal stay with a criminal offence [see: Il pacchetto sicurezza…, e-doc.]. The immigration laws primarily concern conditions for entry and the legalisation of a stay in Italy and the position of immigrants on the jobs market. Matters relating to training, including intercultural education, as well as the integration of foreign schoolchildren, bilingualism and so forth, are regulated under separate laws.13 For several years now, the matter of foreigners’ participation in the political and civic life of Italy has been raised with increasing frequency, primarily with the regards to granting them the right to vote [see: http://www.meltingpot. org/articolo5155.html]. To date, what have appeared are opportunities for voting at the local level. This is connected with what is known as the Consigliere Aggiunto, the introduction of a

10 Statistical breakdown based on Anticipazioni del Dossier Statistico 2010, 11 See: Other Italian centres promoting intercultural activity include, for example, 360 Sud, Acse - Associazione Comboniana Servizio Emigranti e Profughi, AinRam - Associazione Internazionale Noi Ragazzi del Mondo, Altri Mondi, Associazione Culturale Aniwe, Associazione Culturale Faja-Loby. A list of centres and associations which are intercultural in nature, together with a description of their activities, can be found at: 12 The evolution of Italian legislation with regard to immigration is presented in synthetical form by the editors of the Immigrazione Dossier Statistico in Forum per l’intercultura. 18 anni di esperienza, Edizioni Idos, Roma 2008, p. 82-85. 13 Up-to-date information on this topic can be found on the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (Ministero dell’Istruzione, Università e Ricerca) website at

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foreigner representing a immigrant community on to various commune councils as an additional councillor14. Since the aim of this brief outline is to demonstrate how integration can be supported by means of bottom-up, civic initiatives, the question of Italian top-down immigration policy, as driven by various state administration bodies, will be addressed not here, but in other works. Over the last decade, there has been a remarkable evolution in the perception of relations between newcomers and the communities absorbing them. Discussion of ‘assimilation’ and ‘adaptation’ are heard with increasing rarity and these notions are being replaced by the concept of socio-cultural and vocational ‘integration’ and ‘inclusion’ or ‘habituation’ (inserimento socioculturale, inserimento lavorativo). The phenomenom of cultural pluralism is being construed with growing frequency not so much from the perspective of multiculturalism as from that of interculturalism. In this instance, interculturalism is treated not as a specific state, but as a process, being at one and the same time a normative determinant, a goal to be attained. Some researchers clearly differentiate between the multicultural and intercultural approach, emphasising that the latter, in all likelihood is, or, at least, should be, predominating [see: Grzybowski, 2009]. Even before the recent events in North Africa, significant voices were raised in criticism, indicating that the outcome of the integration policy undertaken in Europe had taken a definite turn toward the negative. Angela Merkel’s declaration that the concept of ‘multiculturalism’ has failed [Wieliński, 2010] and Nicolas Sarkozy’s restrictive solutions in respect of the Romanies in France were testimony to the end of the era of enthusiasm for the multicultural Europe project.



nalysis of the migration issue often links it to the matter of the socio-cultural transformation which occurs in both the receiving society and the sending country. Immigrant communities bring cultural changes to a great many aspects of life in society. This phenomenom has been analysed by Krystyna Romaniszyn15, who starts with the assumption that migration has an impact on three levels of culture; culture at the level of existence, social culture and symbolic culture. At the level of existence, migrations have a cultural impact on, for example, changes in the way lives are led and introduce new consumer behaviour models and new principles for competition. This first, ‘lifestyle’ level of cultural change also implants new fashions in terms of attire and furnishing the home. The transformations which occur at the second level, the level of social and societal culture, are connected with the manifestation of new hierarchical structures and new models of roles within the family. The latter is very much the case, for instance, in respect of the evolution of the role of the migrant woman who acquires a new significance in becoming the family’s main breadwinner. What also has a bearing on changes in social culture is the emergence of alternative forms of family and partnership, as reflected in the phenomenom of ‘two homes’, in the country of origin and the country of emigration and in the matter of bringing up children who function between the one and the other, suspended between two cultural environments and so forth. Another interesting question is the situation of second-generation immigrants, the issue of the hybrid identity and the problems related to the assimilation of cultural elements, which is to say ‘culturalisation’ in a foreign context, or, in other words, cultural bivalence and so on.16 At the third

14 The Consigliere Aggiunto has no right to vote during Commune Council sessions, but participates in the meetings and can speak during discussions on current issues, see 15 See: K. Romaniszyn, Kulturowe implikacje i determinanty migracji międzynarodowych [Cultural implications and determinants of international migrations [in:] B. Klimaszewski (ed.), Emigracje z Polski po 1989 roku [Emigration from Poland, Post-1989], Grell, Kraków 2002, p. 26 and following. An interesting sythentical model of the cultural transformation of a given community under the impact of migration processes, as related to the Polish community in the USA, is proposed by Jarosław Rokicki in his article entitled Migracje i asymilacja a zmiana kultur [Migration and Assimilation and the Transformation of Culture [in:] Przegląd Polonijny [The Polish Emigrants’ Review quarterly] No. 1/1996. 16 The concept of cultural bivalence, which can also be ascribed to the problems of identity in second-generation immigrants, was coined, described and applied by Antonina Klonowska in her research published under the title Kultury narodowe u korzeni [National Cultures at the Grass-Root Level], PWN, Warszawa 1996 (trans. Chester A. Kisel, Central European University Press, Budapest, 2001).

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level, transformations in symbolic culture are bound up, inter alia, with the emergence or activation of national stereotypes, which arise from multicultural contact, itself often accompanied by a mutual incomprehension. Changes in symbolic culture are also related to the problems of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, on the one hand and, on the other, to tolerance and cultural integration. Contact with migrants generates or extends polemics in respect of Us and ‘Foreigners’, enlivening discussions on the topic of cultural similarities and differences. The syntax for the continuous definition of the conditions for the successful coexistence of varied principles and values is the harmonisation and, as described by Florian Znaniecki, the ‘flow’ [see: Znaniecki 2001, p. 33 and following] of diverse civilisations coming together on one territory. Cultural transformation occurring as the result of migration processes can also be analysed in relation to specific immigrant groups, which become the conveyor of certain trends and a factor of changes in various areas of culture. In Italy, one such group consists of immigrant entrepreneurs, who have an impact on the transformation of the urban landscape and changes in socio-professional and socio-vocational structures, marking out new dimensions in the fight against organised crime and new directions in gender studies on female enterprise [see: Golemo 2011].



phenomenon of significance in relation to the situation of immigrants in contemporary Italian society is the frequently occurring problem of the ineffective utilisation of the skills and resources that foreign newcomers possess. In Italian, this state of affairs is termed spreco dei cervelli, which translates literally as ‘brain waste’. In many cases, immigrants arriving in Italy have problems with obtaining official recognition of the educational

degrees and diplomas, the certificates and qualifications attained in their country of origin. The result is that they often end up slotted into a segment of the jobs market where they undertake work beneath the level of their skills.17 Their status on the jobs market can thus be described as immigrants who are ‘over-qualified’ (sovraqualificato) in relation to the employment they have actually undertaken. In time, doing a job which is far removed from one’s qualifications, often as a casual worker, gives rise to a sense of frustration and non-fulfilment. As experts observing the jobs market in Italy have observed, it reflects equally as negatively on the Italian economy, since it leads to the ‘waste’ of the valuable potential, talent and diverse forms of social capital that immigrants bring with them.18 This incompetent management of the wealth of skills and experience which foreign newcomers provide has been, and is, noted by experts, some of whom, such as Giovanni Papperini, a Roman lawyer and migration expert, endeavour to take effective counteraction. In 1986, Papperini set up a company operating under his own name. The main aim of Studio Papperini. Corporate Location and Relocation is “to facilitate (…) transfers of highly qualified human resources, aiming at the ‘creative cosmopolitan class’ consisting of managers, scientists, artists, independent professionals and innovative business people who stimulate competitiveness in the country.” [http://]. Initiatives like this thus fill the gap which has arisen as a result of the insufficiency of the solutions put forward by the Italian state, an insufficiency which is made manifest in the lack of suitable strategies for ‘attracting brains’.



efore moving on to an analysis of the spontaneous creation of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio (Piazza Vittorio Orchestra), it is worth making very general reference to several concepts connected with the social function of music and

17 This phenomenom is mentioned, inter alia, by the Polish cultural mediator working at the immigrant employment office in Rome, MST, in an interview conducted in Rome in May 2007. 18 In conversations with sociologists and journalists, conducted whilst carrying out research into the image of Poland and Poles in Italy in 2009, the author repeatedly heard the voicing of an opinion to the effect that the Italians have not succeeded in developing this kind of strategy, as a result of which, they are not only wasting the intellectual potential of incoming foreigners, but are also losing their own, most talented citizens, who prefer to spread their wings in other countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Great Britain and the United States.

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to the phenomenon of participating in culture as a vital aspect of social integration. In his A Dictionary of Sociology, Luciano Gallino draws attention to two particular social functions of music, namely the communication and expression of collective feelings and social control [Gallino, 2006, p. 37]. As another Italian sociologist, Franco Ferrarotti has noted, music has the facility of being a means of emotional expression and integration for diverse groups and social movements. As an example, he cites youth movements, which are often counter-cultural [Ferrarotti, 1997]. However, participation in a musical culture can also serve as an integrative mechanism, expressing the identity of a different kind of group, defined, for example on the basis of class or ideas. The instance of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio demonstrates that music can likewise be an exponent of the ‘collective spirit’ of an immigrant community. Following on from Tibor Kneif, Milena Gammaitoni sets herself a question as to why it is so crucial to ‘shine a light’ on music from the sociological perspective, given the existence of a rich tradition of diverse studies in the musicological field. The necessity of analysing music from the said perspective arises from a simple fact; what stands at the heart of the process of creating, imparting and receiving music is humankind, the composer, the performer, the ‘employer’ and the ‘partaker’, the one who makes the most of it and relishes it [Gammaitoni, 2004, p. 60]. In writing of the genesis of art as a whole, Nathalie Heinich comments that “As with all social phenomena, art is not a gift of nature, but a phenomenom constructed across history and through the doing of it”19 [Heinich, 2008, p. 46]. It is also worth noting one vital aspect as regards the social function of music, an aspect which, in the opinion of some researchers, distinguishes it from other fields of art. Music has always enjoyed a greater freedom and autonomy in terms of its growth and dissemination. Continuing Enrico Fubiniego’s thinking, Gammaitoni emphasises that “(…) literature, painting and architecture have had more cohesive, academic channels of transmission, which are more independent of the impact

of ‘unschooled’ circles” [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 187]. Music more often fuses within itself influences originating as much in the impetus flowing from traditional folk milieux as in those deriving from the field of ‘high culture’, the ‘higher spheres’. She underscores the far greater fluidity and mobility of the elements and patterns of world music, in both the vertical sense of the flow through time, from generation to generation and in the horizontal sense of a spatial flow between different countries, societies and communities. It is possible to debate that this percolation, this singular osmosis of the elements of the musical universum, has, indeed, been a characteristic distinguishing music from the other arts. Art historians, studying the visual arts and architecture, or literary scholars would certainly be able to point to myriad examples of the migration of specific trends, leitmotifs and topoi which, over the ages, have permeated beyond the barriers of generations and cultures. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about the fact that music can be defined as a ‘universal language’, far enough removed from the cultural and national determinants and specific social context of its creators to facilitate an intercultural communication. This was also noted by Theodor Adorno, who wrote that “even civilisations distant from one another are able to understand each other through music20” [Adorno, 1971, p. 189]. In the opinion of Antonio Serravezza, every sociological study of music and musicians must stem from the basic assumption that the musical life (la vita musicale) takes its rudiments from social experience, from vissuto sociale, which quite literally means from that which has been communally lived through and survived. Serravezza believes that this approach makes it possible to go beyond the ‘metaphysical speculation’ which frequently accompanies reflections on art.21 In turn, Luigi Del Grosso Destrieri discuss what is referred to as the ‘musicalisation’ (musicalizzazione) of our societies [Del Grosso Destrieri, 1988, p. 9]. Music ‘partners’ human beings in their everyday functioning to the extent that it is difficult to find the kind of moments of our lives which would not be accompanied by some kind of ‘musical’ aspect, sensed

19 Translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article. 20 Translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article. 21 Antonio Serravezza, Sulla nozione di esperienza musicale, Adriatica Editrice, Bari 1971, p. 125. Ewa Krawczak presents a similar viewpoint, positing that “deliberations on the relationships between art and life in society demonstrate that art is neither its sublimation nor does it remain on its margins”, Ewa Krawczak, Sztuka w perspektywie socjologicznej (Art from a Sociological Perspective) [in:] Marian Filipiak (ed.), Wprowadzenie do socjologii kultury (An Introduction to the Sociology of Culture, published by UMCS (Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej; Marie Curie-Skłodowska University), Lublin 2009, p. 242.

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though it may be to either a greater or lesser extent. Gammaitoni concurs with him, maintaining that “music as a mass phenomenom has taken possession of contemporary society, exerting a profound influence on producers-performers and users alike” [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 188]. The social function of music or, to be more precise, the social context in which it is created and performed, was also analysed by Alfred Schütz. What interested him is the particular nature of all the social interactions connected with the musical process, since, as he contends, investigating these relationships might afford “some insights valid for other forms of social intercourse” which have not yet engaged researchers [Schütz, 2008, p. 22522]. The situation as regards contemporary musicmaking and the nature of the specific types of interaction involved in the process are addressed again further on in the article. The instance of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio demonstrates just how vital an integrative role can be played by the shared and active participation in culture on the part of people coming from civilisation’s myriad and diverse milieux of civilisation. Springing, as it does, from a spontaneous initiative, the activity of immigrant musicians, it thus classifies as a ‘primary cultural system’, to use a division proposed by Antonina Kłoskowska [Kłoskowska, 1983, p. 324-370]. A characteristic feature of this system is that it is formed by a small community of people who are in direct, ‘face to face’ contact with each other. It is linked to speech and conversation, as well as to nonverbal communication. Indeed, a specific example of the system is spontaneous artistic activity, such as, for instance, making music together [cf. Golka, 2007, p. 127]. As Marian Golka writes, within a primary cultural system, all the entities, or members of the system, have the same cultural competences, as a result of which, they have no problems with understanding. There is no formalism; relationships are spontaneous and anchored in the present, in a given moment. “(…) what has meaning is, quite simply, the time spent together and the shared experience, as well as everything they constitute and, first and foremost, the communication” [Golka, 2007, p. 128]. He also makes mention of the posit that a primary cultural system is connected with a sense of autarky and

of isolation from other communities and cultures. In the case of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, that particular feature of the system finds no confirmation in reality. As this article sets out to demonstrate, the shared making and performing of music is not merely a mechanism for creating and strengthening a community between the musicians themselves; it is also a means for their integration into Italian society.



study of the genesis and operation of the multi-ethnic Orkiestry z Placu Vittorio should, by rights, fall within the discipline known as ethnomusicology. This is an area of scholarship with a rich tradition in Italy; in terms of folk tradition, Italian musicologists have repeatedly engaged with the diverse ‘ethnic’ forms of music created within local and regional communities. However, what has most evidently not been incorporated into that discipline are the new manifestations, the new forms of music springing up as a result of the influx of an omnifarious immigrant creativity [see: Enciclopedia della musica, 2006; Gammaitoni, 2009]. Yet, when all is said and done, music is one of those specific cultural elements which newcomers from ethnically diverse parts of the world bring with them. It constitutes a vital element of the new ‘mixed’ identity of a multicultural society. Musical tradition, along with typical customs, beliefs, rituals, language, culinary specialities and clothes, makes up the cultural base and baggage which migrants take with them when they relocate. And, like the other elements of the ‘incomers’ cultures, their music also becomes integrated with the musical forms already present within the receiving country; in a sense, it ‘takes root’ in the new socio-cultural environment. It is exactly this process, the musical amalgamation of culture, that can be perceived when examining the activities of an exceptional ethnic orchestra, the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio from Rome. The orchestra from Rome is an example of a successful, intercultural, community initiative which demonstrates that culture, in this case, music, can have an integrative function and

22 English original cited in Jeff R. Warren, Improvising Music / Improvising Relationships: Musical Improvisation and Inter-Relational Ethics [in:] New Sound 32, 20.08.2011

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play a part in breaking ethnic prejudice toward ‘foreigners’. This multi-ethnic orchestra, the first ensemble of its kind anywhere in the world, was born in Esquilino, an immigrant quarter of Rome and probably the most ethnically varied part of the Eternal City, with around 15% of its residents being foreigners. A high diversity of immigrant groups have settled there, in particular, Chinese, Filipino, Bengalese, Moroccan and Egyptian. Newcomers from the Latin American countries are also a visible presence [see: Osservatorio romano…, 2010]. A stroll through the quarter is all that it takes to see that concepts such as the multi-ethnic community, or cultural pluralism, are reflected in reality. Two people are connected with the birth of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, both of them active on Rome’s cultural scene. The initiative came from a musician, Mario Tronco and a documentary filmmaker, Agostino Ferrente and the project was brought to life thanks to Apollo 11, a cultural association which continues to be active to this day. Its origins are bound up in another socio-cultural initiative led by the afore-mentioned Tronco and Ferrente, together with other artists and people active in the cultural field. The primary aim of the association, which was established in 2001, was to save the Apollo Cinema, situated on via Giolitti, no more than a stone’s throw from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Esquilino. Despite its long tradition and the significant place it held on the urban landscape, this historic cinema, erected in 1916 in the Liberty style, was destined for closure and the building itself was scheduled for conversion into a bingo hall. A group of artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers, in collaboration with active members of the quarter, petitioned the then mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, arguing that the Apollo Cinema was a vital centre for the promotion of interculturalism. Signatures were collected from residents and screenings of ethnic films fitting the multicultural nature of the quarter were organised. The intention was for the renovated cinema to serve as a rehearsal space for the multi-ethnic orchestra. However, because the procedure for its take-over by the city and the renovation work would continue over a number of years, another home was found for the ensemble [Marconi, 2007, e-doc.]. With time, Apollo 11 transformed from a spontaneous action into an association operating on a regular basis and housed in the Galileo Galilei school, one alumnus of which was Marcello Mastroianni. Popularly known as ‘Piccolo Apollo’, the associa-

tion’s premises are a genuine artistic laboratory where intercultural, ethnic meetings, shows, exhibitions and concerts are held. Esquilino is a quarter which is both Roman and foreign at one and the same time, a quarter where, as the founders of Apollo 11 put it, “coexistence and respect for difference, for one’s own roots and traditions, has now become, in part, a reality and in part, a hope and an aim to be fulfilled…” [ Apollo11.asp]. Thanks to the activities of Apollo 11, working in collaboration with other local civic associations, it has been possible to revitalise and rehabilitate Esquilino, to restore its dilapidated areas and regenerate a positive image. Built in the late 19th century, the quarter was originally treated as a residential area for the ‘wealthy classes’. After the Second World War, it began to decline, acquiring the features of a popolare quarter, i.e. for the ‘common people’. The area adjoining the Termini railway station and the ‘cheap hotels’ became a focal point for the local criminal element. However, Esquilino also drew the local bohemians, artists and students. [Marconi, 2007, e-doc.]. For some time, the quarter was considered to be an unsafe area, while the constantly uncontrolled influx of immigrants induced the local residents to move to other parts of the Eternal City. Apollo 11 succeeded in transforming this specific atmosphere into an attribute, turning multiculturalism into the pride of the quarter and its foremost attraction. On their website, the association’s activists dub Esquilino a quarter where Italians constitute “an ethnic minority” [ LaNostraStoria.asp]. It was at just this time, when work on rehabilitating this multicultural corner of Rome was under way, that the notion of forming an ethnic orchestra made up of immigrants musicians was born. The orchestra was intended to be “a musical transposition of the complexity of sounds and voices issuing forth from [Vittorio] square” []. In an interview, the man behind the idea, Mario Tronco, tells the tale of how it was a kind of bet with his co-founder, Agostino Ferrente. Tronco shared his notion with Ferrente and the latter immediately started looking for people to join the orchestra. They took a risky step, offering the organisers of the RomaEuropa Festival a performance by a multi-ethnic immigrant orchestra, an orchestra that was, as yet, non-existent. The offer of a debut concert during the festival spurred the two founders on to ac-

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tion [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 191]. The ensemble’s successful debut was the first step on the road to renown. The founders, non-professional musicians from various parts of the world, including Tunisia, Cuba Brazil, Ecuador, Hungary, Senegal and India, as well as from Italy,23 were united by a common aim; to make music and disseminate it beyond the socio-ethnic stream. Although support from the local authorities was wanting and despite problems with finance and officialdom, in the space of just a few years, the ensemble succeeded in attaining enormous popularity, both in Italy and abroad. The Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio has become a subject of sociological studies and an object of media interest. In 2006, Agostino Ferrente gave the first public screening of his documentary, L’Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio24, in which he gives a blow-by-blow account of the birth of this unusual band. When the first scenes were shot, the orchestra was still non-existent. It is thus a unique, documentary and factual recording of the struggles, endeavours, successes and setbacks which Tronco and Ferrente met with and had to overcome in order to bring their idea to life. As Ferrente says, “I wouldn’t like to say that the film came first and then the reality, but the two things were born more or less simultaneously, their impact was mutual and the both of them acted as spurs to action” [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 192]. The Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio has already given several hundred concerts on several continents and the ensemble of ethnic musicians have recorded three albums to date. The first, which sold 20,000 copies, received the 2005 German Record Critics’ Award in the World Music category. In 2009, the orchestra appeared at several European festivals, performing its own interpretation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Magic Flute and their ethnic interpretation of this classic work is now a permanent fixture in their repertoire. As Gammaitoni remarks, the universal symbolism of The Magic Flute has been newly interpreted in accord with the feelings and musical languages of the many cultures which go to make up the orchestra [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 194].



ilena Gammaitoni writes, an analysis of this atypical orchestra demands a multidisciplinary approach, invoking a variety of concepts and viewing the ensemble’s functioning in a number of contexts. Naturally, its existence can be described in relation to several social dimensions at the very least. First and foremost, its activities serve to integrate immigrants into the receiving country. Participation in its work is an important element of socialisation, preparing people to coexist with the representatives of other ethnic groups.25 Another crucial aspect is the ensemble’s reception by Italian society, the success it has achieved in recent years. Its fan base is continually growing and it now gives concerts not only in Italy, but also abroad. Thus, if ‘visibility’ and ‘recognisability’ are taken as two of the criteria for being an artist, then this group of playing music immigrants can undoubtedly be defined as an artistic ensemble par excellence. Besides the orchestra’s social functions, it is also worth looking at the ethnic musicians’ creative work itself. Their repertoire is a remarkable fusion of elements originating for various parts of the world. The ethnic melodies and rhythms which every one of the musicians brings with them as part of their personal ‘cultural baggage’ play a role as a component part of the musical puzzle which is born as a synthesis of the individual skills, experiences and ideas. Created out of a shared, creative endeavour, the works demolish the traditional divisions of musical form and style. Allusions to folk melodies and tradition and to the classics can be found in them, as can references to modern music, jazz and rock. The final effect of this collaborative music-making is thus also a form of integration for diverse cultural milieux, one which works through sound and rhythm.

23 It is worth noting that the largest immigrant group in Esquilino, the Chinese, is not represented at all in the orchestra. This might be explained by the specific, “closed” nature of the insular, Chinese community; [see: Marconi, 2007, p. 6]. 24 The film has met with an appreciative reception at numerous festivals, including Locarno and the Tribeca Film festival in New York. It received several awards in Italy, including il Globo d’Oro, the Italian Golden Globe for the best documentary film. It has been released in a variety of countries and is often screened together with the orchestra’s concerts. 25 Giovanna Marconi dubs this process of integrating immigrant musicians “urban inclusion” (“inclusión urbana”) [2007, p. 6].

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In anthropological terms, music constitutes a highly essential factor for social integration, because it satisfies the need to participate in something which is close, familiar and shared by the community. At the same time, it gives a sense of certainty and security which is connected with belonging to a group with whom we are linked by common values, a common lifestyle and a common form of artistic expression. Music thus affords an ongoing affirmation and renewal of group solidarity, reducing social distances and uniting the community within which it is born [Merriam, 1983]. The first multi-ethnic music ensemble of its kind, founded on the basis of a spontaneous project, Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio can thus serve as an example of good practice in the field of immigrant integration.26 The music it creates is often perceived as an integrative element in an environment which has its full share of prejudice and intolerance. The ensemble unites musicians from five continents, immigrants and nativeborne Italians alike, whose performances include works which they themselves have composed, played on instruments from their homeland. Taking the band from Piazza Vittorio as their example, similar groups of musicians have begun to emerge in other Italian towns.27 As Ewa Krawczak writes, “artists (…) create a vision of new forms of social order with greater ease and more speed than scholars or people working for the community’s good [Krawczak, 2009, p. 242]. The intercultural orchestra may thus be treated as an environment, a particular kind of incubator for integration, an intercultural model that can also be used in other contexts of life in Italian society. The ensemble’s integrative role also consists in the fact that its concerts succeed in gathering audiences from a variety of milieux. In her Sociology of Art, Nathalie Heinich notes that contemporary perception has moved on from viewing the ‘end users’ of art as a generalised group. What is now in place is a division of the public into various sections, socially differentiated and stratified in accordance with

their affiliation to a variety of socio-cultural milieux [Heinich, 2008, p. 76]. It would seem, however, that the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio has succeeded in garnering a highly «generalised» public, one which goes beyond divisions of age or profession or those connected with social prestige. The ensemble’s openness and accessibility in respect of their public is also expressed by making possible their free participation in rehearsals held at their home base, the Galileo Galilei school in Esquilino. In his classic work, Johan Huizinga states that “every culture has its own musical convention and, in general, the human ear can only endure those acoustic forms to which it has become accustomed28” [Huizinga, 1985, p. 265]. The appeal and recognisability of the orchestra’s eclectic, intercultural repertoire appears to gainsay that argument. The spontaneous and informal nature of the ensemble’s birth was bound up with the many tribulations which its members had to go through. Initially, the musicians had problems with remaining a permanent part of the ensemble; their residency permits were due to expire and the orchestra’s founder were not in a position to give them regular, long-term employment. The immigrants were forced to continue in their previous jobs, which, as a rule, were either in the services sector or physical work, in order to be able to survive. Becoming involved in the orchestra’s activities should also be viewed as an expression of courage and enterprise on the part of every single musician, since neither the Italian state nor any other public institution provided any financial support for the venture. The musicians kept it going with their own, voluntary contributions, which served to pay for the hire of rehearsal rooms and cover other expenses. The members of the ensemble, musicians, thus experienced a situation all too familiar to artists; an unpredictable future [Heinich, 2008, s. 76]. It was upon such prosaic issues as the extension of an Italian residency permit that the development and success of a talented group of people depended. The composition of

26 Analysing the activities of the orchestra as an example of good practice, Marconi points to three of the ensemble’s functions; creating employment, personal fulfilment and sensitising to diversity (creación de empleo, realización personal, sensibilización a la diversidad). He cites the venture’s primary aim as increasing the level of “social cohesion” within the multi-ethnic quarter and “sensitising the public” to a new, positive immigrant image. [Marconi, 2007, p. 3] 27 In an interview, Mario Tronco, discussing the ethnic orchestras which have been set up as a result of the inspiration provided by the ensemble from Rome, inter alia in Padua, Genoa, Trento, Naples and Turin, dubs this an “Italian phenomenom”, see: Benedetta Barnabei, Suoni e colori di una Piazza d’eccezione. Incontro con Mario Tronco, http://www.culturaspettacolovenezia. it/index.php?iddoc=9617 [on-line, 29.04.2011]. 28 Translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article.

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the ensemble has never been a fixed one. To date, around thirty people have been involved in the orchestra’s work, a number of whom have left the group. Marconi makes mention of how difficult it was for the musicians to organise rehearsals for the entire group on account of the restrictions of time. They customarily worked in smaller groups and the full orchestra only met ten days before the first concert [Marconi, 2007, e-doc.]. What function does shared music-making fulfil for the immigrant members of the ensemble themselves? As posited by Alfred Schütz, making music is always a specific situation, a temporal multidimensionality simultaneously experienced by each individual and personal to them. As they play, musicians live in an outer time, in the relationship with the audience and an inner time, in the relationship between themselves. As Schütz writes, “each of them, in engaging in mutual tuning-in and by means of protensions and anticipations, must foresee ‘another’s’ every interpretive phrase and must also be ready to assume the role of leading or accompanying voice at any moment29”. The ‘face to face’ relationship allows musicians to share “‘another’s lived, Hereand-Now stream of consciousness30” [Schütz, 2008, p. 238]. For its members, participating in a multi-ethnic music ensemble can thus be a true intercultural laboratory, preparing them for life in an immigration community. Music also serves them as a fixed and certain reference point within the highly fragmented and complex reality which surrounds them. [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 184]31 The daily reality within which they exist is a constant challenge, a confrontation with various kinds of barriers, or with intolerant attitudes on the part of the locals. “When the multi-ethnic ensemble comes together, this is not merely an exchange of artisitic visions from various parts of the world; it is also a support group, an exchange of experiences as regards life in Rome and a collaborative solving of problems” [Gammaitoni, 2009, p. 191]. Gammaitoni writes of the interest in discovering both the “musical Other” and the “existential Other” that prevails in the ensemble [Gammaitoni, 2009, p.

193]. To cite Alfred Schütz’s conceptual thinking, his sketch on the social function of music-making describes this relationship as one “(…) in which each subject shares the other’s flow of experiences in the inner time32” through this shared experience of the lived Here-and-Now and through the “(…) togetherness (…) experienced as a ‘We’” [Schütz, 2008, s. 239]. The orchestra’s work also fulfils an expressive function, a meaning which “finds voice in the artists’ freedom of expression and creative potential” [Krawczak, 2009, s. 253]. For immigrants, shared music-making is thus an ersatz liberty, a freedom from constraint not experienced in other aspects of their immigrant life. On a daily basis, they encounter a range of barriers, prohibitions and conditions to which, as arrivals ‘from without’, they must acquiesce. The arduous procedures connected with legalising their stay, the laborious process of obtaining a complete set of documents, the repeated, routine visits to a variety of different kinds of state administrative institutions, the rigorous regulations governing relationships with employers; for immigrants, all of these factors are confining. Music is a chance to transport the self, if only for a moment, into another dimension, it is a means for sublimating the remnants of energy left over after struggling with the adversities of everyday existence.



he achievements of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio are an example of a successful, bottom-up, cultural initiative fulfilling an integrative function and helping to break down barriers within a multi-ethnic community. The work of this popular ensemble is, quite naturally, instrumental in spreading a new image of the immigrant in Italy; talented, enterprising, capable of entering into positive relationships with the local inhabitants and contributing to the cultural enrichment of their city and, in particular, to the revitalisation of the Esquilino quarter. This new image of the immigrant as an artist communicating positive

29 Translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article; reference: Nicole Pedone Intersubjectivity, Time and Social Relationship in Alfred Schütz’s Philosophy of Music, online, 22.08.11. 30 Translated from the Polish for the purposes of this article.; reference: Alfred Schütz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, NorthWestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois 1967, 22.08.11. 31 Gammaitoni maintains that, for the members, music is a “comprehensive social fact”. 32 The English quotation is taken from Nicole Perdone’s outline, op. cit.

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emotions constitutes a counterpoint to the negative stereotype of foreigners popular in Italy. What often appears in the Italian press is the model of the immigrant-as-clandestino, staying in the country illegally, or the immigrant-as-rubalavoro, stealing jobs from others, whilst influxes of foreigners are associated with natural disasters such as floods, avalanches and tsunamis. Immigrants have to overcome these mental patterns. The orchestra operates beyond social divides, attracting listeners and breaking the established

barriers of cultural milieux, going against fixed audience classifications and hierarchies. As a result, it serves the revaluation and redefinition of the concept of social distance, of that which is close and far removed, known and unknown, ‘ours’ and ‘alien’. The ensemble’s success is likewise proof that it is possible to adapt to a new environment not by assimilating and withdrawing from one’s own roots, but by integration, uniting diverse cultural elements and building a new quality with them.

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Karolina Golemo, Music as an integrative element in immigrant communities...  

Culture Management 2012 No 1: Karolina Golemo, Music as an integrative element in immigrant communities. The Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, a...