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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Italian avant-garde composer dies
By Lawrence Pollard
BBC arts correspondent

Luciano Berio
Berio: Worked to invent new musical forms

The Italian composer Luciano Berio has died in hospital in Rome. He was 77.

Berio was regarded as one of the most important contemporary avant-garde composers, with major influence as a teacher and conductor as well as a composer.

Berio, who came from a musical family, started writing in the mid-1950s and quickly established a reputation as a pioneer in the use of electronic and avant-garde techniques of composition.

In 1954 he founded the Studio di Fonologia Musicale which, under his direction, became one of the top electronic music centres in Europe.

Questioning establishment

Through the journal he founded, Incontri Musicali, and through his teaching, his ideas spread and he became known as a manipulator and mixer of new ambient sounds with virtually every major Western musical tradition.

He used tapes with readings from writers such as James Joyce or Italo Calvino, along with recorded ambient sounds and a dizzying range of borrowings from the folk and rock traditions, choreography, mime and acrobatics.

One of his best known collaborators was his wife Cathy Berberian, whose mezzo soprano voice he used in many compositions.

Berio's music had elements of 20th Century so-called concrete music, in its use of found fragments of sound.

His work in general questioned established ideas of musical form and even the authority of the composer itself - all in the effort to invent new musical forms.


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