Berio studied with his father and grandfather, both organists and composers, and with Giorgio Federico Ghedini at the Milan Conservatory in the late 1940s. In 1950 he married the American singer Cathy Berberian, and the next year at Tanglewood he met Luigi Dallapiccola, who influenced his move towards and beyond 12-note serialism in such works as his Joyce cycle Chamber Music for voice and trio (1953). Further stimulus came from his meetings with Bruno Maderna, Henri Pousseur and Karlheinz Stockhausen in Basle in 1954, and he became a central member of the Darmstadt circle.
Berio directed an electronic music studio at the Milan station of Italian radio (1955-61), at the same time producing Sequenza I for flute (1958, the first of a cycle of solo explorations of performing gestures), Circles (1960, a loop of Cummings settings for voice, harp and percussion) and Epifanie (1961, an aleatory set of orchestral and vocal movements designed to show different kinds of vocal behaviour). These established his area of interest: with the means and archetypes of musical communication.
For most of the next decade he was in the USA, teaching and composing, his main works of this period including the Dante-esque Laborintus II for voices and orchestra (1965), the Sinfonia for similar resources (1969, with a central movement whirling quotations round Mahler and Beckett) and Opera (1970), a study of the decline of the genre and of Western bourgeois civilization. Two more operas, La vera storia (1982) and Un re in ascolto (1984), came out of his collaboration with Calvino. Other works include Coro (1976), a panoply of poster statements and refracted folksongs for chorus and orchestra, and numerous orchestral and chamber pieces.
Luciano Berio Discography
- 7 Instruments & Performance
- 212 Writing & Arrangement
- 33 Conducting & Leading
- 4 Production
- 12 Acting, Literary & Spoken