Luciano Berio

Italian composer (Oneglia/Imperia, 1925 - Rome, 2003)

After his military service during the Second World War, Berio entered the Milan Conservatoire in 1946 to study composition with Giulio Cesare Paribeni and Giorgio Federico Ghedini. Berio also discovered the Second Viennese School, especially composers like Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. It was during that time that Berio met his future wife, the singer Cathy Berberian. Together, they would explore the musical possibilities of the voice. After his studies at the conservatoire, Berio left for the United States in 1952 to perform at the Berkshire Festival in Tanglewood and to continue his composition education with the composer Luigi Dallapiccola. With him, Berio would increase his knowledge of serialism. While his stay in the United States, Berio witnessed the first American concert of electronic music: this would open for him a door to the electroacoustic and electronic music world.

Berio met Bruno Maderna in 1953 with whom he founded the “Studio di Fonologia Musicale” in Milan. It gave him the opportunity to go deeper into his passion for electronic music. He also met Pierre Boulez, Henri Pousseur and Mauricio Kagel when he travelled to Darmstadt in 1954. Between 1965 and 1980, Berio worked for many remarkable institutions of avant-garde music, such as the Julliard School in New York (1965-1971) the electroacoustic section at the Ircam (1974-1980) and Harvard University (1994-2000).

Even if Berio is surrounded by “serialists” musicians, he thinks this world to be too withdrawn, only touching a small portion of the public. He refuses to associate with only one school of musical thought and considers himself more open to every style of music that could help him compose the sound he’s looking for.

Five landmark dates in the life of Luciano Berio

1950: married Cathy Berberian; she helped him discover all the voice’s possibilities
1951: discovered electronic music while his stay in the United States
1955: founded the “Studio di Fonologia” in Milan with Bruno Maderna
1966: Prix Italia with Laborintus II
1974: was appointed director of the IRCAM electroacoustic department 

Five pieces by Luciano Berio

1958-2002  : Sequenza I – XIV
1965  : Laborintus II
1968  : Sinfonia
1978  : Les mots sont alles
1999  : Altra voce

Radio France Documentation Biography