«Scala naturale e scala temperata». Le tonalità neutre di Domenico Alaleona tra positivismo e idealismo
The theory of the tonalità neutre (neutral keys) exposed by the Italian composer and musicologist Domenico Alaleona in 1911 was one of the first attempts to explain “modern” (post-tonal) harmony according to entirely different principles than those of traditional tonal harmony. Alaleona’s theory has been the subject of several comments and descriptions, and many scholars have highlighted its innovative character. However, so far little attention has been paid to an aspect that plays acrucial role within it: the acoustic basis — natural or tempered — underlying the practice of modern harmony. In this essay, therefore, Alaleona’s theory is recon- sidered in this light. The exposition is divided in three parts: first, the theory is briefly summarized and explained, with a focus on the question of natural/tempered intonation. Then, a comparison with other theories of modern harmony developed around 1911 in both Italy and abroad is provided. Finally, the article highlights some aspects of Alaleona’s thought that reflect the tendencies of Italian musicology at a time when old positivist approaches and new idealist philosophical tendencies were facing each other. This allows us to better understand Alaleona’s theory, thus reconsidering the “prophetic” avant-garde aura that has been created around it, and highlighting, on the other hand, its truly innovative and original aspects.