Saturday, July 16, 2011

Luciano Berio - Swingle II – A-Ronnie / Cries Of London (Headline/Decca - Head 15)

After maintaining an important collection of early electronic music on the floor of my living room for some time while expecting a clearance of mind to listen, I will be reviewing and sharing a couple of records from this lot. The first one is to be the work of probably the most famous Italian composer of this era, Luciano Berio.

Berio, born in 1925, studied in various schools including the mother of all Darmstadt and was a member of the composition faculty of Juillard, the mother of a lot of contemporary composers. He also headed Electro-Acoustic department of IRCAM in Paris. One person does not get to this level without being regarded as one of the best of his era.

This record dating back to 1976 includes the performances of A-Ronne and Cries Of London by the composer. These scores are made up mainly of human voices. They are vocalizations of the poem A-Ronne by Edoardo Sanguineti and several poems (I don't know the origin) based on the idea of changes of expression or meaning based on the vocalization of the person reading/talking. To be more precise, Berio wanted to capture and show the effects of vocal gestures with the basis on musical structures.

A-Ronne withholds elementary melodies as well as intonations and noise while the vocalization if free of form. Moreover, the A-Ronne poem appears to be translated into 4 languages, Latin, English, French and German, with 1 line in 1 language form. The poem is repeated several times during the piece with starting from the beginning till the end. The free formed speeches are the main harmonies forming the piece.

Cries Of London is based on comparably more understandable vocals by the listener based on the structural differences with A-Ronne. It can easily be acknowledged as operatic vocalization and is based on eight voices. It is the re-worked version of the original 1974 score which was written for the "King's Singers". In this piece (Or rather 7 short pieces), the musical structure can be grasped easier than A-Ronne due to the main differing fact that the A side was less based on music. The texts are made up of the well known selling slogans of the street sellers of Old London.

Berio's works on this record are unique in terms of their structures and quite enhancing in terms of vocalization and it's uses. It should not be mixed with today's acapella groups since the structure behind these works are immensely based on classical or pop compositions while this one is based on free floating vocalizations with musicality left to stand on the corner, watching in awe.

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