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Report from Venice (1982) Author(s): Frank Campo Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 21, No.

1/2 (Autumn, 1982 - Summer, 1983), pp. 372377 Published by: Perspectives of New Music Stable URL: . Accessed: 22/01/2014 05:22
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Venice(1982) from Report

thisyear'sInternational The conceptofcombining Computer Music Conference withthe Venice Biennale was a happy one. Numero e Suono (September27-October8), The event,entitled included a tremendously excitingseries of scientificmeetings, withnoted composers(Nono, Berio, Xenakis, lecture-discussions sessions and, Cage, Stockhausen and Aldo Clementi),listening best of all, a seriesof concertsthatI plan to discuss. The serieswas dividedinto two parts;partI (September28in sound October 3) was devoted to "themostrecentexperiments whilepart in orderto evaluate the newestelectronictechnology", was an homage on the 100thanniverII, Presenza di Stravinsky, from of his birth the cityhe alwaysloved and whereindeed sary he lies buriedbeside his friend, Diaghilev. were and excellent performances Intelligent programming Ensemblessuch as thechorusand orchestra thenormthroughout. of the RadiotelevisioneItaliana frombothTorino and Rome, the Milan IRCAM ensemblefromParis and the RAI orchestrafrom offinechambermusicians. participated alongwitha largenumber The concertswere recordedby the RAI forlaterpresentation. Before discussingany of the music, I should point out that the audience was essentially young(in their20s and 30s), mainly Germanand English(inthat Italian,American, French, descending numericalorder), excitable and verymuch concerned withthe futureof music as a serious art form. The attendance was and it was necessaryto arriveearly (difficult to do tremendous, whenrushing from one eventto another),push and shove (a local the concert custom) or else be prepared to stand throughout were no reserved seats). (there A fewgeneralremarks themusic;first, thequality concerning levelwas surprisingly to me,at anyrate;second, high..,.surprising of the musiclay more in the techniques the newnessand novelty than in the sounds themselves. Thus, forexample,Segmenteby

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have been written Gottfried Koenig (b. East Germany1926)might in the 50s ratherthan 1982 except forthe fact that a computer was used to make choices regarding pitch,durations,etc. And Who the "Damn the needs them anyway?!" audience! finally, concept seemed to have been laid aside. Composers withlongmusic (Xenakis, Stockhausen)were writing standingreputations meant to be enjoyed and appreciated by intelligent audiences everywhere. Two of the chambermusic concertsgiven at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory stand out. The first includedthe already noted Segmente 99-105by Koenig, the well-integrated, delicate and beautifully crafted flute and for Jean-Claude Passages tape by Risset(b. France 1938),II Geografofortwo voices and tape (part of an opera) by James Dashow (b. Chicago 1944) with rather conventional vocal writing and a tape thatlacked textural variety comments here be unfair because the work should (my may very be in a rather dull for voice really heard context), composition and tape called A voi che lavoratesulla terraby Fausto Razzi (b. exercise, Fusione Italy 1932), and a very weak, self-indulgent for 4X real time Tod Machover (b. Fugace, digitalprocessor,by New York 1953),in partrealizedat the IRCAM Pompidou Center in Paris. Incidentally,one of the few disappointments at the Biennale was the weaknessof mostof the IRCAM products. The second Conservatoryconcert featuredthe attractive and delicateSerenadeforPiano byThomas DeLio (unfortunately not performed live), a ratherpedestrianConcertpieceforviolin and tape by WesleyFuller (b. USA 1930),Love in theAsylumfor tape by Michael McNabb (b. USA) which combines natural sounds (laughter, musicalsounds speech, etc.) withconventional to good effect, and Ever-Livin for 'Rhythm percussionand tape by Neil Rolnik,a tour de force enjoyed by all except those few die-hards who are sick of drumsolos. A concertin one of the rooms at the Teatro La Fenice (not the main hall) featuredmusic forsingle,unaccompanied instrumentsand proved to be a delight.The Due Pezzi forsolo violin by Gilberto Cappelli (b. Italy 1952) was a virtuoso cadenza featuring manyof the now standardnew techniques;the Superfor scriptio piccolo by Brian Ferneyhough (b. England 1943)was a brilliant and verysatisfying exercise forthatinstrument, while

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Claire for clarinetby Franco Donatoni (b. Italy 1927), though techniques, seemed overly long for the employinginteresting Inside forviola byPascal Dusapin materialand rather repetitious. but somewhatlackingin inven(b. France 1955)was well written Ambrosini tion,but the Rond6 di/forza Claudio (b. Italy 1948) by was a marvelous tour de force and one of the "hits" of the chambermusicseries. To conclude the concert,two worksby Salvatore Sciarrino Let Me Die beforeI Wake (b. Italy 1947) seemed anti-climactic. forclarinetused multiphonics to littleeffect, and his Di Ze/iroe Pan for ten winds (!) featured breath sounds in a not very manner. imaginative The concertat the Churchof Santo Stefanoturned out to be one ofthehighlights oftheBiennale.Much ofthedramaoccurred beforethe actual performance, when the audience rushedfrom La Fenice to Santo Stefano (not veryfarif you know the route and don't mind postponingdinner) and encounteredthe usual crushat the churchentrance.The crowdsurgedintothe church, it quickly; then the attendantsclosed the doors, leaving filling about 200 unhappyticket-holders outside. Lothar Zagrosek had to conduct RAI the orchestra of Torino in the Umbrafor begun orchestraand tape by York H611er(b. Germany 1944) when a loud poundingcommencedat the side door. The unhappygroup outside now surged forward,attempting to force open these doors, while a handfulof attendantstriedto resistthem. Back and forththey went in a tug-of-war... the music had to be of until the crowd made a finalforayand discontinued, course, poured into the church to the plaudits of most of the seated throng.They quicklyfound places to stand or sat on the stone was floor,and now the concert could finally begin. The H611er restarted and provedto be a big,lush,dramaticwork,beautifully written fororchestrawithfinely integrated tape sounds. Next on the programcame Nekuia for chorus and orchestraby lannis Xenakis. The composer calls it "a funeralceremony,but also a magic rite in which the spiritsof the dead are evoked and questioned about the future."The composer has removed the extraneousand simplified his techniquesin thiswork,resulting in music which is marvelouslyeffectiveand direct. The concert ended withThirty Pieces fbrFive Orchestras by JohnCage. The

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five instrumental the church, groups were stationedthroughout each withits own conductorand each performing fairly simple and straightforward music.Without to become embroiled wishing in a Cage controversy, I can only state that the sounds were the a finecontrastwiththe otherworkson made piece pleasing; the program, and a largeportionof the audience loved it. The concert of the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen was lectureby thatcomposeron "The Art preceded by an afternoon of Listening"... to his music,of course. The eveningconcert at the TeatroMalibranwas again well attended,butthe rather large theatrepermitted all to entercomfortably. The first halfof the concertwas devotedto Stockhausen's Am HimmelWandre ich. two voices in which a male and female for singer, IndianlSongs seated on the stage floor,occasionally gesture but more often AmericanIndian lyrics intone,in verysimplefashion, employing occasional harmonyand less-frequent counterpoint.The comforthe 45-minute durationof the poser failedto sustaininterest work,and perhaps some of the audience had observed such a ritualdone farbetterby the Hopi tribein the southwest United States. Stockhausen'sTransfororchestraand tape occupied the second half of the program.The curtainsparted to reveal only the strings of the RAI orchestraof Milan seated behinda red-lit scrimplayingsustainedharmonics(2nds, then3rds,4ths,etc. to recordedwindand percussion 8vas),whilefourpreviously groups Orchesterof Stuttgart) wound a mar(SiiddeutschesRundfunk velously complexfabricof sound about them.This was also ritual and theatre,as had been the vocal duo, but thistime it worked because of the strengthand imaginationof the music. The audience loved it and applauded the composerlong and loudly. The first partof the Biennale Festivalended withthe world of premiere Quando stanno morendo,Diario Polacco N. 2 by is Luigi Nono at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The hall itself in its beauty,as the audience is surroundedby a overwhelming series of huge Tintorettomasterpieces.The music is scored for four female voices, bass flute,'cello and live electronics.The work,inspiredby recenteventsin Poland, employsthe writings of various Poles (in Italian) and is dedicated "to Polish friends and companions in exile, in hiding,in prison who are resisting and hoping..."

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The music is taut and restrained,but lyrical.The voices and electronics while the live instruments dominatethroughout, work. A strong and effective and underline. serveto clarify was The second partof the Festival,Presenza di Stravinsky, of a lateafternoon tohave begunwith flower-bedecked, procession lies whitegondolasto theislandof San Michele,whereStravinsky to heara newwork--Principe buried, Igor,Stravinsky byMauricio electrical violent in the church. Unfortunately,a Kagel performed stormforced the cancellation of the procession,and only the to out in the more conventionalvaporetti hardiersouls ventured I hear the concert. Being neitherhardynor proud, remainedat home witha warmdrinkwhileotherslistenedto the Kagel work based on the second-actaria fromBorodin'sPrince Igor set for ensemble. I can only report bass voice and small instrumental criticsand musiciansalike was cool. thatthe local reactionfrom the skies had cleared and onlydistantflashesof By evening, of what had been. At the Church of were a reminder lightning but theywereolder Santo Stefanotherewas again a largethrong, thatI mean thattherewas less pushing and more restrained--by The The first threeworkswere all worldpremieres. and shoving. forwindsby Luciano Berio was bright and colorfulbut Fan*fara too extremely brief(about two minutes)to be totallysatisfying. La Tempesta,Ricercare ftorOrchestraby Hans WernerHenze Itmade for waslush,romantic and brilliantly orchestrated. pleasant but was not altogether The Sacro Concerto convincing. listening foreightsolo voices,chorusand orchestra byNiccol6 Castiglione wove pointillism, delicate orchestraltexturesand very lyrical vocal lines (tonal at times)into a lovelytapestry. The immediate made by the workis of a beautiful, surface. glittering impression will decide how much is. Further substance there hearings After intermission theElliott CarterCanonbfor3was performed In thiscase, despite its extremebrevity, the by threetrumpets. music was quite satisfying and complete. All four works were intendedas an homage to Stravinsky. The concert ended witha fineperformance of Stravinsky's est lamentationes Threni,id Jeremiaeprophatae for soloists, chorus and orchestra, at composed forand performed originally the1958VeniceBiennale.The austereharmonies and counterpoint of the maturemasterwere convincingly dealt withby the chorus

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oftheRAI-Radiotelevisione ItalianaofRome under and orchestra the directionof GianluigiGelmetti. The musical portionof the 1982 Biennale ended with two ofthethree-act comicoperaIlFlaminio,byPergolesi performances with libretto Gennarantonio Federico,performed bytheTeatro by as first modern San Carlo Company and billed the performance based on the1735manuscript. The relationship betweenStravinsky and Pergolesivia Pulcinellais too wellknownto requirecomment. II Flaminio had been staged fourtimes between 1735 and 1749 and was consideredto have been a greatsuccess. It is difficult to understand work disappeared so completely whythisdelightful from the repertoire. The Biennale performance staged by Roberto De Simone was highlystylized,with the cast costumed as Capodimonte at timeswearingCommedia dell'artemasks. porcelainfigurines, The music is some of the composer's finestand the plot, while was brought to lifeby thisspirited The lightweight, performance. voices ranged fromgood to outstandingwith some first-class comic actingbyseveralofthemen,whiletheuse oftheNeapolitan dialect in the recitatives one of thefactors thatinitially (evidently restricted the popularity of the opera) was kept to an uncomplicated and amusingminimum. To sum up theseimpressions of thepast two weeks in Venice was a very ... thisyear'smusicalBiennale (the visualartsegment different a was tremendous success. This in partto was due story) the finequalityof both the music and the performances but also to the large and enthusiastic audiences who made each concert an event. I spoke to youngItalian musicianswho had carefully saved everylira in order to make the tripto Venice, and I also in the audience and spoke to various European non-musicians was struck their of and in new music.How interest by knowledge successfulthe Biennale Musica '82 was in its stated purpose of a link between sound engineersand composers" "establishing probablyonly timewill tell. On the otherhand.., .could such an eventbe held in the UnitedStates and receiveimportant support fromvarious governmental agencies, major orchestrasand, in addition,attractequivalentaudiences... ? FRANK CAMPO

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