Luciano Berio

Luciano Berio

Chamber Music
Thema: Ommagio a Joyce

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 Cage, Boulez and Stockhausen, 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 solo 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. It was perhaps only natural that he should turn to Joyce and Beckett for musical inspiration.


Chamber Music -- (1953) Three songs adapted from Joyce's Chamber Music poems.

Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) -- (1958) An electronic transformation of the opening text from the "Sirens" episode of Ulysses, as read by Cathy Berberian

Epifanie -- (1961) A vocal setting of five literay texts, including a passage form Portrait.

Outis -- (1996) In the late 90s, Berio premièred a new opera entitled Outis, based on the Odyssey ("Outis" is Greek for Nobody). I have been told that the opera contains references to Joyce's Ulysses as well. (Unrecorded)

More Berio on the Libyrinth:

Berio and Beckett -- This is the Luciano Berio page at Apmonia, which details his Beckettian composition Sinfonia.

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 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.

Scott W. Klein discusses Joyce and Berio in his excellent paper, James Joyce and Avant-Garde Music.

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

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


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

Other Notable Releases:

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

--Allen B. Ruch
14 October 2004
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