Col pugno means with the fist, so in music I suppose it would mean to bang your instrument with your fist. I suppose there would be instances in music where a composer would want a soloist to start punching their instrument for musicality’s sake. Would that not be an exciting performance to see the principle violin of a renowned symphony orchestra begin punching the holy hell out of their instrument – musically – as a cadenza or solo – because the music told them to. Perhaps only more exciting than that would be to see an entire section of an orchestra or ensemble begin to engage in a bout of fisticuffs with their respective instruments – again, in the hopes of performing beautiful music.
From the reading I have done the term col pugno comes up mostly in piano music. I don’t think we, as a species having been blessed with gift of music and fists, have taken col pugno as far as it can go. Col pugno could be an entire genre of music where people fight their musical instruments to create music. Maybe this dream is unrealistic and expensive as many musical instruments cost upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars… but I think it could evolve even further after it’s creation into a genre of music where individuals (or teams) fight each other using musical instruments, the catch of course being, the fights must produce music. Beautiful, respectable music… otherwise it’s just senseless violence.
Think about how awesome the drumline battles from the movie Drumline would have been if they had actually been fighting each other Kung-Fu-Movie-Style using the drums as weapons while still maintaining the musicality, rhythm, and tempo of each cadence. Not only would the movie be great, it would be the greatest movie ever made. That is, until the sequel is made: Drumline 2: Enter the Drumline (Starring Jackie Chan as Nick Cannon’s new sensei).
As this whole idea begins to gestate in my imagination and in this post I realize what most of you are now thinking: “Gee Ben, that sounds swell… but how can I help col pugno go mainstream and revolutionize music pageantry as we all know and love it?”
Hell, maybe if you got bored as a music student one day you could just start writing a bunch of these below the staves of your music – especially if you have an important solo or cadenza, so everyone can know that you are punching your instrument. This would work especially well if you have an instrument that you could feasibly hold and play with one hand whilst still being able to punch with you other hand. In the interest of maintaining a playable musical instrument it might also be best to use some of these terms in your playing to gradually adjust your own abilities as a col pugno musician while refraining from offending your potential audience. Col pugno, like John Cage, is not for everyone.
col pugno ma non troppo
would mean “with the fist but not too much,” or better yet…
col pugno con tenerezza
would mean “with the fist with tenderness.”