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Faculty of Music

Dr Marco  Ladd


Research Fellow, Emmanuel College
Director of Studies, Emmanuel College (MT 2021)


I am a Junior Research Fellow at Emmanuel College. I received my PhD from Yale University in 2019, having previously studied at Cambridge (BA 2011, MPhil 2012).

My research centres on music in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century; I’m especially interested in musical repertories that sit at the margins of both elite and popular traditions of music-making. In my doctoral work, I examined film music in Italy during the silent era, the three decades of cinematic development preceding the introduction of synchronised sound. The live musical accompaniment in cinemas at this time sat uneasily between visions of cinema as a new art form, on the one hand, and its implicit potential to become a mass medium, on the other. As a result, both art music and popular music were drawn into debates about a crucial element of cinematic aesthetics: synchronisation. The development of early Italian film music, I argued, shows that synchronisation between music and filmic images isn’t merely a technical matter, nor is it an inherent property of music-image relations. Rather, it is a culturally and historically bounded ideal that offers a compelling lens onto the history of film and its music. 

As a Research Fellow, I’m planning a new project that will consider the emergence of musica leggera, or ‘light music’, in Italy during the 1920s—the decade when this term was first applied widely to various repertoires of popular songs, operettas, and the like. But I’m particularly keen to explore the idea of ‘lightness’ itself: why did it arise when it did? What developments (musical or otherwise) made such a label seem necessary? Like synchronisation, the concept of ‘light music’ is outwardly straightforward, but this apparent simplicity belies the complexity of the musical hierarchies that give rise to it. 


Key publications: 

“Film Music avant la lettre? Disentangling Film from Opera in Italy, c.1913.” Opera Quarterly 34/1 (2018), 29–64.