Luciano Berio

Luciano Berio


Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
One of Italy's greatest avant-garde composers, Luciano Berio was born in 1925 to a musical family that eagerly guided him into the world of composition. He studied at Milan until 1951, and then set upon a long career of living alternately in Italy and the United States, studying under various modernist masters and forging his own unique style. In 1950 he married American singer Cathy Berberian, and many of his pieces are written for her voice. From 1955 to 1960, he directed the "Studio di Fonologia Musicale," a center for electronic music which he and Bruno Maderna had founded at RAI (Italian Radio). After another decade of living in America, he returned to Italy and founded "Centro Tempo Reale," an institute for music research which drew together musicians and computer science experts in order to advance and explore new forms of composition.
Of the same generation as Stockhausen and Cage, Berio pioneered modernism in music and the use of electronics to explore new musical frontiers. He employed a myriad of idioms and techniques during his long and prolific career, specializing in works for the voice, "chance" music, serialism, electronic music, and most famously, a series of virtuoso pieces called "Sequenzia." Berio was also fascinated with literature, particularly twentieth century modernism and postmodernism. Italo Calvino wrote the text for two of Berio's stage works, and his work in Italian radio led him to a friendship with Umberto Eco. James Joyce inspired a few of his pieces; it was perhaps only natural that he should turn to Beckett for musical inspiration.


Sinfonia -- (1968) This amazing tour de force of music, sound, and voice incorporates text from Beckett's The Unnamable.

More Berio on the Libyrinth:

Berio and Joyce -- This is the Luciano Berio page at Bronze by Gold, which details his Joycean compositions Chamber Music, Thema, Epifanie, and Outis.

Links/CDs/Sound Samples

Berio's publisher, Universal Edition, maintains a small Berio site where you can hear clips of his work, peek at some scores, and get information about upcoming performances.

You can read more about Berio on the Berio Page at Eyeneer.

Emory University also maintains a small Berio Page.

The IRCAM Berio Page contains an extensive list of works. (French)

Berio mentions Joyce's Ulysses in this inteview.

Berio is discussed in Timothy S. Murphy's article "Music After Joyce: The Post-Serial Avant-Garde," available on Hypermedia Joyce Studies.

You may listen to sound samples and/or purchase Luciano Berio CDs online from or below:


Berio: Sinfonia, Eindrücke / Boulez, French National RO
Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1991

Thema (Omaggio a Joyce):

Luciano Berio - Many More Voices / Berberian, et al
Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1998

Chamber Music:

Berio, Maderna / Plotino, Lugo, New Music Studium Production
Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1997

Berio: The Great Works for Voice / Christine Schadeberg
Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1995

Other Notable Releases:

Berio: Complete Sequenzas/ Boulez, Ensemble InterContemporain
Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1999

--Allen B. Ruch
1 June 2003

"Damn the mail" -- Send email to Apmonia's Tim Conley and the Great Quail -- comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions . . . all are welcome!