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Assistant Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley

Delia Casadei is an assistant professor in the Department of Music at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the relationship between voice and politics in Italian 20th-century music. Her doctoral thesis examined this relationship by way of Milan in the 1950s-70s. In this way, she investigated a question usually asked about Italian operatic production in the nineteenth century, namely: what is the political role of language—spoken, written, heard, and misheard—in the musical history of a country that has been mythologized for its sheer vocal prowess?

This question has led her to research a variety of Milan-based centers of musical production—from the electronic music center nestled in the broadcasting headquarters, to the Gramscian efforts of Neo-Folk collectives, to home-grown rock n’ roll.

So far, she has found that the Milanese 1950s (the first decade of democracy in Italy) present us with a collision of epistemologies of voice and sound, resulting in a cultural production that, across the following two decades, often privileges misheard speech, misspoken words, and nonsense as a musical resource.

She is currently expanding her thesis into a book that argues that key political theories formulated in Italy between the 1950s and today (from Gramsci to Operaismo, Agamben, Esposito, and Cavarero) are informed by political ideologies of the voice—from the plebiscitary metaphor of vox populi, vox dei to more specific notions of orality tied to the use of recording technology.

Alongside her Italian research, she has a long-standing interest in the historical relationship of music and laughter in the 20th century, where laughter is no longer necessarily a reaction to humor (musical or otherwise) but an event with a negative charge, something that actively disrupts articulate speech.

She completed her undergraduate degree and Master’s degree at King’s College London, and received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. Her dissertation was supported by a Hopkinson Graduate Research Fellowship and Mellon Humanities Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Completion Fellowship. She has just finished a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge.


  • –present
    Assistant Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley