Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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On the Translations of Musical Experience:
Luciano Berio’s Sequenze



Tradurre la musica/Translating music” is the title Luciano Berio gave to the second of his six Harvard lectures of 1993-94 [Remembering the Future (2006).Un ricordo al futuro: Lezioni Americane (2006)]. So pervasive is our need, he said, to switch “from an actual musical experience to its verbal description, from the sound of an instrument to that of another, from the silent reading of a score to its performance” that one is “tempted to think that the history of music is actually a history of translations.”

Berio’s own art is one of a constant con/versation, be it with the music of other composers as with his own. In the Sequenze he addresses also the ‘body’ of the performer and explores that teatralità which is so great a part of his musical nature.

In this introduction to the thirteen Sequenze by Berio, ‘insight’ is sought in the common vocabulary employed when we speak of poetry and the visual arts as well as of music, in their shared concepts of rhythm, timbre, transparency, density, spatiality, and so on.
‘Attuning’ to the Sequenze is therefore sought both in the verses by Edoardo Sanguineti which accompany each one of them, and in the works of contemporary artists, especially those of Paul Klee, whose compositional approach Berio refers to so often in his writings.

The visual imagery follows the suggestions given by Gino Stefani and Stefania Guerra Lisi in their Dizionario di Musica (2004), under’ Sequenze,’ pp.187-88.

For the listener to be able to engage, in Berio’s words, “le orecchie della mente/ the mind’s ears,” is the hoped-for goal of the lecture. 


Centro Studi Luciano Berio:

Luciano Berio. Un ricordo al futuro: Lezioni americane
Giulio Einaudi editore: 2006

Luciano Berio. Remembering the Future
Harvard University Press: 2006

Luciano Berio: Intervista sulla musica (a cura di Rossana Dalmonte)
Saggi tascabili Laterza: 1981

Luciano Berio. Two Interviews (with Rosanna Dalmonte and Bálint András Varga)
translated and edited by David Osmond-Smith
Marion Boyars: 1985

Luciano Berio – Fedele d’Amico. Nemici come prima-Carteggio 1957-1989
Archinto: 2002

Umberto Eco.Opera aperta
Tascabili Bompiani: 1976 (1962)

Umberto Eco. Experiences in Translation
University of Toronto Press: 2001

Michel Imberty. “L’occhio e l’orecchio: Sequenza III di Berio”
in Il senso in musica. Antologia di Semiotica musicale
a cura di Luca Marconi e Gino Stefani

Massimo Mila. L’esperienza musicale e l’ estetica
Piccola Bilioteca Einaudi: 1950

RS-SI. Traduction/Translation. Canadian Semiotic Association. Volume 29

Edoardo Sanguineti. Conversazioni musicali, a cura di Roberto Iovino.
Il Melangolo: 2011

Gino Stefani, Stefania Guerra Lisi. Dizionario di Musica nella Globalità dei Linguaggi Libreria Musicale Italiana: 2004 

Listing of 12 TV programs

Interview with Berio

Series of Sequenze presented in Italy

Biographical Note

Damjana Bratuž is Professor Emeritus at Western University in London, Ontario, where from the early 1970s, she pioneered interdisciplinary courses in music. With an Italian research grant, in 1989-90 she followed the seminars of Umberto Eco, Renato Barilli, Omar Calabrese, Gino Stefani and Roberto Leydi at the University of Bologna. Since 1996 she has participated in the international congresses of Musical Signification.

Recently she spoke at the International Bakhtin Conference in Bertinoro/University of Bologna, was keynote speaker with “The Feminine Side of the Musical Mind” at the University of Groningen conference devoted to ’Representing Gender in the Performing Arts.’ At Western University this past term she gave presentations on Bakhtin for the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, on Luciano Berio for ARIO, and on Bartók & Calvino at King’s University College; she also  lectured on Kaija Saariaho for the London Opera Guild.

Invited to speak last March at Pier21 in Halifax, N. S., she gave a paper entitled “On Some Varieties of Human Oppression” at a conference devoted to the World War II internment of Italians in Canada. In 2011, during the celebrations for Italian unification, she received the Honorary Citizenship of the city of Urbisaglia in the Marche in memory of her Father who had been interned there during the war.



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