Luciano Berio's Sequenza VII: temporal multiplicity and alternative conceptions of form.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nicole E. Strum (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Steven Stusek

Abstract: Existing analyses of Sequenza VII's form rely on the aggregate-completing pitch of a fixed-register pitch series to outline the climactic area of the piece and to help define the traditional formal archetype of build-up - climax - resolution. The occurrence of the climax at approximately the golden mean divides the piece into two main sections that are temporally proportionally balanced. This singular formal conception, based on a traditional archetype, while satisfying and useful in some respects, does not reveal everything about the piece's form: most importantly, it is not able to address significant formal aspects that situate Sequenza VII more clearly in a postmodern context. The overriding aspect to which I refer is temporality, or rather, the multivalence of temporal organizations present in this piece, a concept that is characteristic of postmodern musical works. Berio himself has pointed to this idea; he has said, "...I will never be able to attempt a time conception in a 'univocal' way. There are always different phases that are important." In this document, I show that Sequenza VII exhibits multiple simultaneous temporal organizations that may individually be linear, partially linear, or spatial. These simultaneous temporal organizations allow for the presence of different temporal "phases," to use Berio's term: at certain moments a particular temporal organization may rise to the surface or become more prominent, depending on a performer's interpretation and/or a listener's perspective. The possibility that temporal structure can reside within the listener is a trait of many postmodern musical works, and comes into play here especially with respect to a spatial interpretation of form. Further, the different temporal organizations are unified by particular salient pitches whose multiple functions permit relationships to form between the temporal layers. This multivalent interpretation of temporality and form not only justifies Berio's claim that for him it is impossible to conceive of time in a univocal way, but also reinforces Sequenza VII's important place in the postmodern musical repertoire. My original analysis draws on Judith Lochhead's phenomenological approach to temporal structures, Jonathan Kramer's study of conceptions of time in music, and Joshua Mailman's work on "temporal dynamic form." My analysis is further supported by a comparison of timings gathered from recordings of the piece and graphic representations of particular temporal and formal ideas. This application of the golden mean in an analysis of Sequenza VII is not original to me; Leclair, Alessandrini, Stoianova, Osmond-Smith and others have long pointed this out.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Sequenza VII,
Berio, Luciano, $d 1925-2003. $t Sequenza, $n no. 7 $x Criticism and interpretation

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