A Tragedy of Listening

Authored by: Jonathan Impett

Routledge Handbook to Luigi Nono and Musical Thought

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781409455974
eBook ISBN: 9780429485732
Adobe ISBN:


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The text and structure of the ‘tragedy of listening’ Prometeo evolve over several years, in discussion between Nono and Cacciari, beginning from Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. From the received view of Prometheus-hero, their understanding shifts to the reconciliation of men and gods, both subject to the higher laws of nature. Prometeo becomes a space of possibilities, an archipelago of islands to be navigated rather than a sequence of episodes. Significant influences include Viennese thought, including the music of Mahler and the model of Musil’s Man without qualities, and the colour theories of Klee and Albers. Nietzsche, the figure of Der Wanderer and Schumann’s Manfred are important references. Benjamin’s Theses of History are introduced in the text and as a philosophical horizon. Renzo Piano designs the performance space – an ‘ark’ inside the church of San Lorenzo in Venice allowing multiple performance arrangements and sound projection possibilities. Lighting is again by Vedova. Abbado conducts the premiere in 1984. Prometeo is for vocal soloists, reciters, his regular instrumental soloists, chamber choir, orchestra and live electronics. It explores a very focused interval-based language, but exhibits aspects of his early techniques. The score is revised significantly for La Scala in 1985. Nono participates in further performances in Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin, eliminating all non-sonic components.

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