Monday, 9 May 2016

Luigi Nono - Complete Works for Solo Tape (rec. 1960-74; 2006 compi)

Been listening to Luigi Nono (1924-1990) a lot recently, and reading about him too.  One of the most fascinating and stridently political figures in 20th century composed music, if Nono were alive today he definitely wouldn't shy away from frequent Twitter beefs with anyone he disagreed with.  Back in the 1960s though, his main mode of expression (when not writing angry letters to his contemporaries, or knocking over their dinner tables) was to put together some of the most haunting electroacoustic music ever heard.

'Die Ermittlung' (The Investigation), a play by Peter Weiss about the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt, premiered in 1965.  It incorporated 22 minutes of music by Nono, split into sometimes tiny fragments to correspond to the 35 scenes of the play.  On this recording, the electronic bleeps separating each section are left in, sounding like snippets of urgent morse code.  The music combines children singing 'Mama' with vocal phenomes performed by Stefania Woytowicz in 1959 (fittingly, given the subject matter, the Polish soprano would go on to feature in an 80s recording of Górecki's Third Symphony) and other suitably unsettling noise.  After the play, Nono condensed some of the raw material into a shorter, more focused piece to even more devastating effect, titling it Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz (Remember what they did to you in Auschwitz).  Presented in sequence on this release, the two recordings make for a stunning, spine-chilling half hour.

Also of note here is Contrappunto Dialettico alla Mente (Inner dialectic counterpoint - I think!) which takes shouted fragments of revolutionary poetry and political tracts to a uniquely weird place, especially when sped up into surreal unintelligibility as the piece progresses.  Fans of early Nurse With Wound will find a clear reference point in this one, and indeed, all of these pieces prefigure the menacing, dada-esque drift of Stapleton's early 80s work.  This 2-disc set is rounded out by material from two of the original radio programmes, taken from RAI's archives (as were all the original masters for the six pieces, mixed down for broadcast by Nono).  The 'Contrappunto' broadcast sounds particularly enlightening as to the creative process - unfortunately, you'll need pretty fluent Italian to appreciate it, as opposed the virtually nil Italian that I can speak!

CD 1
CD 2


  1. This is a great compilation and you have reminded me I haven't listened to it in years. May I suggest you listen to this 1974 DGG release:

    It was my first Nono, but not my last Nono. Many thanks.


    1. I have it - as part of this disc:
      Fantastic work indeed.