The persistence of Italian musical and entertainment traditions

There is a new paper by Karol Jan Borowiecki, published in Oxford Economic Papers:

I investigate the consequences of long-run persistence of a society’s preferences for cultural goods. Historical cultural activity is approximated with the frequency of births of music composers during the Renaissance and is linked with contemporary measures of cultural activity in Italian provinces. Areas with a 1% higher number of composer births nowadays show an up to 0.29% higher supply of classical concerts and 0.16% more opera performances. Classical concerts and opera performances have also rather bigger audiences and obtain greater revenues in provinces that have been culturally active in the past. Today, those provinces also exhibit a somewhat lower supply of other forms of entertainment (e.g., sport events), thereby implying a tantalizing divergence in societies’ cultural preferences that is attributable to events rooted in the past. It is also shown that the geography of composer births is remarkably persistent over a period of seven centuries.

For the pointer I thank Ben Southwood.


I am less than astonished to learn that opera is more popular in Italy than elsewhere. Lots of operas are written in Italian. Surely speaking the language enhances the enjoyment one gets from the performance.

The paper compares provinces in Italy. There is no "elsewhere."

Chandos records offers an admirable series of English language recordings of nearly every major Italian, German and French opera with excellent singers. However, it's still hard to figure out what they're saying. In live performance, supertitles are the wave of the future - whatever the language. (Supertitled Shakespeare is a wonderful development.)

This could be interesting or trivial. It would be interesting if he was comparing like with like. Italy is a very diverse country with very diverse intellectual and cultural traditions. As well as problems with poverty and underdevelopment. So if he is comparing Tuscany with Umbria, sure that is interesting. However I suspect he is comparing Venice with Sicily. Or Milan with Sardinia. That is not so interesting. As these regions have been poor for a lot longer than 700 years.

Tuscany (e.g., Florence) has been a center of the visual arts since the Etruscans arrived thousands of years ago.

But then Naples was a center of visual arts before the Romans arrived. As was much of southern Italy. Syracuse was a great city before and during the Roman period. These areas did well under the Muslims as well - although much of the Arab reputation seems over stated.

They have not been doing so well lately. Something happens. Toynbee blamed Hannibal but that does not seem plausible.

With the UN forecasting that the population of African continent will reach 4.2 billion by 2100, it doesn't look to likely that the Italian civilization that has brought so much pleasure to the world over the centuries can avoid inundation by boat people.

Perhaps the Italians will enjoy greater exposure to African musical composition traditions.

In my view this shows exactly why we need to have great interest in things we do. If we do anything without having love for it then we won’t get the results we wish for. I am doing Forex trading and I have got complete love for it and thanks to OctaFX broker, it has only made my love for Forex bigger with their swap free account which keeps helping me to do long term trading without having to pay anything at all.

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