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cathy1Visage
by Luciano Berio

for electronic sounds and Cathy Berberian's voice on tape (1961)

Multichannel version realized by Tempo Reale


When I was composing Visage what attracted me, as always, was research intended as a way to expand the chances of bringing nearer musical and acoustic processes, and as a means to find musical equivalents of linguistic articulations. This is why the experience of electronic music is so important: it enables the composer to assimilate into the musical process a vast area of sound phenomena that do not fit pre-established musical codes. Visage is essentially a radio programme: almost a sound track for a play that has never been written. So it can be played not only in the concert hall but in any place where recorded sounds can be reproduced. It is based on the symbolic and representative charge that is carried by vocal gestures and inflections, with the “shadows of meanings” and the mental associations accompanying them. Visage can also be regarded as a transformation of real examples of vocal behaviour that go from unarticulated sound to syllable, from laughing to weeping and singing, from aphasia to types of inflections derived from specific languages: English and Italian as spoken on the radio, Hebrew, Neapolitan dialect, etc. Thus, Visage does not offer a meaningful text or a meaningful language: it only develops the resemblance of them. A single word is pronounced twice: “parole” (“words” in Italian). The vocal dimension of the work is constantly amplified and commented upon by a very close relationship, almost an organic exchange, with the electronic sounds. The voice is Cathy Berberian’s. I composed Visage in 1961, before I left the Studio di Fonologia Musicale of the Italian Radio in Milan. It was also intended as a tribute to the radio as the most widely used means of spreading useless words. (Luciano Berio)


 

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