Possible Worlds

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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In Toledo, Nono saw a graffito – ‘Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar’ (‘traveller, there is no path, there is just walking’) – a paraphrase of Machado. This provided the thread for a series of works. A commission for the new Gasteig concert hall in Munich was the impulse for 1˚ Caminantes … Ayacucho for soloists, orchestra, organ and choir with electronics (1986–7). Setting texts by Giordano Bruno, it explores his vision of a multiverse, distributing the orchestra in three groups around the soloists, organ and choir behind. Orchestra and choir use only five pitches; the organ provides a continuous layer of sound. Decouvrir la subversion: Hommage à Edmond Jabès is premiered at the Paris festival, using a minimal score to guide the improvisation of Nono’s regular group. It investigates Jabès notion of the blank page – that there is at once a necessity and impossibility of writing. Post-Prae-Ludium Nr. 1, Donau is performed by Schiffini at Donaueschingen from a skeletal map of possibilities developed in the studio while Nono takes the trans-Siberian to Japan for the premiere of Non hay caminos, hay que caminar… Andreij Tarkovskij. Here the orchestra is divided into seven choirs distributed around the hall. The only note is G – in sixteenth-tone variants all registers. Tarkovsky had recently died – Nono was influenced by many film directors, but Tarkovsky’s last work Sacrifice was particularly important, and many parallels are identified. Nono had worked in the studio with violinist Gidon Kremer, producing a set of eight tapes that accompany Kremer in La lontananza nostalgica futura (Berlin, 1987). Its material will be revisited in ‘Hay que caminar’ Soñando (1988), for two violins. Post-prae-ludium n. 3 ‘BAAB–ARR’ for solo piccolo is premiered at the same festival but shows a quite different approach: there is no score for this guided improvisation on a single Bb. This had been developed in the studio with live electronics, but Nono is now too ill. Project he worked on during his last year of life include Stammheim (setting the words of Ulrike Meinhoff) and a new string quartet with voice, informed by the work of Mondrian. Nono dies in Venice on 8 May 1990.

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