[Monday Notes no. 117] Impressioni di settembre is an amazing song by Premiata Forneria Marconi PFM, a well-known Italian rock band from the 1970s. The song has all the typical characteristics of progressive rock. Indeed, the lyrics, melody, harmony and arrangement have nothing to envy the more famous English bands.
The lyrics have a naturalistic, almost bucolic content. The protagonist walks through the countryside at dawn, surrounded by the colours and scents of nature, while he meditates on the meaning of life.
The topic is not new, many romantic poets of the 19th century describe similar situations. A similar scenario is also found in King Crimson’s I Talk To The Wind. Mogol’s lyrics may not be particularly original, but they fit the music perfectly.
Impressioni di settembre is based on a harmonic progression of eight measures, which always is repeated in the same way. The chords are mainly derived from the Doric mode, although the passage Gm Am Dm recalls the natural minor scale.
The first two strophes are the same, but the third has a variation. While maintaining the same chords, the sung line goes up in a higher register.
On the last word of the phrase “sembra quasi che si perda” On the last word of the phrase ‘it almost seems to get lost’ starts the instrumental passage, which is harmonically based on the initial four chords of the verse. The phrase is based almost entirely on the ascending minor scale, only the 6th degree is missing.
The instrumental passage of Impressions of September has a very original rhythmic subdivision that alternates sixteenths, eighths and quarter notes in an ever-changing pattern.
The phrase begins on D below the staff, ends on D an octave above (on the fourth line) and moves almost always diatonically. It is largely a simple minor scale, but the rhythmic subdivision makes it very interesting. Moreover, the piece grows a lot at this point, reaching a climax from a dynamic point of view.
Impressioni di settembre was PFM’s first single, released in October 1971 by the label Numero Uno. It was also the first Italian song to use the moog synthesiser, so characteristic of 1970s music. In order to use the instrument, which was very rare and very expensive, the band had to borrow it from the importer, who kindly agreed.
On the other side of the 45 rpm record is the song entitled La carrozza di Hans, presented by the band at the Festival di avanguardia e nuove tendenze in Viareggio, where they qualified in first place, tied with Osanna and Mia Martini. Those were years of great ferment in the Italian music scene, particularly in the rock scene.
Impressioni di settembre is an absolute masterpiece of Italian progressive rock. Although it is contained in Premiata Forneria Marconi’s first album, it also represents in my opinion the highest point reached by the band.
Until next Monday!
Download the lead sheet of Impressioni di settembre