The Sala della Musica of Bologna

The first permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of popular music in a city in Italy.

The Sala della Musica, an area dedicated to relating the history of popular music in Bologna since the 1940s, opened on 21st June, World Music Day, in the spaces on the second floor of Salaborsa recently named after the great poet and wordsmith Roberto Roversi.

“The Sala della Musica”, explains Matteo Lepore, Councillor for Culture of the Municipality of Bologna, “was inspired by an idea of the great jazz musician Paolo Fresu, who has been a fellow citizen of ours for many years. It will take its place alongside the city’s musical institutions, completing the story of music in Bologna. The project had its origins in our wish to find a way to portray the wealth of the musical scene in recent decades and the vivacity of its current production, elements that have led to recognition by UNESCO as a Creative City of Music. It is not easy to relate such a complex and many-layered story. We are delighted to offer a product made with scientific rigour, attention towards overall balance and a great love of music".

The Sala della Musica is promoted by the Municipality of Bologna as part of the events celebrating Bologna UNESCO City of Music. The project bears the signature of Diverserighestudio; the Scientific Director is Gianni Sibilla. The exhibition itinerary and content were conceived and drafted by ComunicaMente and by Riccardo Negrelli who was, together with Simone Gheduzzi, the author of the original concept.

“The Sala della Musica”, relates Gianni Sibilla, Scientific Director, university tutor and journalist, “is the first permanent exhibition itinerary in an Italian city dedicated to the history of its popular music. An important initiative, because we often forget the extent to which songs, singers, bands and the musical industry are a fundamental part of the Italian cultural heritage. Bologna is a city without borders, in pop and rock. We have narrated its history and its musical histories, not only through the great artists but also through those who, arriving from other cities, have chosen it as their home and the base for their creativity, putting it at the centre of Italian music. Over eight hundred names and titles are mentioned and related, including artists, songs, albums, professionals, places, theatres, live clubs, labels, recording studios and events, both national and international. Bologna is a scene that has changed over time but which has never, in 75 years, lost its vitality, not least and above all thanks to those working behind the wings”.

The visitor will be guided through the room in a journey embracing installations, images, texts, voices, sounds and songs, demonstrating how the city’s music has dissolved the boundaries between high and low, upper and under.

Accompanying the history of the decades from the post-war years till today are stories and anecdotes, inserted in structures that offer large-as-life lenticular images of the principal artists, and soundwave art of historical songs and videos, enabling the visitor to experience the music in an immersive environment that will give form, body and voice to the narration of the popular music of Bologna.

"The architectural concept”, explains Simone Gheduzzi, CEO of Diverserighestudio, “was born from a reflection on the concept of person. It is in the open dialogue between people that the premises for awareness lie. The projected figures represent places and people who have animated the city’s musical scene. Each has specific features that lend them an individual identity, yet one that is perfectly inserted in the harmonic context of the exhibition layout, an abstraction of Bolognese popular music. Each figure is a Home where it can express itself and a Person with whom to enter in a dialogue. As each follows the other, we are invited to join a moving visual-immersive experience, while at the same time the audio-visual production makes a more intimate dimension possible. The disposition of the figures in the space suggests an itinerary that allows visitors to discover the layout spontaneously, both denotatively and cognitively, thereby examining the content on a range of levels".

The Sala della Musica also has a space dedicated to thematic focuses. The first will be Off Balance, a photographic project dedicated to the difficult situation the music industry is undergoing on account of Covid-19. It was proposed by the Bolognese artist Giovanna Dell’Acqua to the Municipality of Bologna, which received it with enthusiasm. The exhibition by the young photographer, born in 1985, alternates portraits of musicians who, deprived of a stage, are playing where they should not, within their domestic walls, and photographs of some of the most frequently attended Bolognese halls and theatres, bereft in this period of shows and audiences.

The situation of instability is also reflected in the title, which has a double meaning. Off Balance refers to an incorrect balance or the loudspeaker volumes, which must be properly balanced if the music is to be heard well. But it also describes the enormous hole in the balance sheets induced by the closure of halls dedicated to live music.

As well as the permanent itinerary and the temporary space, intended for citizens and tourists of various age groups interested in the musical scene of the last few decades and in contemporary experiences, the Sala will be, from next autumn, a laboratory for dissemination, informal learning and meeting, a place in which the city’s cultural operators and young professionals of the musical industry can listen, view, read and acquire experience.

The Sala della Musica is part of the Laboratorio Aperto di Bologna, a project implemented through the programme POR FESR 2014-2020 – ASSE 6 – Smart Cities and Communities.

The Sala della Musica is open during the opening times of Salaborsa:

Monday: from 14:30 to 20

Tuesday to Friday: from 10 to 20

Saturday: from 14 to 19

Free entry