Berio in history: music, politics and philosophy from Darmstadt to Postmodernism

Davis, James Serge Arthur (2020). Berio in history: music, politics and philosophy from Darmstadt to Postmodernism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Luciano Berio (1925–2003) was one of the leading late twentieth-century Italian composers. Yet despite his international reputation, the historical meaning of his output remains to be studied in depth; the literature on the composer remains limited primarily to formalistic analytical treatments of a handful of particularly noted works. This study provides a full re-assessment of the composer’s output, attending to the intersections between Berio’s music and contemporary political and socio-cultural trajectories so as to articulate his work’s functionality within its broader socio-cultural context. Thus chapter one will consider Berio’s relationship to the ‘Darmstadt School’ in the 1950s; chapter two will then examine the relationship between his musical production in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the radical cultural politics of the Italian literary and philosophical neoavanguardia; the manner in which Berio’s work during his time in America is poised between the radical socio-political movements of the time and the politics of the Cultural Cold War in the 1960s (and beyond) will be considered in chapter three; chapter four will provide an assessment of how Berio’s compositions of the 1970s touched upon the politics of the radical extra-parliamentary Italian left; chapter five and six will then chart how Berio came to embrace the ‘official’ cultural institutions that he at first attempted to aesthetically negate; and then finally the conclusion will show how his work embraced the religious revival of the late twentieth-century. Though the nature of Berio’s engagements with these socio-cultural trajectories was multifaceted, there is ultimately a broader logic at work, which will be theorised here in relation to a shift from modernism to postmodernism. By attending to this shift in relation to Berio’s engagement with the aforementioned broader socio-cultural trends, it will be possible to present a historically orientated account of Berio’s career-long trajectory, from his early attempts to realise a radical critical culture to his mature occupation of a central position in the institutions of the official musical establishment.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Department of Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music


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