Luciano Berio


  • Luciano Berio
  • Year of composition: 1961
  • Duration: 21:00
  • Instrumentation: fixed medium

Visage is the last piece Berio composed in the Milanese studio. As he states, it “is purely a radio programme work: a sound track for a drama that has never written.” Consequently its destination is not really the concert hall but rather any conceivable medium for the reproduction of words. Based on the sound symbolism of vocal gestures and inflections with their accompanying “shadow of meanings” and their associative tendencies, Visage can be heard also as a metaphor of vocal behaviour: it means discourse mainly at the onomatophonic level. As a matter of fact, the vivacity of Visage is abased for a considerable part on the universal vocal virtuosity of the late Cathy Berberian (who also lent her voice for Thema), who, by crying, laughing, heckling or wailing, creates a kind of meta-piece which can be situated between music and radio-phantasmagory. Thus she unchains the singer’s voice from the classical conceptions of singing. The electronic sounds appear in various functions: as a dialogue partner, as a kind of dream projection, as space and, towards the end of the piece as a medium which absorbs the human voice.

[source: Réseaux des arts médiatiques]