Tarantella: Tarantism in Italian Society Essay

Tarantella: Tarantism in Italian Society Essay

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“Music is a resource for human relationships and identities, an “anchor” that serves as a foundation for activity; inexorably musical practices are social practices” (Blackstone 6). This quote directly describes the role of the tarantella and tarantism in Italian society. Tarantism is the oldest and most elaborate spider myth that is still recounted in modern times (Isbister 549-553). This myth is described as the effect that the bite of a tarantula would have on an individual, causing many negative symptoms. The only cure seemed to be constant music. It was a “folk art” ritual for thousands of years, disappearing in the 1950s. Over the years, tarantism, and the tarantella, progressed through three different phases. These included; the beginning of this art until the late 1950s, the failed revival of the 1970s; and the revival of the 1980s until present day. Throughout this time, this ritual served dual purposes of therapy and inspiration of a social movement (Blackstone 184-206).
The tarantella originated around five-hundred years ago in Taranto, the Italian region of Apulia. Also known as Salento, this land area projects out into the Adriatic and Ionian Seas (Isbister 549-553). During this time, Salento was considered to be a dark place, which sparked intellectual curiosity (Blackstone 184-206). This art form was thought to have originated from Greek and Roman societies to honor the gods; Bacchus, Apollo, and Dionysus (Sweeney 22-23). In Greek culture, female worshipers would honor Dionysus, becoming distracted from their work to dance and play kettledrums and tambourines (Blackstone 184-206).
The Italian tarantula, found in the fields around southern Taranto, was known to bite the bare feet of the harvest workers (Sweeney 2...

... middle of paper ...

... of Southern Italy’s culture and society (Bynum 1736).

Works Cited

Blackstone, L. ""The Spider Is Alive": Reassessing Becker's Theory of Artistic Conventions
through Southern Italian Music. ”Symbolic Interaction 32.3 (2009): 184-206. ProQuest Central, ProQuest. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Bynum, Bill. "Discarded diagnoses." Lancet 358.9294 (2001): 1736. Academic Search Elite.
EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Isbister, Geoffrey K. "Necrotic arachnidism: the mythology of a modern plague." Lancet
364.9433 (2004): 549-553. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Sweeney, Philip. "ARTS WORLD MUSIC: Arachnophenia; A 2,000-year-old dance
traditionally used to cure a tarantula's bite is taking Italy by storm. PHILIP SWEENEY sinks his teeth into the phenomenon of tarantella; [FOREIGN Edition]." Independent (2003): 22-23. Web. 28 Feb 2010.
Course Pack: “Tarantella”

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