Paolo Castaldi was born in Milano (September 9, 1930 - February 22, 2021). He began with music at an early age, and went on to study piano and composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milano. While studying music, he also at-tended courses in engineering for three years at the Milano Polytech. He holds degrees in composition, conduct-ing and polyphonic vocal composition.
Castaldi attended a number of specialization courses in composition, at Dartington Hall and the Chigiana Acade-my in Siena. He also attended courses at Darmstadt’s Kranichsteiner Institut für zeitgenössische Musik from 1960 to 1963, where he studied under Boulez, Ligeti, Kagel and Stockhausen. After that time, Castaldi ceased all forms of collaboration, even on a critical level, with exponents of the “avant-garde”, which he considered to have exhausted any function it might have had.
On his own, he continued to study music in its various historical forms and styles, independently of the manners that seemed to be imposing themselves by degrees and coming to dominate, for the time being, the scene. He fol-lowed with great attention the evolution of musical thought and language of his day, and dedicated several cycles of seminars and talks, at various institutions and on radio broadcasts, to theoretical and technical aspects.
Castaldi has always maintained a lively interest in reading. Besides the great masters, with a special nod to the 20th-century greats, he developed a predilection for developments in philosophy and mathematics, which he had been introduced to at the Milano Polytech. He has also kept up on the contemporary evolution of poetics in the other arts, especially as regards painting and critical literature regarding painting.
Castaldi has published many essays and articles on his conceptions of music, as well as on the work of other composers, like Debussy, Stravinsky, the latter period of Bach, Cage, and on particular moments and aspects of musical thought in general. He tends to treat his subjects from a poetic point of view, which is guided by his own position as a composer. Systematically, from 1962 to 1971, he provided his scores with parallel written comment, which was essentially intended – unlike the descriptive prose so often used at the time – to be a conceptual, ra-ther than explicative, account of each project.
His works have been performed at leading venues for contemporary music in Darmstadt, Venice, Brussels and New York. He has taught at the conservatories in Parma and Milano.
He has always refuted interpretations of his works as “desecrating”, “neodadaist” or “amusing”, which for many years a certain section of the critics insistently foisted upon him.
Castaldi’s compositions have been published by Ricordi and by Suvini Zerboni.
Photo: © Roberto Masotti / Lelli e Masotti Archivio