Il Duce
- Louis Andriessen

is work was originally called Prix Italia. In 1973 the Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation commissioned me to write a work to be entered to the Prix Italia. I had just returned from Italy, where I had seen in record shops releases of fascist songs and Mussolini speeches. The MSI had become the biggest neo-fascist party in Europe (charming Prix Italia!) and this, combined with the fact that in the 1930s, the fascists had been the first to make systematic use of the radio as a political medium, prompted my decision to write Prix Italia. The introduction is a fragment from the radio speech given by Mussolini in Turin in 1935: “At this moment twenty million Italians are gathered together in squares throughout the length and breadth of Italy. It is the greatest demonstration in the history of mankind. Twenty million! All with the same heart, the same mind, the same wish. This assembly signifies that the identity of Italy and Fascism is perfect, absolute and immutable.” Then the piece opens with the tape loop of the sentence, with the pauses between the words so typical of Fascist oratory somewhat shortened. The loop has playing time of 23,6 seconds, twice the last sentence. At this point the input shuts o and the circuit is autonomous. What is recorded on the tape is now the feedback of the loop. The voice becomes ever more unrecognisable because it is superimposed to an increasing extent over original voice on the loop. By means of this electrical circuit, Mussolini’s voice destroys itself. There is no exterior input during the first ten minutes, after which this process continues until the feedback sounds become completely garbled. is leads into a coda, a quotation. From the psychological point of view there is a vast difference between the coda, which is experienced as “liberating,” and the electrical process preceding it. Yet the coda also has something in common with Mussolini: politics. Richard Strauss was after all the first president of the Reichmusikkamer in 1933. Also Nietzsche, author of Also sprach Zarathustra, is—like Strauss, for that matter—a classic example of an artist exploited by fascism. But some artists are more easily abused than others. In 1975 Hans Hulscher made a television version for the Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation; since then, both the film and the tape have been called Il Duce, after the title taken by Mussolini. After all, Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation did not enter the work for the Prix Italia. 

Louis Andriessen