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Section Three | Arts

Eco and Berio between Music and Open Work

Stefano Oliva
p. 146-161

Abstract

Although Eco was deeply interested in music, his bibliography does not include a work entirely and exclusively dedicated to this theme. However, references to the problems of musical production, listening, interpretation and transmission are scattered in numerous essays, and are often implicitly or explicitly linked to the theoretical and compositional work of his friend and composer Luciano Berio, who in turn dialogued with the developments of Eco’s thought. This article reconstructs the intellectual relationship and friendship between Eco and Berio, originated in the fifties at the Rai studios in Milan; then it examines the passages in Eco’s work dedicated to music, from The Open Work (1962) to Kant and the Platypus (1997). Finally, the article focuses on the controversies raised by the concept of open work, conceived by Eco starting from some musical works including Berio’s Sequenza I for solo flute (1958). With respect to the freedom left to the performer in the 1958 score, Berio’s rewriting in traditional notation in the Nineties seems to undermine at its roots the idea of openness which, according to Eco, distinguishes contemporary poetics. This circumstance provoked some musicological, philological and philosophical controversies, which allowed Eco (2012) to return to reflect on the concept of open work, specifying and clarifying the aesthetic conception underlying it.

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1. Story of a Friendship

  • 1 Rizzardi, De Benedictis 2000.
  • 2 Eco 1962: V.

1The intellectual bond and friendship between Umberto Eco and Luciano Berio formed at a time when they both worked at the Rai (Italian Radio and Television) studios in Milan at the beginning of the fifties. As is well known, here in 1954 Berio and Bruno Maderna founded the Studio di Fonologia Musicale, the first experimental centre dedicated to electronic music in Italy, where Berio remained until 1959.1 Eco, who studied at the University of Turin with Luigi Pareyson and graduated in 1954, was engaged in the same Rai studios in Corso Sempione (like other young intellectuals, such as Gianni Vattimo and Furio Colombo) and between 1958 and 1959 worked on the text of Ulysses by James Joyce.2 The collaboration between the philosopher and the composer inspired two works: Omaggio a Joyce. Documenti sulla qualità onomatopeica del linguaggio poetico (1958), a radio documentary elaborated from chapter XI of Ulysses, and in the same year Thema (Omaggio a Joyce), another electroacoustic elaboration by Berio with the voice of Cathy Berberian (1958).

  • 3 Eco 1959.
  • 4 Other important essays on aesthetics of the ‘pre-semiotic’ period (1955-1964) are collected in the (...)
  • 5 See Eco 2012: 6-7.

2The collaboration between the two took place also on a theoretical level: between 1956 and 1960, in fact, Berio directed the journal Incontri musicali, which hosted contributions from the most important protagonists of the musical reflection of the time and in which Eco also participates with the essay L’opera in movimento e la coscienza dell’epoca,3 the first nucleus of what would later become the volume Opera aperta (1962).4 In those years, through Berio’s mediation, Eco came in contact with linguistics and structuralism, reading the works of Ferdinand de Saussure and Nikolaï Sergueïevitch Troubetzkoï and translating an article by Nicolas Ruwet (1959) for Incontri musicali.5

  • 6 Eco 1963.
  • 7 Berio 1970.
  • 8 See Agamennone 2012.

3Eco also signed the Introduzione a “Passaggio” (one of Berio’s first musical theatre works, based on a text by Edoardo Sanguineti), published in the program of the first performance of the work at the Piccola Scala.6 In 1969-70 Berio composed Opera (in three acts, for soloists, actors, choir and orchestra), in which there remains a trace of the suggestions offered by Eco and Furio Colombo in 1956 for the writing of an unfinished Opera aperta, on the shipwreck of the Titanic.7 In the same year Eco lent his voice for the Italian performance of Questo vuol dire che… (1968) for three female voices, speaker, small vocal group and tape.8

  • 9 Eco, Berio 1986.
  • 10 Berio 2006.
  • 11 Berio 2000.
  • 12 Eco 1989: 15.

4The intellectual dialogue between the philosopher and the composer continued over the years and on several occasions, such as in the interview published by the magazine L’Espresso with the title Abbiccì o doremì then republished with the title Eco in ascolto.9 In this conversation the two authors discuss different issues, among which the most theoretically relevant is the relationship, marked by similarities and differences, between musical experience and language. Finally, in 2000 Berio was invited by Eco to hold a series of lectures at the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici of the University of Bologna, on themes already dealt with by the composer during the Norton Lectures he gave at Harvard in 1993-1994.10 In the sixth and last lesson, entitled Elogio della complementarità,11 we can sense a reference to a theme already present in The Open Work, where Eco linked the poetics of the open work to the «phycisists’ principle of complementarity which rules that it is not possible to indicate the different behavior patterns or an elementary particle simultaneously».12 The theme of complementarity, recalled decades later by Berio, in Eco’s reflection constitutes an important opening towards a multiplicity of possible executions of the same work. Complementary means that different performances do not exhaust the richness of the work but offer different points of view.

2. Philosophy, Semiotics, and Music

  • 13 All English translations of Berio’s and Eco’s quotations (except Berio 1981; 2006 and Eco 1976; 198 (...)
  • 14 Berio 1988: 329.

5Although deeply interested in music – as Berio writes,13 «Umberto Eco […] plays an instrument [the trumpet] and also goes to Bayreuth»14 – in the philosopher’s bibliography there is no work entirely and explicitly dedicated to music. However, references to the problems of music production, listening, interpretation and transmission are scattered in numerous essays, and are often implicitly and explicitly related to the theoretical and compositional work of his friend Berio, who in turn dialogued with the developments of Eco’s thought.

  • 15 In this article the term ‘poetics’ is used in the sense attributed to it by Eco, when he speaks of (...)

6As already mentioned (and as we will see in more detail in § 3), Eco formulated the concept of ‘open work’ working closely with Berio and indeed taking inspiration from Sequenza I (1958) for flute which, together with other works such as Klavierstück XI by Stockhausen, Scambi by Pousseur and the Third Sonata for piano by Boulez, shows in an exemplary manner the character of ‘openness’ and indeterminacy that he considers characteristic of contemporary poetics.15

  • 16 Eco 1964: XV.
  • 17 A few years later Berio would have dealt with the theme of popular music in the essay Commenti al r (...)
  • 18 Eco 1964: 303.
  • 19 See Berio 1986.

7Two years after the publication of The Open Work, in which he had «studied the language of the avant-garde», in the collection of essays Apocalittici e integrati Eco analyzed «the language of its opposite»,16 that is to say mass communication in television, comics, romance and radio. In the book there are some essays dedicated to popular song,17 to the relationship between music and machine and to the radio medium, understood as a means not only of diffusion but also of musical production. When Eco writes that «the presence of the machine has suggested immense operational possibilities to musicians»18 and addresses the experimental aspects of concrete music, the relationship between technical innovation and compositional work, the analogy between architecture and electronic music composition, and the problems of notation posed by new musical experiences, here he could but draw on his direct knowledge gained at the Studio di Fonologia where Berio and Maderna worked together with the sound engineer Marino Zuccheri.19

  • 20 Eco 1968: 398.
  • 21 Eco 1968: 318.
  • 22 Ibidem: 314. Berio, who had already wondered about the comparison between music and language in a C (...)
  • 23 Eco 1968: 323.
  • 24 Eco raises the question of structure by making a distinction between historical and supra-historica (...)

8The problem of the «codification of tonemas»,20 already partially touched upon in the discussion of the problems of notation of «new music», returns in La struttura assente, where Eco questions the possibility of a semiology of music, that is, the possibility of considering music as a communicative code. In chapter 4 of section D Eco analyzes the alternative between structural and serial thought posed by Lévi-Strauss (1964), where the former indicates the attitude of the structuralist investigation, aimed at discovering some constants, while the latter indicates the attitude, typical of the artistic avant-garde, which aims to produce new modes of communication. According to Eco, Lévi-Strauss’ criticism of contemporary art, guilty of cultivating a serial thought always in search of novelty but unable to communicate anything, mistakenly identifies the communicative structures underlying the different systems with a «given series»,21 such as, in the case of music, the tonal system. This means confusing the deep (supra-historical) structure with a particular (historical) grammar and not recognizing the different possible developments from the same generative structures, to be thought of «in the sense of a Chomskian generative grammar».22 In this perspective, the structure assumed as «Code of  Codes»23 is just a regulative idea that can orient the investigation but never appear in itself, otherwise it would not be the structure but one of its possible instantiations (so, as the title of the book shows, the structure is always an absent structure).24

  • 25 Eco 1976: 229.
  • 26 Ibidem: 233.
  • 27 Ibidem: 243.

9In A Theory of Semiotics (1976), again, music is assumed as one among several codes in the semiotic field. In Eco’s perspective, music is a semiotic system characterized by expectations that allow different possible outcomes and therefore, as a linguistic sign, a musical sign is biplanar and not conformal in the sense indicated by Hjelmslev (1943). In fact, Eco is well aware that such a system of expectations is only possible in a system, such as the tonal system, governed by precise grammatical rules, relatively stable but, taking up the controversy against the criticism of Lévi-Strauss to serial music, ‘guilty’ of being a system without double articulation (and therefore unassimilable to language), he argues that there are systems with three, two, or one articulation, or even with no articulation.25 In particular, tonal music can be thought of as a code with mobile articulation,26 changing accordingly in different circumstances. As far as atonal music is concerned, however, the issue is more complex since it can be thought of as a «pseudo-combination», composed by combinable units, but open and indeterminate on the plane of content: in this sense, atonal music is composed by «open signal textures […] issuing a sort of interpretative challenge to their addressee».27 As in The Open Work, one of the main references is Berio’s work:

  • 28 Ibidem: 244.

The artist discovers at the deeper level of the expression-continuum a new system of relations that the preceding segmentation of that continuum, giving rise to an expression form, had never made pertinent. These new pertinent features, along with their mode of organization, are so detectable and recognizable, that one becomes able to isolate the work of a given artist, and thus to distinguish, for instance, Fautrier from Pollock or Boulez from Berio.28

  • 29 Eco, Berio [1986], 1995: 60.

10As is clear, Eco progressively specifies his idea of music as semiotic system, different from verbal language but at the same time not refractory to a semiotic investigation. Against this kind of conception, in the conversation Eco in ascolto (1986), Berio argues that «it is important […] not to look for formalistic parallelisms between musical experience and language: their syntactic differences are irreducible. In music you can say that “man bites dog” and that “the child scares the night”, and nothing happens at all».29 Eco’s answer is that, as a semiologist, with this determination he would be afraid to affirm the irreducible syntactic difference between musical expression and language. The reasons for this caution can be found in a speech delivered by Eco in 1987 at the 14th Congress of the International Society of Musicology.

  • 30 Eco 1990: 4. In this sense, here music seems to play the role that in La struttura assente the stru (...)
  • 31 Berio (2003), implicitly polemicizing with Eco, discusses the possibility of a semiotics of music d (...)
  • 32 Eco 1990: 11.

11In this lecture Eco explains that the difficulties faced by semiotics when dealing with music derive from the erroneous assumption that verbal language is a model for any semiotic system. In comparison with language, music is often represented as a syntactic system without a semantic dimension. But Eco underlines that the pragmatic power of music (e.g. of influencing human emotions) implies the existence of a musical semantic. Nevertheless, and this is the most interesting point, the attempt to explain music using the semiotic model of language poses a specific problem, since we try to define music through the model of another semiotic system, when in fact «it is music that probably offered its model to all other semiotic systems, and in particular to that of linguistics».30 In Western culture music (a syntactic model), has indeed been assumed as the most powerful semantic model, capable of describing and representing every phenomenon in micro- and macrocosm. Since Pythagoras, then with Boethius,31 in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, up to the 17th century, music has provided the model (of harmony, complexity, abstraction) to think the laws of the universe, becoming a sort of «code of the world» (as the title of the speech reads). Therefore, the contemporary difficulties of semiotics in explaining music derives from this, «because somehow all the explanations are indebted to the musical model».32

  • 33 Eco 1997: 5.
  • 34 Wittgenstein 1922: § 4.104.
  • 35 Eco 1997: 214.
  • 36 For a detailed analysis of the issues dealt with in the third chapter of Kant and the platypus, see (...)

12Music appears again in the pages of Kant and the platypus, where Eco tries to develop his idea of «contractual realism»,33 the result of a compromise between the different instances of a «hard core» of being (lines of resistance of reality) and a cognitive semantics that interprets semiotic processes in a cultural key. In order to deal with some problems left unanswered in A Theory of Semiotics, such as questions of reference, iconism, truth, and perceptual recognition, in the third chapter Eco introduces the notions of cognitive type (CT), nuclear content (NC) and molar content (MC). The first term indicates a private scheme of recognition including the traits of an object considered relevant; the second indicates instead the series, public and shared, of its interpreters; finally, the third refers to a form of expanded knowledge including also traits not necessary for recognition. Within the CT Eco identifies a particular set, that of physiognomic types, i.e. types related to single individuals (e.g. when I recognize my friend Giorgio as my friend Giorgio). According to Eco, a physiognomic type also belongs to works of art with multiple instances, such as a novel or a piece of music, which he calls «formal individuals». And it is here that the examination of the musical case offers the greatest food for thought: in order to recognize a piece as being that piece, it is necessary that I recognize in the different instances what Wittgenstein calls «musical thought» (or musical idea).34 But Eco asks: «What does musical idea mean? Whatever it means, it is certainly that formal individuality that I must identify in order to recognize [a certain musical work] as such»,35 i.e. a cognitive type, however truncated or vague, different («detached») from nuclear content, which allows perceptual recognition.36

13Eco’s reflection on music, disseminated in different works, is therefore confronted both with general aspects, connected to the structure as a code of codes, and with particular aspects, such as the recognition of a musical performance as a formal individual; in both cases, Eco assumes that music may be a specific field of semiotic investigation.

3. Eco on Berio’s Sequenza I as Open Work

14As can be seen from the brief reconstruction of the previous paragraph, at various fundamental junctions in his work Eco faces several problems linked to music (the relationship between work and performance; the possibility of a semiotics of music; the role of music as a model for all other semiotic systems; music understanding and recognition).

  • 37 Eco 1962: 2. For a reflection in general on the concept of open work, see Bondanella 1997 (chapter (...)

15But, as already mentioned, the context in which the musical question is most important, since it even represents the engine of philosophical reflection, is precisely that of The Open Work (1962). Here Eco questions the tendency of contemporary poetics which, leaving the interpreter free to intervene even on the form of the work, determines an active involvement. This aspect of musical practice, according to Eco, introduces in the aesthetic field references to «the case, the undetermined, the probable, the ambiguous, the polyvalent» which represent the reaction, therefore, of contemporary sensibility «in response to the suggestions of mathematics, biology, physics, psychology, logic and the new epistemological horizon that these sciences have opened».37 Among the examples of this trend, all taken from the field of contemporary music, Berio’s Sequenza I (1958) for flute stands out:

  • 38 Eco 1989: 1.

In Luciano Berio’s Sequence for Solo Flute, the composer presents the performer a text which predetermines the sequence and intensity of the sounds to be played. But the performer is free to choose how long to hold a note inside the fixed framework imposed on him, which in turn is established by the fixed pattern of the metronome’s beat.38

  • 39 Berio 1960: 27.
  • 40 See Venn 2007; Eco 2012: 13-14.

16Berio’s use of proportional notation lets the performer room for freedom, who can adapt the speed of the performance to his own technical ability and to his own performance choices. Berio himself speaks of the performer as a collaborator and of an «open form»,39 and contributes to delineating the concept of open work by discussing with Eco, publishing his article L’opera in movimento e la coscienza dell’epoca (1959) in the journal Incontri musicali, and rereading with the author the pages of The Open Work dedicated to Sequenza I.40

  • 41 See Notaristefano 2013.

17However, this does not prevent Berio from writing a different version of Sequenza I (1992, published in 199841) in traditional notation, a ‘closed’ one, in which the freedom of the performer is therefore limited, against abuses and misunderstandings that in the meantime had given rise to performances far from the composer’s project.

4. Critique of the Notion of ‘Open Work’

18It is precisely this new intervention by the composer that questions the idea of open work proposed by Eco. Berio himself, in a well-known interview with Rossana Dalmonte, noticed:

  • 42 Berio 1981: 109. In the English translation by D. Osmond-Smith (1985: 99), the reference to Eco is (...)

The piece is very difficult, and I therefore adopted a notation that was very precise, but allowed a margin of flexibility in order that the player might have the freedom – psychological rather than musical – to adapt the piece here and there to his technical stature. But instead, this notation has allowed many players – none of them by any means shining examples of professional integrity – to perpetrate adaptations that were little short of piratical. In fact, I hope to rewrite Sequenza I in rhythmic notation: maybe it will be less ‘open’ and more authoritarian, but at least it will be reliable. And I hope that Umberto Eco will forgive me…42

  • 43 Folio, Brinkmann 2007; Venn 2007; Priore 2007.

19This gave rise to a philological43 and philosophical controversy on the application of the concept of open work to Sequenza I and, more generally, on the validity of the concept of Eco.

  • 44 De Benedictis 2007.

20Already at the time of the publication of the 1959 article, the musicologist Fedele D’Amico (1960) had raised the objection that the concept of open work was not relevant for an understanding of the aesthetic experience of the listener, who in any case would be faced with a ‘closed’ performance, defined by the choices of the performer. The argument of indiscernibility at the listening level between ‘closed’ and ‘open’ works was intended to undermine, on a theoretical level, the validity and usefulness of the concept proposed by Eco. But Berio’s ‘closure’ with respect to the first version of the work, also opens the front to a musicological controversy, in which the concept of open work appears as a purely theoretical instrument, unrelated to the actual musical reality to which it is applied and too generic and ambiguous to be heuristically useful.44

  • 45 Eco 1989: 12.
  • 46 Eco 2012: 14.
  • 47 Ibidem: 13.

21Eco has the possibility to further explain his idea during the 2008 conference dedicated to Berio at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena (later published in the volume of proceedings in 2012). Here he retraces the criticisms to the concept of open work in general and its application to Berio’s Sequenza I and reintroduces the distinction between open work and work in movement. The four musical examples cited at the beginning of The Open Work, understood as works in movement («inside the category of “open” works a further, more restricted classification of works which can be defined as “works in movement”, because they characteristically consist of unplanned or physically incomplete structural units»),45 should be understood only as a «drum roll to make the reader jump on the chair»46 but «for me as for Berio the concept of work in movement was only a provocative example to discuss the broader poetics of open work».47

22The work in movement is therefore simply a historical incarnation – and therefore rather contingent and precarious, linked to a certain moment and a certain well-defined tendency – of a more general conception of open work. Even if the validity of the first term falls, however, the validity of the second does not diminish, which as such is not linked to a specific poetics but identifies an aesthetic and theoretical principle, according to Eco still to be defended.

23But is Eco’s strategy (conceding something to the opponents, sacrificing the particular case and defending the general idea) really able to save the concept of open work? The philosopher insists that works in movement do not exhaust the number of works that have an open character; this character is in fact typical of any work that requires interpretation or execution.

  • 48 Eco 2012: 15.
  • 49 Pareyson 1971: 53.

24Going back to the genesis of the concept of open work, Eco refers to his master, the philosopher Luigi Pareyson,48 who in his main work (Estetica. Teoria della formatività, 1954), as well as later in his work dedicated to the problem of interpretation (Verità e interpretazione, 1971), proposes a conception according to which the form of each work – in this very similar to Berio’s «open form» – in order to live its own life, requires to be interpreted and performed. Here the distinction between formed form and forming form is inserted: the interpreter will not simply have to repeat the work of the artist, seen as something completed and achieved, but will have to go back in a personal way to the formative process that led from the cue to the full realization. In this sense, therefore, each work needs, in order to be understood, a work of interpretation. But Pareyson adds that «of truth there is only interpretation and there is only interpretation of truth»:49 the necessary interpretative work cannot be arbitrary but always respectful of that precise form created by the artist.

5. Pareyson’s Legacy: Between Form and Indeterminacy

  • 50 Eco 2012: 15.

25Now, Eco’s defense of the concept of open work touches on Pareyson’s concepts of formativity and interpretation but poses a dilemma: either this concept does not add anything significant (but then what philosophical utility can it have?) or it actually marks a change, at least in ‘tone’, in conceiving the relationship between author and interpreter, emphasizing the freedom of the latter and its contribution not only to the execution but to the definition of the work itself (in Pareysonian terms, to the definition of its formed form). But in this partial retraction Eco seems to deny the second option, linked rather to a poetics of the work in movement that is evidently dated. It follows that the right reading is the first one, the one most indebted to Pareyson’s theory, with respect to which, as Eco also notes, quoting an observation by D’Amico, the concept of open work marks no other difference than that of a self-reflexive consciousness of the avant-garde, «which was then what we wanted to say».50

  • 51 Pareyson 2005: 7, my emphasis.

26Actually, beyond what Eco says years later, at the time of the publication of The Open Work, what was at stake was the passage from a paradigm of form, the one proposed by Pareyson, to a paradigm linked to the notion of indeterminacy. On the one hand, a relationship between form and indeterminacy is also partially recognized by Pareyson, who writes in the preface to his Estetica: «here we understand form as a living organism of its own life and endowed with an internal legality: a totality unrepeatable in its singularity, independent in its autonomy, exemplary in its value, at the same time concluded and open in its definiteness that encloses an infinite […]».51 Form, understood as a principle of organic development, has at the same time the character of openness – referred to the aspect of forming form – but cannot do without a closure, connected to the idea of formed form and achievement, a central notion in Pareyson’s aesthetics and theory of interpretation.

  • 52 Eco 1989: 87.

27It can be said that the theory of formativity is connected to a morphological and biological model of development (deriving from Goethe’s Metamorphosis of plants) while the notion of open work refers to a model linked to contemporary science which constitutes the «repercussion, within formative activity, of certain ideas acquired from contemporary scientific methodologies – the confirmation, in art, of the categories of indeterminacy and statistical distribution that guide the interpretation of natural facts».52 In the passage from a paradigm of form to a paradigm of indeterminacy, the binding element of achievement, which constitutes the accomplishment of form and the normative element by which the correctness of the different interpretations must be judged, disappears. Compared to Pareyson’s double reference to the opening and closing of the form, Eco’s reference to indeterminacy reflects a shift towards the single moment of opening, typical of contemporary poetics.

  • 53 Berio 1956; 1998-99.
  • 54 See Oliva 2019.

28For his part, in his theoretical writings Berio53 on several occasions reflects on the concept of form, understood not as a finished product but as a process of formation, akin to spontaneous germination. In Berio, as in Pareyson, the morphological model has a Goethian root but also derives from Paul Klee’s Theory of Form and Figuration,54 in which form is not understood as a finished configuration but as an ongoing dynamic process. Such an idea of form implies an openness that never reaches the indeterminacy that characterizes the open work theorized by Eco. And it is perhaps in the light of this affinity between Berio and Pareyson that one can understand Berio’s caution towards the more radical outcomes of Eco’s idea of open work.

29Finally, as Eco suggests, the concept of open work can be understood as a stage in a self-understanding of contemporary aesthetics and as recognition of Eco’s intellectual debt towards his master Pareyson, whose influence will progressively diminish as other influences (phenomenological, semiotic, linguistic) stimulate his thought. This is why the open work, marking a crucial phase in the development of Eco’s intellectual path, seems to be a concept intent on remembering the future – as the title of Berio’s American lessons says –, straddling the suggestions of the past and the developments yet to come.

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Eco, U., Berio, L. 1986, Eco in ascolto, in R. Restagno (ed.), Berio, Torino, Edt, 1995: 53-61; now in L. Berio, Interviste e colloqui, ed. by V.C. Ottomano, Torino, Einaudi, 2017: 171-182.

Folio, C., Brinkmann, A.R. 2007, Rhythm and Timing in the two versions of “Sequenza I” for Flute solo: Psychological and Musical Differences in Performance, in J.K. Halfyard (ed.), Berio’s Sequenzas. Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, Aldershot, Ashgate: 11-37.

Halfyard, J.K. (ed.) 2007, Berio’s Sequenzas. Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, Aldershot, Ashgate.

Hjelmslev, L. 1943, Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, Madison, University of Winsconsin, 1961.

Lévi-Strauss, C. 1964, Le cru e le cuit, Paris, Plon.

Nattiez, J.-J. 1975, Fondements d’une sémiologie de la musique, Paris, Union Générale d’Édition.

Notaristefano, M. 2013, Luciano Berio – Sequenza I, “De Musica”, XVII, https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/demusica/article/view/3215/3416.

Oliva, S. 2019, Fra l’occhio e l’orecchio: la questione della forma in Luciano Berio e Paul Klee, “B@belonline/print”, 5: 475-482.

Ophälders, M. 2011, Aritmetiche e alchimie di suoni. Severino Boezio e Luciano Berio, “Doctor Virtualis”, 10: 157-175.

Paolucci, C. 2017, Umberto Eco. Tra opera e avventura, Milano, Feltrinelli.

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Pareyson, L. 1971, Verità e interpretazione, Milano, Mursia.

Priore, I. 2007, Vestiges of Twele-Tones Practice as Compositional Process in Berio’s “Sequenza I” for Solo Flute, in J.K. Halfyard (ed.), Berio’s Sequenzas. Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, Aldershot, Ashgate: 191-208.

Restagno, E. (ed.) 1995, Berio, Torino, EDT.

Rizzardi, V., De Benedictis, A.I. (ed.) 2000, Nuova musica alla radio. Esperienze allo Studio di fonologia della Rai di Milano 1954-1959, Roma, Rai Eri.

Ruwet, N. 1959, Contraddizioni del linguaggio seriale, “Incontri musicali”, 3: 55-69.

Venn, E. 2007, Proliferations and Limitations: Berio’s Reworking of the “Sequenzas”, in J.K. Halfyard (ed.), Berio’s Sequenzas. Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, Aldershot, Ashgate: 171-187.

Wittgenstein, L. 1922, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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Note

1 Rizzardi, De Benedictis 2000.

2 Eco 1962: V.

3 Eco 1959.

4 Other important essays on aesthetics of the ‘pre-semiotic’ period (1955-1964) are collected in the book La definizione dell’arte (1968). See in particular Two Hypotheses about the Death of Art, published in the English edition of The Open Work (Eco 1989: 167-179).

5 See Eco 2012: 6-7.

6 Eco 1963.

7 Berio 1970.

8 See Agamennone 2012.

9 Eco, Berio 1986.

10 Berio 2006.

11 Berio 2000.

12 Eco 1989: 15.

13 All English translations of Berio’s and Eco’s quotations (except Berio 1981; 2006 and Eco 1976; 1989; 1997) are mine.

14 Berio 1988: 329.

15 In this article the term ‘poetics’ is used in the sense attributed to it by Eco, when he speaks of «contemporary poetics». Taking as a reference the distinction between aesthetics and poetics proposed by Eco’s master, Luigi Pareyson (1954: 311), we can say that the former has «a philosophical and purely speculative character» while the latter has a «historical and operative character», indicating a particular ideal or artistic program to be realized.

16 Eco 1964: XV.

17 A few years later Berio would have dealt with the theme of popular music in the essay Commenti al rock (1967) and would have returned to the subject in the cycle of broadcasts C’è musica & musica (1972), made for Rai television.

18 Eco 1964: 303.

19 See Berio 1986.

20 Eco 1968: 398.

21 Eco 1968: 318.

22 Ibidem: 314. Berio, who had already wondered about the comparison between music and language in a Chomskyan perspective (Berio 1965), would later return to the hypothesis of a generative musical grammar excluding the suggestion: «Now and then music sends out hesitant cues as to the existence of innate organisms which, if fittingly translated and interpreted, may help us pinpoint the embryos of a universal musical grammar. I do not think that such a discovery can be useful to musical creativity, nor to the utopian prospect of a perfect, common musical language that will enable musicians to speak and be unanimously spoken. But I do think that it could contribute to exploring musical experience as a “language of languages”, establishing a constructive interchange between diverse cultures and a peaceful defense of those diversities» (Berio 2006: 60). On Berio and Boethius, see Ophälders (2011).

23 Eco 1968: 323.

24 Eco raises the question of structure by making a distinction between historical and supra-historical plan: «The problem of a structural method (and by saying “method” we have anticipated an answer), in order not to become a form of anti-historical knowledge, is never to identify the sought Structure with a given series, seen as a favorite manifestation of the universals of communication» (Eco 1968: 318). The structure therefore is «Code of codes» but precisely for this reason it must never be confused with a given series: «it is a final term that always regresses» or, in other words, the structure as such is something «that does not yet exist. If there is, if I have identified it, I have in my hands only a median moment of the chain that guarantees me, below this, a more elementary and all-embracing structure». For this reason «the Structure will propose itself eminently as Absence» (Eco 1968: 323).

25 Eco 1976: 229.

26 Ibidem: 233.

27 Ibidem: 243.

28 Ibidem: 244.

29 Eco, Berio [1986], 1995: 60.

30 Eco 1990: 4. In this sense, here music seems to play the role that in La struttura assente the structure fulfils as Code of codes. But let us remember that «the Structure cujus nihil majus cogitari possit» is a generative structure; the reference to music therefore does not point to any specific musical system but to an underlying musical structure that «could explain the historical passage from the Greek, oriental or medieval scales to the temperate scale, and from this to the scales and constellations of post-Webernian music» (Eco 1968: 314).

31 Berio (2003), implicitly polemicizing with Eco, discusses the possibility of a semiotics of music denouncing the «semiological misunderstanding», deriving from the fact that «the musical word (if it exists) is always the thing» and «music is not made of identifiable signs that refer to other signs that interpret each other infinitely. Music is the sign of itself» (Berio 2003: 485). In the same essay, the composer argues with the tripartition of music into isolated objects, produced objects and perceived objects proposed by J.-J. Nattiez (1975), stating: «But it is above all the proposal of a neutral level that leaves me perplexed, because it tends to reduce the work to something immaterial and abstract. It would be worthwhile then […] to return to Severinus Boethius and take refuge in the theories of Greek-medieval musicology in which, as Umberto Eco says, “the more the system explains the experience, the more it disregards it”» (Ibidem: 486).

32 Eco 1990: 11.

33 Eco 1997: 5.

34 Wittgenstein 1922: § 4.104.

35 Eco 1997: 214.

36 For a detailed analysis of the issues dealt with in the third chapter of Kant and the platypus, see Bianchi 2017.

37 Eco 1962: 2. For a reflection in general on the concept of open work, see Bondanella 1997 (chapter 2), Paolucci 2017 (chapter 3).

38 Eco 1989: 1.

39 Berio 1960: 27.

40 See Venn 2007; Eco 2012: 13-14.

41 See Notaristefano 2013.

42 Berio 1981: 109. In the English translation by D. Osmond-Smith (1985: 99), the reference to Eco is missing.

43 Folio, Brinkmann 2007; Venn 2007; Priore 2007.

44 De Benedictis 2007.

45 Eco 1989: 12.

46 Eco 2012: 14.

47 Ibidem: 13.

48 Eco 2012: 15.

49 Pareyson 1971: 53.

50 Eco 2012: 15.

51 Pareyson 2005: 7, my emphasis.

52 Eco 1989: 87.

53 Berio 1956; 1998-99.

54 See Oliva 2019.

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Stefano Oliva, «Eco and Berio between Music and Open Work»Rivista di estetica, 76 | 2021, 146-161.

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Stefano Oliva, «Eco and Berio between Music and Open Work»Rivista di estetica [Online], 76 | 2021, online dal 01 mai 2021, consultato il 18 septembre 2021. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/estetica/7709; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/estetica.7709

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