Carlo Innocenzi is a wonderful man. He died in Rome in 1962 but is still very much alive. Firstly, there are his art-deco covers which he designed for popular Italian songs: they keep you happy all day long.
Secondly, as a trained violist and composer he launched several popular songs of his own, a.o. ‘Il primo amore‘ and ‘Prigoniero di un Sogno‘. Part of this success was due to the lyrics by Marcella Rivi, nom de plume of Sonia Pearlwing (1910-1981), the woman he promptly maried. In the late 1930s he started working for Italian cinema and was hardly able to stop: he composed more than 150 songs and scores for the screen.
But in the third place, Innocenzi is still amongst us because in the Umbrian town where he was born in 1899, Monteleone di Spoleto, a street band named Corpo Bandistico Carlo Innocenzi brings his name and memory very much aLIVE.
Excelsior (1841), a classical poem, by the American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was set to music dozens of times. The cover above illustrates the music for the poem composed by John Blockley. Excelsior is the most parodied of all Longfellows poems, being almost a parody of itself. The theme of the poem is punishment for human hubris or excessive pride. A boy, bearing a banner ‘Excelsior’, wants to climb higher and higher in the Alps. He ignores all warnings from the local villagers and ends up dead. Half-buried in the snow he is found by a St. Bernard and some monks.
Excelsior was also illustrated for the magic lantern. We found the images of the slides hereunder on Laterna magica’s website. The projection of slides during a singing performance led to a new, often lucrative business of producing these illustrated songs (1). These slides were remarkable because they were handcoloured photographs made of real life models and decors constructed in a studio. These slides immediately preceded cinema.