History

Among the Fondazione Isabella Scelsi's many aims, a certain importance has been given to the “establishment of an archive documenting all things pertaining contemporary music – with a special focus on Maestro Scelsi's activities – open for consultation to all scholars, alongside the development of a collection of musical instruments, sound files and other materials”.
The Archive is therefore the main tool to achieve a better knowledge on both the oeuvre and life events of one of the greatest figures of 20th century music. This section was born out of a specific intent: the desire to give the general public access to vast collection of documents that are of great significance to contemporary music, which makes it the very vital centre of the Foundation and the driving force behind its projects and activities.
After receiving recognition by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Activities and Heritage, in 1990 the Foundation started working on Giacinto Scelsi's legacy. Just a few months later, the first attempts were made to implement possible enumeration and cataloging systems, especially for the recordings documenting Scelsi's first improvisations, transferred on DAT audio tapes for preservation purposes.
In preparation for the opening of the Archive, which took place on May 6 2009, systematic measures were taken to assure that all documents were reorganized, filed and  cataloged in order to be made fully available to the public. It was during this phase that our staff realized the documentation's complete lack of order, probably due to its creator, that led us to create a totally new structure of criteria in order to coherently shape and regulate all materials. To this end, a specially-made computer software was designed: the FIShrdb Archive system is able to internally integrate all the characteristics of a hierarchical database (based on a tree data structure of the documents) with those of relational database management systems, enabling an easy fruition and administration of all the different types of documents present in the archive and connect all materials with a complex authority file system (research access keys).
Simultaneously, the Foundation established an ongoing collaboration with the Central Institute for Sound and Audiovisual Heritage, initiating a complex digitalization process of over 700 recordings that has yet to be completed.


The opening of the Archive to scholars has given way to a whole new and exciting phase characterized by a fruitful relationship of constant collaboration and exchange with both Italian and international users.
The Archive's documentation, which is still undergoing a complex process of reorganization and inventory, has been divided in two sections: the historical section, pertaining all things produced and preserved by Giacinto Scelsi during his lifetime, and the Isabella Scelsi Foundation's section, which includes all materials produced and collected by the foundation over the years in its many activities to promote and raise awareness of the Maestro's oeuvre, both in Italy and abroad.
The “Giacinto Scelsi” Archive is divided in two: the musical section and the one containing the Maestro's private documents. The former mainly revolves around the scores of his compositions (manuscripts, heliographic prints, tracing paper) and the aforementioned recordings - to be considered true works of art, the very groundwork of Scelsi's complex compositional process – alongside a great number of records and scores by other composers (some dedicated to Scelsi himself) that the musician would collect and preserve for his own personal interest.
The “Private” section consists of a series of personal and property-related documents, family papers, photos, drawings and correspondence which stand as proof of Scelsi's extraordinarily vast network of institutions, both Italian and international contacts, the Maestro's poetic and literary efforts, concert programmes, posters, reviews and so much more.
The “Isabella Scelsi Foundation” Archive on the other hand consists mostly of documents – print scores, theatre playbills, books, articles, dissertations, CDs, VHS, DVDs – produced after the composer's death, which bear witness to the Maestro's cultural and musical legacy worldwide.
The Foundation has also preserved the composer's vast literary collection which offers an important insight on his passions and interests.
The chronology of the archive's documentation transcends Giacinto Scelsi's lifetime, dating back to the first half of the 1800s. Among the family papers, a bundle of letters addressed to the composer's grandfather, Ignazio Giacinto Maria Scelsi, is particularly noteworthy for they were penned by illustrious Italian politicians such as Francesco Crispi, Urbano Rattazzi, Nino Bixio, Terenzio Mamiani, etc.

Ignazio Giacinto Maria Scelsi (Collesano, July 30th 1825 – Rome, May 6th 1902) immigrated from Sicily to Turin and took sides with Crispi during the Expedition of the Thousand. After the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, he was appointed prefect and thus began a career leading 15 provinces, distinguishing himself in his severe repression of Banditry in Ascoli Piceno. He was also elected Senator of the realm in 1890 and wrote a number of books on economic history.

To learn more about the available consulting methods and the possibility to request copies of the documents,  please refer to the Study Hall Rules and to the Price List for Services.

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