Biography

Pietro Grossi

1917. Pietro Grossi was born in Venice on April 15, 1917. He completed his studies (graduating with a diploma in the cello in 1935, and in composition in 1941)  at the Conservatorio di Musica In Bologna

1936. (Aged 19) he was appointed as first cello in the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He moved to Florence and held the position until 1966. At the same time he pursued an extensive activity as soloist and with chamber music ensembles both in Italy and abroad.

1942. First compositions for orchestra and chamber ensembles date back to this year,  when Grossi also received a post teaching the cello at the Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini in Florence, where he remains with different roles until 1982.

1956. Grossi was invited to teach the cello at the School of Music, University of Indiana in Bloomington (Indiana).

1960. He began research and experimental studies on electroacoustic music.

1961. In this year Pietro Grossi founded the Association of “Vita Musicale Contemporanea” (Contemporary Music Life) which proposed a series of annual concerts until 1967 at the Conservatorio di Musica In Florence.  The initiative is recognized today as one of relevant historical importance, because it brought to listeners and musicians alike unknown pieces and composers, most of whom were later recognized as significant personalities of contemporary music. Such events led to harsh discussions and at times indignation within Florence’s rather conservative musical environment.

1963. Pietro Grossi founded the Studio of Music Phonology (S2FM) with electroacoustic instruments built on his request.  S2FM especially drew the attention of   young students interested in electroacoustic music and related hardware.

1965. On his suggestion a chair of Electronic Music (the first in Italy) was created and based at the Conservatorio di Musica in Florence, using Grossi’s own instruments. With this new project, he stopped teaching the cello and held the chair of electronic music until his retirement in 1982. In 1965 he collaborated  with the famous artist and designer Bruno Munari  and produced Tetrafono, a sound background for Munari’s serial kinetic sculpture Tetracono. The same sound background was later used with Getullio Alviani’s Transito, exposed at Italian Culture Institute in Moskow in 2009 (after Grossi’s death).

1966. The University of Indiana in Bloomington appointed him again, this time to open up an electroacoustic music laboratory and relative teaching course, that later on was continued by Iannis Xenakis, himself a pioneer of experimental music.

1967. Back in Italy he turned his interest to computer music initially at Olivetti- General Electric in Pregnana Milanese, then at CNUCE (Centro Nazionale di Calcolo elettronico in Pisa (one of the branches of CNR-Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche).

1968. Pietro Grossi organized the first International Convention for the Centres of Experimental Electronic Music, as part of the Festival of 31st Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

1969. A Division of Informatica Musicale (Computer Music) was established at CNUCE and during his tenure Pietro Grossi devised and realized interactive and autonomous programs capable of creating, re-elaborating and playing musical texts.

1970. He presented his first package of Computer Music programs at the Biennale di Musica Contemporanea in Venice, and in the same year carried out the first experiment of telematic music (the first of its kind in the world) connecting Pio Manzù Foundation in Rimini with CNUCE in Pisa. This experience was repeated in 1974 between the CNUCE and Centro delle Telecomunicazioni della Radiotelevisione Francese (by invitation of Iannis Xenakis) in 1978 with the CNUCE and Florence as part of the program of the Festival of 41st Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, and finally in 1987 connecting the Teatro Comunale Fiorentino with the Phology Centre in Essen, Germany.

1975. Pietro Grossi began his experience with the Tau2-Taumus system (hardware and software respectively) for synthetic sound designed by Prof. Franco Denoth at IEI (a branch of CNUCE), producing a package of specifically devised programs. This resulted in the creation of a music archive containing Grossi’s own works and reworked classical music masterpieces spanning Bach’s The Art of Fugue to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

1980. At IROE (Istituto per la Ricerca sulle Onde Elettomagnetiche) in Florence, Grossi realized the IRMUS, a new system for the production of synthetic sound.

1984. On Grossi’s request a Course of Computer Music was established at the Conservatorio di Musica “Luigi Cherubini” in Florence.

In the mid-eighties of the last century Pietro Grossi broadened his research interest to graphics, and his production is characterized by  visual processing using advanced self-decision-making PC programs. His works were presented at several exhibitions and some are currently housed at modern art Museums (Museo del Novecento in Florence, Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Pecci in Prato, to name some)

His music and graphic experiences are based on the same premise. At the time it was already clear to him that PCs would become widely available, powerful and easy to use, allowing anyone to elaborate his/her approach to art. Therefore he created the concept of “HomeArt” , defined as “extemporary, ephemeral, beyond others’ judgement “. It was a revolutionary manifesto in contrast to the conventional idea of Art. Moreover he anticipated how deeply new tools like PCs would positively affect human society. 

These concepts have been reported in several articles, interviews and books. A group of former students and colleagues collected Grossi’s thoughts in a book as a homage for his 70th birthday. In the preface Albert Mayr says: “He (Grossi) is not interested in being recognized as a personality…rather he offers his experiences, research, and insights to anyone sharing similar interests and operative approaches. To him the very concept of intellectual property should not exist at all, in consideration of the   characteristics of new tools (PCs)…….his (Grossi’s) reluctance to promote himself, clearly documented in his writings, is surprising”.

1991. Pietro Grossi created the “HOMEBOOK”, proposing an editorial project allowing anyone to create personalized products, and devised a specific software for this purpose. The result is a unique graphic product (a model was presented at Centro Arte Contemporanea in Prato), and as a result, he produced hundreds of graphic programs.

1996. Pietro Grossi’s initiative couldn’t find a better final destination for his proposals than the Internet. A series of graphic programs are available on the Net. Anyone can upload programs onto his/her own PC at no cost (coherent with concepts of “no intellectual property”), allowing them to process graphics (moving or still images). Unfortunately, he couldn’t accomplish the same plan with music programs, as he died in Florence on February 21, 2002.