Luciano Berio's Sequenza III: The Use of Vocal Gesture and the Genre of the Mad Scene

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Sequenza III was written in the mid -1960s and is widely available for study and performance, but how can this work be defined? Is it a series of sounds, or phonemes, or the anxious mutterings of a woman? Is it performance art or an operatic mad scene? Sequenza III could be all of these or something else entirely. Writing about my method of preparation will work to allay some of my own and other performer's fears about attempting this unusual repertory. Very little in this piece is actually performed on pitch, and even then the pitches are not definite. The ... continued below

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Edwards, Patti Yvonne August 2004.

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  • Edwards, Patti Yvonne

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Sequenza III was written in the mid -1960s and is widely available for study and performance, but how can this work be defined? Is it a series of sounds, or phonemes, or the anxious mutterings of a woman? Is it performance art or an operatic mad scene? Sequenza III could be all of these or something else entirely. Writing about my method of preparation will work to allay some of my own and other performer's fears about attempting this unusual repertory.
Very little in this piece is actually performed on pitch, and even then the pitches are not definite. The intervals on the five-line staff are to be observed but the singer may choose to sing within her own vocal range. The notation that Berio has used is new and specific, but the emotional markings and dynamics drawn from these markings permit a variety of interpretive decisions by the performer. There is a very brief text and no actual melody, so where does one begin? As a composer, Berio was often responsive to external stimuli. Quotation of his earlier works and the works of others was a common tool of his technique. By comparing Sequenza III with other works by the same composer, I will delineate some borrowed features and techniques from his earlier music and from the areas of literature and visual art. Sequenza III, although available on several recordings, is still not performed very often outside the academic community. There is only a small body of scholarly literature about Luciano Berio. I hope to add to the knowledge about this recently deceased composer and his music, to create a comfort zone for singers in approaching this work, to understand the composer's intentions, and to provide a fair representation of his ideas in public performance.

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  • August 2004

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  • Feb. 15, 2008, 3:31 p.m.

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  • June 5, 2008, 1:07 p.m.

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Edwards, Patti Yvonne. Luciano Berio's Sequenza III: The Use of Vocal Gesture and the Genre of the Mad Scene, dissertation, August 2004; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4618/: accessed December 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .