Luigi Nono
Luigi Nono was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 and remains one of the most prominent composers of the 20th century.

Early years

Born in Venice, he was a member of a wealthy artistic family, and his grandfather was a notable painter. Nono began music lessons with Gian Francesco Malipiero
Gian Francesco Malipiero
Gian Francesco Malipiero was an Italian composer, musicologist, music teacher and editor.-Early years:Born in Venice into an aristocratic family, the grandson of the opera composer Francesco Malipiero, Gian Francesco Malipiero was prevented by family troubles from pursuing his musical education in...

 in 1941 at the Venice Conservatory where he acquired knowledge of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

 tradition, amongst other styles. After graduating with a degree in law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 from the University of Padua
University of Padua
The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second...

, he was given encouragement in composition by Bruno Maderna
Bruno Maderna
Bruno Maderna was an Italian conductor and composer. For the last ten years of his life he lived in Germany and eventually became a citizen of that country.-Biography:...

. Through Maderna, he became acquainted with Hermann Scherchen
Hermann Scherchen
Hermann Scherchen was a German conductor.-Life:Scherchen was originally a violist and played among the violas of the Bluthner Orchestra of Berlin while still in his teens...

—then Maderna's conducting teacher—who gave Nono further tutelage and was an early mentor and advocate of his music.

It was Scherchen who presented Nono's first acknowledged work, the Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell'op. 41 di A. Schönberg in 1950, at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt
Darmstadt is a city in the Bundesland of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine Main Area.The sandy soils in the Darmstadt area, ill-suited for agriculture in times before industrial fertilisation, prevented any larger settlement from developing, until the city became the seat...

. The Variazioni canoniche, based on the twelve-tone series
Twelve-tone technique
Twelve-tone technique is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg...

 of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

's Op. 41, including the Ode-to-Napoleon hexachord, marked Nono as a committed composer of anti-fascist political orientation (Annibaldi 1980). (Variazioni canoniche also used a six-element row of rhythmic values). Nono had been a member of the Italian Resistance during the Second World War (Schoenberg-Nono, 2008). In fact Nono's striking political commitment, while allying him with some of his contemporaries at Darmstadt such as Henri Pousseur
Henri Pousseur
Henri Pousseur was a Belgian composer.-Biography:Pousseur studied at the Academies of Music in Liège and in Brussels from 1947 to 1953. He was closely associated with Pierre Froidebise and André Souris...

 and in the earlier days Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze is a German composer of prodigious output best known for "his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life"...

, distinguished him from others, including Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

 and Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Another critic calls him "one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music"...

. Nevertheless, it was with Boulez and Stockhausen that Nono became one of the leaders of the New Music during the 1950s.

1950s and the "Darmstadt School"

A number of Nono's early works were first performed at Darmstadt, including Tre epitaffi per Federico García Lorca (1951–53), La Victoire de Guernica (1954)—modeled after Picasso's painting as an indictment of the war-time atrocity—and Incontri (1955). The Liebeslied (1954) was written for Nono's wife-to-be, Nuria Schoenberg (daughter of Arnold Schoenberg), whom he met at the 1953 world première of Moses und Aron
Moses und Aron
Moses und Aron is a three-act opera by Arnold Schoenberg with the third act unfinished. The German libretto was by the composer after the Book of Exodus.-Compositional history:...

 in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. They married in 1955. Nono had enrolled as a member of the Italian Communist Party
Italian Communist Party
The Italian Communist Party was a communist political party in Italy.The PCI was founded as Communist Party of Italy on 21 January 1921 in Livorno, by seceding from the Italian Socialist Party . Amadeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci led the split. Outlawed during the Fascist regime, the party played...

 in 1952 (Flamm 1995).

The world première of Il canto sospeso (1955–56) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra brought Nono international recognition and acknowledgment as the legitimate successor to Webern. "Reviewers noted with amazement that Nono's canto sospeso achieved a synthesis—to a degree hardly thought possible—between an uncompromisingly avant-garde style of composition and emotional, moral expression (in which there was an appropriate and complementary treatment of the theme and text)" (Flamm 1995).

If any evidence exists that Webern's work does not mark the esoteric "expiry" of Western music in a pianissimo of aphoristic shreds, then it is provided by Luigi Nono's Il Canto Sospeso… The 32-year-old composer has proved himself to be the most powerful of Webern's successors. (Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, 26 October 1956, quoted in Flamm 1995)

This work, regarded as one of the central masterpieces of the 1950s (Stenzl 1986b), is a commemoration of the victims of Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

, incorporating farewell letters written by political prisoners before execution. Musically, Nono breaks new ground, not only by the "exemplary balance between voices and instruments" (Annibaldi 1980) but in the motivic, point-like vocal writing in which words are fractured into syllables exchanged between voices to form floating, diversified sonorities—which may be likened to an imaginative extension of Schoenberg's "Klangfarbenmelodie technique" (Flamm 1995, IX). Nono himself emphasized his lyrical intentions in an interview with Hansjörg Pauli
Hansjörg Pauli
Hansjörg Pauli is a Swiss musicologist, writer, and music critic. He was a pupil of Hans Keller.During the 1950s, Pauli was a jazz pianist and a music critic for Neues Winterthurer Tageblatt....

 (Pauli 1971, quoted in Flamm 1995, IX), and a connection to Schoenberg's Survivor from Warsaw is postulated by Guerrero 2006. However, Stockhausen, in his 15 July 1957 Darmstadt lecture, "Sprache und Musik" (published the next year in the Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik and, subsequently, in Die Reihe
Die Reihe
Die Reihe was a German-language music journal, edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen and published by Universal Edition between 1955 and 1962 . An English edition was published, under the original German title, between 1957 and 1968 by the Theodore Presser Company , in association...

), stated:

In certain pieces in the "Canto", Nono composed the text as if to withdraw it from the public eye where it has no place… In sections II, VI, IX and in parts of III, he turns speech into sounds, noises. The texts are not delivered, but rather concealed in such a regardlessly strict and dense musical form that they are hardly comprehensible when performed.

Why, then, texts at all, and why these texts?

Here is an explanation. When setting certain parts of the letters about which one should be particularly ashamed that they had to be written, the musician assumes the attitude only of the composer who had previously selected the letters: he does not interpret, he does not comment. He rather reduces speech to its sounds and makes music with them. Permutations of vowel-sounds, a, ä, e, i, o, u; serial structure.

Should he not have chosen texts so rich in meaning in the first place, but rather sounds? At least for the sections where only the phonetic properties of speech are dealt with. (Stockhausen 1964, 48–49)

Nono took strong exception, and informed Stockhausen that it was "incorrect and misleading, and that he had had neither a phonetic treatment of the text nor more or less differentiated degrees of comprehensibility of the words in mind when setting the text" (footnote in Stockhausen 1964, 49). Despite Stockhausen's contrite acknowledgment, three years later, in a Darmstadt lecture of 8 July 1960 titled "Text—Musik—Gesang" (Nono 1975, 41–60), Nono angrily wrote:

The legacy of these letters became the expression of my composition. And from this relationship between the words as a phonetic-semantic entirety and the music as the composed expression of the words, all of my later choral compositions are to be understood. And it is complete nonsense to conclude, from the analytic treatment of the sound shape of the text, that the semantic content is cast out. The question of why I chose just these texts and no others for a composition is no more intelligent than the question of why, in order to express the word "stupid", one uses the letters arranged in the order s-t-u-p-i-d. (Nono 1975, 60)

Il canto sospeso has been described as an "everlasting warning" (Annibaldi 1980); indeed, it is a powerful refutation to the apparent claim made in an often-cited, but out-of-context phrase (cf. Hofmann 2005) from philosopher Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno was a German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist known for his critical theory of society....

 that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric" (Adorno 1981, 34).

Nono was to return to such anti-fascist subject matter again, as in Diario polacco; Composizione no. 2 (1958–59), whose background included a journey through the Nazi concentration camps, and the "azione scenica" Intolleranza 1960, which caused a riot at its première in Venice, on 13 April 1961 (Steinitz 1995, Schoenberg-Nono 2005).
It was Nono who, in his 1958 lecture "Die Entwicklung der Reihentechnik" (Nono 1975, 21–33), created the expression "Darmstadt School" to describe the music composed during the 1950s by himself and Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

, Bruno Maderna
Bruno Maderna
Bruno Maderna was an Italian conductor and composer. For the last ten years of his life he lived in Germany and eventually became a citizen of that country.-Biography:...

, Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Another critic calls him "one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music"...

, and other composers not specifically named by him (Nono 1975, 30). He likened their significance to the Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

 in the visual arts and architecture (Nono 1975, 30).

On 1 September 1959, Nono delivered at Darmstadt a polemically charged lecture written in conjunction with his pupil Helmut Lachenmann
Helmut Lachenmann
Helmut Lachenmann is a German composer associated with musique concrète instrumentale.-Life and works:...

, "Geschichte und Gegenwart in der Musik von Heute" ("History and Presence in the Music of Today"), in which he criticised and distanced himself from the composers of chance and aleatoric music
Aleatoric music
Aleatoric music is music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer...

, then in vogue, under the influence of American models such as John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

 (Nono 1975, 34–40). Although in a seminar a few days earlier Stockhausen had described himself as "perhaps the extreme antipode to Cage", when he spoke of "statistical structures" at the concert devoted to his works on the evening of the same day, the Marxist Nono saw this in terms of "fascist mass structures" and a violent argument erupted between the two friends (Kurtz 1992, 98). In combination with Nono's strongly negative reaction to Stockhausen's interpretation of text-setting in Il canto sospeso, this effectively ended their friendship until the 1980s, and thus disbanded the "avant-garde trinity" of Boulez, Nono, and Stockhausen (Schoenberg-Nono 2005).

1960s and 1970s

Intolleranza 1960 may be viewed as the culmination of the composer's early style and aesthetics (Annibaldi 1980). The plot concerns the plight of an emigrant captured in a variety of scenarios relevant to modern capitalist society: working class exploitation, street demonstrations, political arrest and torture, concentration camp internment, refuge, and abandonment. Described as a "stage-action"—Nono explicitly forbade the title of opera (Stenzl, 1999) —it utilizes an array of resources from large orchestra, chorus, tape, and loudspeakers to the "magic lantern" technique drawn from Meyerhold and Mayakovsky
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky was a Russian and Soviet poet and playwright, among the foremost representatives of early-20th century Russian Futurism.- Early life :...

 theatre practices of the 1920s to form a rich, expressionist drama. Angelo Ripellino's libretto consisting of political slogans, poems, and quotations from Brecht
Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

 and Sartre (including moments of Brechtian alienation), together with Nono's strident, anguished music, fully accords with the anti-capitalist fulmination the composer intended to communicate (Annibaldi 1980). The riot at the première in Venice was significantly due to the presence of both left- and right-wing political factions in the audience. Neo-nazis had attempted to disrupt proceedings with stink-bombs, nonetheless failing to prevent the performance ending triumphantly for Nono (Schoenberg-Nono 2005). Intolleranza is dedicated to Schoenberg.

During the 1960s, Nono's musical activities became increasingly explicit and polemical in their subject, whether that be the warning against nuclear catastrophe (Canti di vita e d'amore: sul ponte di Hiroshima of 1962), the denunciation of capitalist exploitation (La Fabbrica Illuminata, 1964), the condemnation of Nazi war criminals in the wake of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials
Frankfurt Auschwitz trials
The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, known in German as der Auschwitz-Prozess or der zweite Auschwitz-Prozess, was a series of trials running from December 20, 1963 to August 10, 1965, charging 22 defendants under German penal law for their roles in the Holocaust as mid- to lower-level officials in the...

 (Ricorda cosi ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz, 1965) or of American imperialism in the war against Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 (A floresta é jovem e cheia de vida, 1966). Nono began to incorporate documentary material (political speeches, slogans, extraneous sounds) on tape, and a new use of electronics, that he felt necessary to produce the "concrete situations" relevant to contemporary political issues (Annibaldi 1980). The instrumental writing tended to conglomerate the 'punctual'
Punctualism is a style of musical composition prevalent in Europe between 1949 and 1955 "whose structures are predominantly effected from tone to tone, without superordinate formal conceptions coming to bear"...

In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

 style of the early 1950s into groups, clusters of sounds—broadstrokes that effectively complimented the use of tape collage (Annibaldi 1980). In keeping with his Marxist convictions as 'reinterpreted' through the writings of Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime...

 (Flamm 1995, Koch, 1972), he brought this radical music out of the concert hall into universities, trade-unions and factories where he gave lectures and performances. The title of "A floresta é jovem e cheia de vida" as given in Portuguese usually contains a spelling error which continues to be perpetuated in references to the work. The title may be translated into English as "The Forest is Young and Full of Life". The correct Portuguese spelling of the word "full" is "cheia", and not "cheja" as often rendered in citing this work. The phrase itself occurs as one of the eight declamations of the work, reputedly being the words of an Angolan guerrilla fighter by the name of Gabriel: "They cannot burn the forest, for it is young and full of life" (Davezies 1965).

Nono's second period commonly thought to have begun after Intolleranza (Annibaldi 1980) reaches its apogee in his second "azione scenica", Al gran sole carico d'amore
Al gran sole carico d'amore
Al gran sole carico d'amore is an opera with music by Luigi Nono, based mainly on plays by Bertolt Brecht, but also incorporating texts of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin. Nono himself and Yury Lyubimov wrote the libretto. It premiered at the Teatro alla Scala on April...

 (1972–74)—a collaboration with Yuri Lyubimov
Yuri Lyubimov
Yuri Petrovich Lyubimov is a Soviet and Russian stage actor and director associated with the internationally-renowned Taganka Theatre which he founded ,...

, who was then director of the Taganka Theatre
Taganka Theatre
Taganka Theatre is a theater located in the Art Nouveau building on Taganka Square in Moscow. The theatre was founded in 1964 by Yuri Lyubimov and continued the traditions of his alma mater, the Vakhtangov Theatre, while also exploring the possibilities of Bertolt Brecht's "epic theatre".Under...

 in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. In this large-scale stage work, Nono completely dispenses with a dramatic narrative, and presents pivotal moments in the history of Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and class-struggle "side-by-side" to produce his "theatre of consciousness". The subject matter (as evident from the quotations from manifestos and poems, Marxist classics to the anonymous utterances of workers) deals with failed revolutions; the Paris Commune
Paris Commune
The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution...

 of 1871, the 1905 Russian Revolution, and the revolt of freedom fighters in 1960s Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 under the leadership of Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 and Tania Bunke. Then extremely topical, Al gran sole offers a multi-lateral spectacle and a moving meditation on the history of twentieth-century communism, as viewed through the prism of Nono's music. It was premiered at the Teatro Lirico, Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 in 1975.

During this time, Nono visited Soviet Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 where he awakened the interest of Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke
Alfred Schnittke ; November 24, 1934 – August 3, 1998) was a Russian and Soviet composer. Schnittke's early music shows the strong influence of Dmitri Shostakovich. He developed a polystylistic technique in works such as the epic First Symphony and First Concerto Grosso...

, among others, in the contemporary practices of avant-garde composers of the West (Ivashkin 1996,). Indeed, the 1960s and 70s were marked by frequent travels abroad, lecturing in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, and making the acquaintance of leading left-wing intellectuals and activists (Archivo Luigi Nono, Biography-Timeline). It was to mourn the assassination of Luciano Cruz, a leader of the Chilean Revolutionary Front, that Nono composed Como una ola fuerza y luz (1972). Very much in the bold, expressionist style of Al gran sole, with the use of large orchestra, tape and electronics, it became a kind of piano concerto with added vocal commentary.

Nono returned to the piano (with tape) for his next piece, ...Sofferte onde serene… (1976), written for his friend Maurizio Pollini
Maurizio Pollini
Maurizio Pollini is an Italian classical pianist.- Biography and career :Pollini was born in Milan to the Italian rationalist architect Gino Pollini. Maurizio studied piano first with Carlo Lonati, until the age of 13, then with Carlo Vidusso, until he was 18...

 after the common bereavement of two of their relatives (See Nono's Programme note|Col Legno,1994). With this work began a radically new, intimate phase of the composer's development—by way of Con Luigi Dallapicolla for percussion and electronics (1978) to Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima for string quartet (1980). One of Nono's most demanding works (both for performers and listeners), Fragmente-Stille is music on the threshold of silence. The score is interspersed with 53 quotations from the poetry of Hölderlin addressed to his "lover" Diotima, which are to be "sung" silently by the players during performance, striving for that "delicate harmony of inner life" (Hölderlin). A sparse, highly concentrated work commissioned by the Beethoven Festival in Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....

, Fragmente-Stille reawakened great interest in Nono's music throughout Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (Loescher 2000).


Nono had been introduced to the Venice-based philosopher, Massimo Cacciari
Massimo Cacciari
Massimo Cacciari is an Italian philosopher and politician.Born in Venice, Massimo Cacciari graduated in philosophy from the University of Padua , where he also received his doctorate, writing a thesis on Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Judgment." In 1985, he became professor of Aesthetics at the...

 (Mayor of Venice from 1993–2000), who began to have an increasing influence on the composer's thought during the 1980s (Carvalho 1999). Through Cacciari, Nono became immersed in the work of many German philosophers, including the writings of Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

 whose ideas on history (strikingly similar to the composer's own) formed the background to the monumental Prometeo—tragedia dell' ascolto
Prometeo is a 150-minute opera by Luigi Nono, written between 1981 and 1984 and revised in 1985. Here the word "opera" carries the generic Italian meaning of "work," as in work of art, and not its usual worldly meaning. Indeed, Nono scornfully labels "Prometeo" a "tragedia dell'ascolto," a tragedy...

 (1984/85) (Stenzl, 1995). Nono's late music is haunted by Benjamin's philosophy, especially the concept of history (Über den Begriff der Geschichte) which is given a central role in Prometeo.

Musically, Nono began to experiment with the new sound possibilities and production at the Experimentalstudio der Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung des SWF in Freiburg
Freiburg im Breisgau is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In the extreme south-west of the country, it straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain...

. There, he devised a whole new approach to composition and technique, frequently involving the contributions of specialist musicians and technicians to realise his aims (Fabbriciani 1999).The first fruits of these collaborations were Das atmende Klarsein (1981–82), Diario polacco II (1982)—an indictment against Soviet Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 tyranny—and Guai ai gelidi mostri (1983). The new technologies allowed the sound to circulate in space, giving this dimension a role no less important than its emission. Such innovations became central to a new conception of time and space (Pestalozza 1992). These highly impressive masterworks were partly preparation for what many regard as his greatest achievement.

Prometeo has been described as "one of the best works of the 20th century" (Beyst 2003). After the theatrical excesses of Al gran sole, which Nono later remarked were a "monster of resources" (Stenzl, 1995), the composer began to think along the lines of an opera or rather a 'musica per dramatica' without any visual, stage dimension. In short, a drama in music—"the tragedy of listening"—the subtitle a poignant comment on consumerism today. Hence, in the vocal parts the most simple intervalic procedures (mainly 4ths and 5ths) profoundly resonate amidst a tapestry of harsh, dissonant, microtonal
Microtonal music
Microtonal music is music using microtones—intervals of less than an equally spaced semitone. Microtonal music can also refer to music which uses intervals not found in the Western system of 12 equal intervals to the octave.-Terminology:...

 writing for the ensembles.

Prometeo is perhaps the ultimate realisation of Nono's "theatre of consciousness"—here, an invisible theatre in which the production of sound and its projection in space become fundamental to the overall dramaturgy. The architect Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano is an Italian architect. He is the recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, AIA Gold Medal, Kyoto Prize and the Sonning Prize...

 designed an enormous 'wooden boat' structure for the première at San Lorenzo church in Venice, whose acoustics must to some extent be reconstructed for each performance. (For the Japanese première at the Akiyoshidai Festival (Shuho), the new concert hall was named 'Prometeo Hall' in Nono's honour, and designed by leading architect Arata Isozaki
Arata Isozaki
Arata Isozaki is a Japanese architect from Ōita. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1954. Isozaki worked under Kenzo Tange before establishing his own firm in 1963. He was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 1986.In 2005, Arata Isozaki founded the Italian branch of his office: Arata Isozaki &...

) (Casa Ricordi Online, Historical Background). The libretto incorporates disparate texts by Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, Hölderlin
Friedrich Hölderlin
Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his...

, and Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

 (mostly logistically inaudible during performance due to Nono's characteristic deconstruction), which explore the origin and evolution of humanity, as compiled and expanded by Cacciari. In Nono's timeless and visionary context, music and sound predominate over the image and the written word to form new dimensions of meaning and "new possibilities" for listening.

Nono's last masterpieces, such as Caminantes… Ayacucho (1986–87), inspired by a region in southern Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 that experiences extreme poverty and social unrest, La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura (1988–89), and "Hay que caminar" soñando (1989), offer poignant comment on the composer's life-long quest for political renewal and social justice. Toward the end of his life, Nono came across an inscription on a monastery in Toledo
Toledo, Spain
Toledo's Alcázar became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.-Economy:...

 attributed to Antonio Machado
Antonio Machado
Antonio Cipriano José María y Francisco de Santa Ana Machado y Ruiz, known as Antonio Machado was a Spanish poet and one of the leading figures of the Spanish literary movement known as the Generation of '98....

, which became a kind of motto:
Nono died in Venice in 1990. After his funeral, the German composer Dieter Schnebel
Dieter Schnebel
Dieter Schnebel is a composer. From 1976 until his retirement in 1995, Schnebel served as professor of experimental music at the Berlin Hochschule der Künste.-Career:...

 remarked that he "was a very great man" (Loescher, 2000)—a sentiment widely shared by those who knew him, and those who have come to admire his music (Davismoon 1999a). Nono is buried on the island of San Michele
San Michele
San Michele is the Italian name of the Archangel Michael .Derived from the angel's name, it is the name of various locations and churches in Italy, the most well-known being* Isola di San Michele - island cemetery of Venice...

, alongside other such artistic luminaries as Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...


The full impact of Nono's art, especially the late music, has only just begun to take effect in the English-speaking world. His music has been shamefully ignored by the BBC Proms festival over the past few decades. Perhaps the three most important collections of Nono's writings on music, art, and politics (Texte: Studien zu seiner Musik (1975), Ecrits (1993), and Scritti e colloqui (2001)), as well as the texts collected in Restagno 1987, have yet to be translated into English. By contrast, Nono's influence has been widely felt on the European continent by such composers as György Kurtág
György Kurtág
György Kurtág is a Hungarian composer of contemporary music.- Biography :György Kurtág was born in Lugoj in the Banat region, Romania.In 1946, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he met his wife, Márta, and also György Ligeti, who became a close friend...

, Wolfgang Rihm
Wolfgang Rihm
Wolfgang Rihm is a German composer.Rihm is Head of the Institute of Modern Music at the Karlsruhe Conservatory of Music and has been composer in residence at the Lucerne Festival and the Salzburg Festival...

, Helmut Lachenmann
Helmut Lachenmann
Helmut Lachenmann is a German composer associated with musique concrète instrumentale.-Life and works:...

, Salvatore Sciarrino
Salvatore Sciarrino
Salvatore Sciarrino is an Italian composer of contemporary classical music.-Biography:In his youth, Sciarrino was attracted to the visual arts, but began experimenting with music when he was twelve. Though he had some lessons from Antonino Titone and Turi Belfiore, he is primarily self-taught as a...

, Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger Heinz Holliger Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor.-Biography:He was born in Langenthal, Switzerland, and began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez...

, Brian Ferneyhough
Brian Ferneyhough
Brian John Peter Ferneyhough is an English composer. His music is characterized by the extensive use of complex rhythmic tuplet notation which features in all his works...

, and Nicolaus A. Huber
Nicolaus A. Huber
Nicolaus A. Huber is a German composer.From 1958 to 1962 Huber studied music education at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München and subsequently composition with Franz Xaver Lehner and Günter Bialas. He pursued his education further with Josef Anton Riedl, Karlheinz Stockhausen and, above...

. Other distinguished admirers include architect Daniel Liebeskind and novelist Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

 (Das Nonoprojekt), for Nono totally reconstructed music and engaged in the most fundamental issues with regards to its expressivity.

In 1993 the Luigi Nono Archives were established through the efforts of Nuria Schoenberg Nono for the purpose of housing and conserving the Luigi Nono legacy. For a complete list of Nono's works, please see the Archivio Luigi Nono.


  • Nono, Luigi. 1972. Canti di vita d'amore/Per Bastiana/Omaggio a Vedova. Slavka Taskova, sopraqno; Loren Driscoll, tenor; Saarländischer Rundfunk Sinfonie-Orchester; Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Michael Gielen, cond. Wergo LP WER 60 067. Reissued in 1993 on CD, WER 6229/286 229.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1977. Como una ola de fuerza y luz; Epitaffio no. 1, Epitaffio no. 3. Ursula Reinhardt-Kiss, soprano; Giuseppe La Licata, piano; Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig; Herbert Kegel, conductor. Roswitha Trexler, soprano, speaker; Werner Haseleu, baritone, speaker; Rundfunkchor Leipzig; Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig; Horst Neumann, conductor. Eterna LP 8 26 912. Reissued 1994, Berlin Classics 0021412BC.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1986. Fragmente—Stille, an Diotima. LaSalle Quartet (Walter Levin and Henry Meyer, violins; Peter Kamnitzer, viola; Lee Fiser, cello). Deutsche Grammophon/PolyGram CD 415 513, reissued in 1993 as 437 720.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1988. Il canto sospeso (with Arnold Schoenberg, Moses und Aaron act 1, scene 1, and Bruno Maderna, Hyperion). Ilse Hollweg, soprano; Eva Bornemann, alto; Friedrich Lenz, tenor; Orchestra and Chorus of WDR Cologne (Bernhard Zimmermann, chorus master); Bruno Maderna, conductor. La Nuova Musica 1. Stradivarius STR 10008.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1988. "Como una ola de fuerza y luz/Contrappunto dialettico alla mente/…Sofferte onde serene…". Slavka Taskova (soprano), Maurizio Pollini (piano), Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, cond. Deutsche Grammophon/PolyGram 423 248. First and third works reissued 2003 (together with Manzoni's Masse: Omaggio a Edgard Varèse) on Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Classics 471 362.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1990. Variazioni canoniche; A Carlo Scarpa, architetto ai suoi infiniti possibili; No hay caminos, hay que caminar. Oeuvre du XXe siècle. Astrée CD E 8741. [France]: Astrée. Reissued, Montaigne CD MO782132. [France]: Auvidis/Naïve, 2000.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1991. A Pierre, dell'azzurro silenzio, inquietum; Quando stanno morendo, diario polacco 2º; Post-prae-ludium per Donau. Roberto Fabricciani, flute; Ciro Sarponi, clarinet; Ingrid Ade, Monika Bayr-Ivenz, Monika Brustmann, sopranos; Susanne Otto, alto; Christine Theus, cello; Roberto Cecconi, conductor; Giancarlo Schiaffini, tuba; Alvise Vidolin, live electronics. Dischi Ricordi CRMCD 1003.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1992. Il canto sospeso (with Mahler, Kindertotenlieder and "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" from the Rückert Lieder). Barbara Bonney, soprano; Susanne Otto, mezzo-soprano; Marek Torzewski, tenor; Susanne Lothar and Bruno Ganz, reciters; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Berliner Philharmoniker; Claudio Abbado, coductor. Sony Classical/SME SK 53360.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1992. La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, Hay que caminar'—soñando. Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko, violins. Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Classics 474 326.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1992. Memento, romance de la guardia civil española (Epitaffio n. 3 per Federico García Lorca); Composizione per orchestra; España en el corazón; Composizione per orchestra n. 2 (Diario polacca); Per Bastiana. Sinfonie Orchester und Chor des Norddeutsche Rundfunks; Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della RAI; Sinfonie Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Bruno Maderna, conductor. Maderna Edition 17. Arkadia CDCDMAD 027.1.
  • Luigi, Nono. 1994. Luigi Nono 1: Fragmente—Stille, an Diotima; "Hay que caminar" soñando. Arditti String Quartet; Irvine Arditti and David Alberman, violins. Arditti Quartet Edition 7. Montaigne MO 7899005.
  • Luigi, Nono. 1995. Intolleranza 1960. Ursula Koszut, Kathryn Harries, sopranos; David Rampy, Jerrold van der Schaaf, tenors; Wolfgang Probst, baritone; supporting soloists; Chor der Staatsoper Stuttgart; Staatsorchester Stuttgart; Bernhard Kontarsky, conductor. Notes by Klaus Zehelein. Teldec/WEA Classics 4509-97304.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1995. Prometeo. Soloists, Solistenchor Freiburg (chorus master André Richard), Ensemble Modern, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. Experimentalstudio der Heinrich-Strobel Stiftung des Südwestfunks Freiburg, sound directors André Richard, Hans-Peter Haller, Rudolf Strauß, and Roland Breitenfeld. (With notes, "Prometeo—Tragedia dell'ascolto", and "Prometeo—Ein Hörleitfaden", by Jürg Stenzl). EMI Classics CDC 55209.
  • Nono, Luigi. 1998. Polifonica—monodia—ritmica; Canti per tredeci; Canciones a Guiomar; "Hay que caminar" soñando. Ensemble UnitedBerlin; Angelika Luz, soprano; United Voices; Peter Hirsch, conductor. Wergo WER 6631/286 631.
  • Nono, Luigi. 2000. Orchestral Works and Chamber Music. SWF Symphony Orchestra; Hans Rosbaud abd Michael Gielen, conductors; Moscow String Quartet. Programme notes by Wolfgang Löscher. Col Legno WWE 20505.
  • Nono, Luigi. 2000. Variazioni canoniche/A Carlo Scarpa, architetto, ai suoi infiniti possibili/No hay caminos, hay que caminar...Andrei Tarkovski. SW German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gielen, cond. Naïve 782132.
  • Nono, Luigi. 2001. Al gran sole carico d'amore. Vocal soloists and chorus of the Staatsoper Stuttgart; Staatsorchester Stuttgart; Lothar Zagrosek, conductor. With notes, "Stories—Luigi Nono's 'Theatre of Consciousness'—Al Gran sole carico d'amore," by Jürg Stenzl. Teldec New Line/WEA Classics 8573-81059-2.
  • Nono, Luigi. 2001. Choral Works: Cori di Didone; Da un diario italiano; Das atmende Klarsein. SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart; Rupert Huber, conductor. Faszination Musik. Hänssler Classic 93.022.
  • Nono, Luigi. 2001. Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell' op. 41 di A. Schönberg; Varianti; No hay caminos, hay que caminar—Andrej Tarkowskij; Incontri. Col Legno WWE 1CD 31822. Mark Kaplan, violin. Sinfonieorchester Basel, Mario Venzago, cond. [Munich]: Col Legno.


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    Die Reihe
    Die Reihe was a German-language music journal, edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen and published by Universal Edition between 1955 and 1962 . An English edition was published, under the original German title, between 1957 and 1968 by the Theodore Presser Company , in association...

     6 (English edition): 40–64. Original German version, as "Musik und Sprache", Die Reihe
    Die Reihe
    Die Reihe was a German-language music journal, edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen and published by Universal Edition between 1955 and 1962 . An English edition was published, under the original German title, between 1957 and 1968 by the Theodore Presser Company , in association...

    6 (1960): 36–58. The portion on Nono’s Il canto sospeso reprinted as "Luigi Nono: Sprache und Musik [sic] II", in Stockhausen, Texte 2. Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, 1964.
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  • Zehelein, Klaus. 199?. "Intolleranza 1960 - Music at the Crossroads". Liner notes for Teldec CD:

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