Luigi Nono (Italian pronunciation: [luˈiːdʒi ˈnɔːno] ; 29 January 1924 – 8 May 1990) was an Italian avant-garde composer of classical music.
Nono, born in Venice, was a member of a wealthy artistic family; his grandfather was a notable painter. Nono began music lessons with Gian Francesco Malipiero at the Venice Conservatory in 1941, where he acquired knowledge of the Renaissance madrigal tradition, amongst other styles. After graduating with a degree in law from the University of Padua, he was given encouragement in composition by Bruno Maderna. Through Maderna, he became acquainted with Hermann Scherchen—then Maderna's conducting teacher—who gave Nono further tutelage and was an early mentor and advocate of his music.
Scherchen presented Nono's first acknowledged work, the Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell'op. 41 di A. Schönberg in 1950, at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt. The Variazioni canoniche, based on the twelve-tone series of Arnold Schoenberg's Op. 41, including the "Ode-to-Napoleon" hexachord, marked Nono as a committed composer of anti-fascist political orientation.(Variazioni canoniche also used a six-element row of rhythmic values.) Nono had been a member of the Italian Resistance during the Second World War. His political commitment, while allying him with some of his contemporaries at Darmstadt such as Henri Pousseur and in the earlier days Hans Werner Henze, distinguished him from others, including Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Nevertheless, it was with Boulez and Stockhausen that Nono became one of the leaders of the New Music during the 1950s.
A number of Nono's early works were first performed at Darmstadt including Tre epitaffi per Federico García Lorca (1951–53), La Victoire de Guernica (1954)—intended, like Picasso's painting, as an indictment of the wartime atrocity—and Incontri (1955). The Liebeslied (1954) was written for Nono's wife-to-be, Nuria Schoenberg (daughter of Arnold Schoenberg), whom he met at the 1953 world première of Moses und Aron in Hamburg. They married in 1955. An atheist,Nono had enrolled as a member of the Italian Communist Party in 1952.
The world première of Il canto sospeso (1955–56) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra brought Nono international recognition and acknowledgment as a successor to Webern. "Reviewers noted with amazement that Nono's canto sospeso achieved a synthesis—to a degree hardly thought possible—between an uncompromisingly avant-garde style of composition and emotional, moral expression (in which there was an appropriate and complementary treatment of the theme and text)".
If any evidence exists that Webern's work does not mark the esoteric "expiry" of Western music in a pianissimo of aphoristic shreds, then it is provided by Luigi Nono's Il Canto Sospeso ... The 32-year-old composer has proved himself to be the most powerful of Webern's successors. ( Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger , 26 October 1956.
This work, regarded by Swiss musicologist Jürg Stenzl as one of the central masterpieces of the 1950s,is a commemoration of the victims of Fascism, incorporating farewell letters written by political prisoners before execution. Musically, Nono breaks new ground, not only by the "exemplary balance between voices and instruments" but in the motivic, point-like vocal writing in which words are fractured into syllables exchanged between voices to form floating, diversified sonorities—which may be likened to an imaginative extension of Schoenberg's "Klangfarbenmelodie technique". Nono himself emphasized his lyrical intentions in an interview with Hansjörg Pauli, ) and a connection to Schoenberg's Survivor from Warsaw is postulated by Guerrero. However, Stockhausen, in his 15 July 1957 Darmstadt lecture, "Sprache und Musik" (published the next year in the Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik and, subsequently, in Die Reihe ), stated:
In certain pieces in the "Canto", Nono composed the text as if to withdraw it from the public eye where it has no place... In sections II, VI, IX and in parts of III, he turns speech into sounds, noises. The texts are not delivered, but rather concealed in such a regardlessly strict and dense musical form that they are hardly comprehensible when performed.
Why, then, texts at all, and why these texts?
Here is an explanation. When setting certain parts of the letters about which one should be particularly ashamed that they had to be written, the musician assumes the attitude only of the composer who had previously selected the letters: he does not interpret, he does not comment. He rather reduces speech to its sounds and makes music with them. Permutations of vowel-sounds, a, ä, e, i, o, u; serial structure.
Should he not have chosen texts so rich in meaning in the first place, but rather sounds? At least for the sections where only the phonetic properties of speech are dealt with.
Nono took strong exception, and informed Stockhausen that it was "incorrect and misleading, and that he had had neither a phonetic treatment of the text nor more or less differentiated degrees of comprehensibility of the words in mind when setting the text".) Despite Stockhausen's contrite acknowledgment, three years later, in a Darmstadt lecture of 8 July 1960 titled "Text—Musik—Gesang", Nono angrily wrote:
The legacy of these letters became the expression of my composition. And from this relationship between the words as a phonetic-semantic entirety and the music as the composed expression of the words, all of my later choral compositions are to be understood. And it is complete nonsense to conclude, from the analytic treatment of the sound shape of the text, that the semantic content is cast out. The question of why I chose just these texts and no others for a composition is no more intelligent than the question of why, in order to express the word "stupid", one uses the letters arranged in the order s-t-u-p-i-d.
Il canto sospeso has been described as an "everlasting warning";indeed, it is a powerful refutation to the apparent claim made in an often-cited, but out-of-context phrase from philosopher Theodor W. Adorno that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric".
Nono was to return to such anti-fascist subject matter again, as in Diario polacco; Composizione no. 2 (1958–59), whose background included a journey through the Nazi concentration camps, and the "azione scenica" Intolleranza 1960 , which caused a riot at its première in Venice, on 13 April 1961.
It was Nono who, in his 1958 lecture "Die Entwicklung der Reihentechnik",created the expression "Darmstadt School" to describe the music composed during the 1950s by himself and Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and other composers not specifically named by him. He likened their significance to the Bauhaus in the visual arts and architecture.
On 1 September 1959, Nono delivered at Darmstadt a polemically charged lecture written in conjunction with his pupil Helmut Lachenmann, "Geschichte und Gegenwart in der Musik von Heute" ("History and Presence in the Music of Today"), in which he criticised and distanced himself from the composers of chance and aleatoric music, then in vogue, under the influence of American models such as John Cage.Although in a seminar a few days earlier Stockhausen had described himself as "perhaps the extreme antipode to Cage", when he spoke of "statistical structures" at the concert devoted to his works on the evening of the same day, the Marxist Nono saw this in terms of "fascist mass structures" and a violent argument erupted between the two friends. In combination with Nono's strongly negative reaction to Stockhausen's interpretation of text-setting in Il canto sospeso, this effectively ended their friendship until the 1980s, and thus disbanded the "avant-garde trinity" of Boulez, Nono, and Stockhausen.
Intolleranza 1960 may be viewed as the culmination of the composer's early style and aesthetics.The plot concerns the plight of an emigrant captured in a variety of scenarios relevant to modern capitalist society: working class exploitation, street demonstrations, political arrest and torture, concentration camp internment, refuge, and abandonment. Described as a "stage-action"—Nono explicitly forbade the title of "opera" —it utilizes an array of resources from large orchestra, chorus, tape, and loudspeakers to the "magic lantern" technique drawn from Meyerhold and Mayakovsky theatre practices of the 1920s to form a rich expressionist drama. Angelo Ripellino's libretto consisting of political slogans, poems, and quotations from Brecht and Sartre (including moments of Brechtian alienation), together with Nono's strident, anguished music, fully accords with the anti-capitalist fulmination the composer intended to communicate. The riot at the première in Venice was significantly due to the presence of both left- and right-wing political factions in the audience. Neo-nazis had attempted to disrupt proceedings with stink-bombs, nonetheless failing to prevent the performance ending triumphantly for Nono. Intolleranza is dedicated to Schoenberg.
During the 1960s, Nono's musical activities became increasingly explicit and polemical in their subject, whether that be the warning against nuclear catastrophe (Canti di vita e d'amore: sul ponte di Hiroshima of 1962), the denunciation of capitalism (La Fabbrica Illuminata, 1964), the condemnation of Nazi war criminals in the wake of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials (Ricorda cosi ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz, 1965), or of American imperialism in the Vietnam War (A floresta é jovem e cheja de vida, 1966). Nono began to incorporate documentary material (political speeches, slogans, extraneous sounds) on tape, and a new use of electronics, that he felt necessary to produce the "concrete situations" relevant to contemporary political issues.The instrumental writing tended to conglomerate the 'punctual' serial style of the early 1950s into groups, clusters of sounds—broadstrokes that complimented the use of tape collage. In keeping with his Marxist convictions as 'reinterpreted' through the writings of Antonio Gramsci, ) he brought this music into universities, trade-unions and factories where he gave lectures and performances. (The title of A floresta é jovem e cheja de vida contains a spelling error, the word "full" is "cheia" in Portuguese, not "cheja".
Nono's second period, commonly thought to have begun after Intolleranza,reaches its apogee in his second "azione scenica", Al gran sole carico d'amore (1972–74)—a collaboration with Yuri Lyubimov, who was then director of the Taganka Theatre in Moscow. In this large-scale stage work, Nono completely dispenses with a dramatic narrative, and presents pivotal moments in the history of Communism and class-struggle "side-by-side" to produce his "theatre of consciousness". The subject matter (as evident from the quotations from manifestos and poems, Marxist classics to the anonymous utterances of workers) deals with failed revolutions; the Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian Revolution of 1905, and the insurgency of militants in 1960s Chile under the leadership of Che Guevara and Tania Bunke. Then extremely topical, Al gran sole offers a multi-lateral spectacle and a moving meditation on the history of twentieth-century communism, as viewed through the prism of Nono's music. It was premiered at the Teatro Lirico, Milan, in 1975.
During this time, Nono visited the Soviet Union where he awakened the interest of Alfred Schnittke and Arvo Pärt, among others, in the contemporary practices of avant-garde composers of the West.Indeed, the 1960s and 70s were marked by frequent travels abroad, lecturing in Latin America, and making the acquaintance of leading left-wing intellectuals and activists. It was to mourn the death of Luciano Cruz, a leader of the Chilean Revolutionary Front, that Nono composed Como una ola de fuerza y luz (1972). Very much in the expressionist style of Al gran sole, with the use of large orchestra, tape and electronics, it became a kind of piano concerto with added vocal commentary.
Nono returned to the piano (with tape) for his next piece, ... sofferte onde serene ... (1976), written for his friend Maurizio Pollini after the common bereavement of two of their relatives (See Nono's Programme note|Col Legno,1994). With this work began a radically new, intimate phase of the composer's development—by way of Con Luigi Dallapiccola for percussion and electronics (1978) to Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima for string quartet (1980). One of Nono's most demanding works (both for performers and listeners), Fragmente-Stille is music on the threshold of silence. The score is interspersed with 53 quotations from the poetry of Hölderlin addressed to his "lover" Diotima, which are to be "sung" silently by the players during performance, striving for that "delicate harmony of inner life" (Hölderlin). A sparse, highly concentrated work commissioned by the Beethovenfest in Bonn, Fragmente-Stille reawakened great interest in Nono's music throughout Germany.
Nono had been introduced to the Venice-based philosopher, Massimo Cacciari (Mayor of Venice from 1993–2000), who began to have an increasing influence on the composer's thought during the 1980s. [ citation needed ] Nono's late music is haunted by Benjamin's philosophy, especially the concept of history (Über den Begriff der Geschichte) which is given a central role in Prometeo.Through Cacciari, Nono became immersed in the work of many German philosophers, including the writings of Walter Benjamin whose ideas on history (strikingly similar to the composer's own) formed the background to the monumental Prometeo—tragedia dell' ascolto (1984/85). The world premiere of the opera was staged in the Church of San Lorenzo, in Venice, on 25 September 1984, conducted by Claudio Abbado, with texts by Massimo Cacciari, lighting by Emilio Vedova, and wooden structures by Renzo Piano.
Musically, Nono began to experiment with the new sound possibilities and production at the Experimentalstudio der Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung des SWRin Freiburg. There, he devised a new approach to composition and technique, frequently involving the contributions of specialist musicians and technicians to realise his aims. The first fruits of these collaborations were Das atmende Klarsein (1981–82), Diario polacco II (1982)—an indictment against Soviet Cold War tyranny—and Guai ai gelidi mostri (1983). The new technologies allowed the sound to circulate in space, giving this dimension a role no less important than its emission. Such innovations became central to a new conception of time and space. These highly impressive masterworks were partly preparation for what many regard as his greatest achievement.
Prometeo has been described as "one of the best works of the 20th century".After the theatrical excesses of Al gran sole, which Nono later remarked were a "monster of resources", the composer began to think along the lines of an opera or rather a musica per dramma without any visual, stage dimension. In short, a drama in music—"the tragedy of listening"—the subtitle a comment on consumerism today. Hence, in the vocal parts the most simple intervalic procedures (mainly fourths and fifths) resonate amidst a tapestry of harsh, dissonant, microtonal writing for the ensembles.
Prometeo is perhaps the ultimate realisation of Nono's "theatre of consciousness"—here, an invisible theatre in which the production of sound and its projection in space become fundamental to the overall dramaturgy. The architect Renzo Piano designed an enormous 'wooden boat' structure for the première at San Lorenzo church in Venice, whose acoustics must to some extent be reconstructed for each performance. (For the Japanese première at the Akiyoshidai Festival (Shuho), the new concert hall was named 'Prometeo Hall' in Nono's honour, and designed by leading architect Arata Isozaki).The libretto incorporates disparate texts by Hesiod, Hölderlin, and Benjamin (mostly logistically inaudible during performance due to Nono's characteristic deconstruction), which explore the origin and evolution of humanity, as compiled and expanded by Cacciari. In Nono's timeless and visionary context, music and sound predominate over the image and the written word to form new dimensions of meaning and "new possibilities" for listening.
Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar
In 1985, Nono came across this aphorism ("Travellers, there are no trails – all there is, is travelling") on a wall of the Franciscan monastery near Toledo, Spain, and it played an important role in the rest of his compositions.As Andrew Clements writes about this aphorism in The Guardian, "It seemed to the composer the perfect expression of his own creative development, and in the last three years of his life he composed a trilogy of works whose titles all derive from that inscription."
Nono's last pieces, such as Caminantes... Ayacucho (1986–87), inspired by a region in southern Peru that experiences extreme poverty and social unrest, La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura (1988–89), and "Hay que caminar" soñando (1989), offer comment on the composer's lifelong quest for political renewal and social justice.
Nono died in Venice in 1990. After his funeral, the German composer Dieter Schnebel remarked that he "was a very great man"—a sentiment widely shared by those who knew him, and those who have come to admire his music. Nono is buried on the Isola di San Michele, alongside other artists like Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Zoran Mušič and Ezra Pound.
Perhaps the three most important collections of Nono's writings on music, art, and politics (Texte: Studien zu seiner Musik (1975), Ecrits (1993), and Scritti e colloqui (2001)), as well as the texts collected in Restagno,have yet to be translated into English. Other admirers include architect Daniel Libeskind and novelist Umberto Eco (Das Nonoprojekt), for Nono totally reconstructed music and engaged in the most fundamental issues with regards to its expressivity.
The Luigi Nono Archives were established in 1993, through the efforts of Nuria Schoenberg Nono, for the purpose of housing and conserving the Luigi Nono legacy.
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils, particularly Alban Berg and Anton Webern, and close associates in early 20th-century Vienna, where Schoenberg lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925. Their music was initially characterized by late-Romantic expanded tonality and later, following Schoenberg's own evolution, a totally chromatic expressionism without firm tonal centre, often referred to as atonality; and later still, Schoenberg's serial twelve-tone technique. Adorno said that the twelve-tone method, when it had evolved into maturity, was a "veritable message in a bottle", addressed to an unknown and uncertain future. Though this common development took place, it neither followed a common time-line nor a cooperative path. Likewise, it was not a direct result of Schoenberg's teaching—which, as his various published textbooks demonstrate, was highly traditional and conservative. Schoenberg's textbooks also reveal that the Second Viennese School spawned not from the development of his serial method, but rather from the influence of his creative example.
Bruno Maderna was an Italian conductor and composer.
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Formula composition is a serially derived technique encountered principally in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, involving the projection, expansion, and Ausmultiplikation of either a single melody-formula, or a two- or three-voice contrapuntal construction.
Intolleranza 1960 is a one-act opera in two parts by Luigi Nono, and is dedicated to his father-in-law, Arnold Schoenberg. The Italian libretto was written by Nono from an idea by Angelo Maria Ripellino, using documentary texts and poetry by Julius Fučík, "Reportage unter dem Strang geschrieben" [reportage written under the gallows]; Henri Alleg, "La question" ; Jean-Paul Sartre's introduction to Alleg's poem; Paul Éluard's poem "La liberté"; "Our march" by Vladimir Mayakovsky; and Bertolt Brecht's "To Posterity". The plot concerns a migrant, who travels from Southern Italy looking for work. Along the way, he encounters protests, arrests and torture. He ends up in a concentration camp, where he experiences the gamut of human emotions. He reaches a river, and realises that everywhere is his home. The opera premiered on 13 April 1961 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It has a running time of approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.
Prometeo (Prometheus) is an "opera" by Luigi Nono, written between 1981 and 1984 and revised in 1985. Here the word "opera" carries the generic Italian meaning of "works", as in work of art, and not its usual meaning. Indeed, Nono scornfully labels Prometeo a "tragedia dell'ascolto", a tragedy of listening. Objectively it can be considered a sequence of nine cantatas, the longest lasting 23 minutes. The Italian libretto, by Massimo Cacciari, selects from texts by such varied authors as Aeschylus, Walter Benjamin and Rainer Maria Rilke and presents the different versions of the myth of Prometheus without telling any version literally.
Darmstädter Ferienkurse is a regular summer event of contemporary classical music in Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany. It was founded in 1946, under the name "Ferienkurse für Internationale Neue Musik Darmstadt", as a gathering with lectures and concerts over several summer weeks. Composers, performers, theorists and philosophers of contemporary music met first annually until 1970, and then biannually. The event was organised by the Kranichsteiner Musikinstitut, which was renamed Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (IMD). It is regarded as a leading international forum of contemporary and experimental music with a focus on composition. The festival awards the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis for performers and young composers.
Darmstadt School refers to a group of composers who were associated with the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music from the early 1950s to the early 1960s in Darmstadt, Germany, and who shared some aesthetic attitudes. Initially, this included only Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, but others came to be added, in various ways. The term does not refer to an educational institution.
Hyperion is an epistolary novel by German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Originally published in two volumes in 1797 and 1799, respectively, the full title is Hyperion; or, The Hermit in Greece. Each volume is divided into two books, with each second book including an epigraph from Sophocles. The work is told in the form of letters from the protagonist, Hyperion, to his German friend Bellarmin, alongside a few letters between Hyperion and his love Diotima in the second volume of the novel, and is noted for its philosophical classicism and expressive imagery.
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Il canto sospeso is a cantata for vocal soloists, choir, and orchestra by the Italian composer Luigi Nono, written in 1955–56. It is one of the most admired examples of serial composition from the 1950s, but has also excited controversy over the relationship between its political content and its compositional means.
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