Luciano Berio: O King

Program Note

Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
O King (1968)

Luciano Berio was born in Oneglia into a family in which music was a longstanding tradition. Both his father, Ernesto, and his grandfather, Adolfo, were composers. In 1945 Berio moved to Milan, where he attended the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi, studying composition with Giulio Cesare Paribeni and Giorgio Federico Ghedini, as well as conducting with Carlo Maria Giulini and Antonino Votto.

In 1954, Berio and Italian composer and conductor Burno Maderna created Italy’s first studio of electronic music at the RAI Milan headquarters, inaugurated the following year as the Studio di Fonologia Musicale. Berio’s music is characterised by an equilibrium between a keen awareness of tradition and experimentation with new forms of musical communication. In his various creative phases, he endeavored to relate music to various fields of knowledge: poetry, theater, linguistics, anthropology, and architecture.

Berio’s commitment to music extended to other activities including conducting, the conception of concert series, and the promotion of contemporary music (notably Incontri Musicali, a journal and series of concerts inaugurated in 1956). He taught at the Darmstadt Summer Courses, Dartington and Tanglewood Festivals, Mills College, the Juilliard School, and Harvard University. From 1974 to 1980 he directed the department of electroacoustics at the IRCAM, and in 1987 he founded the Centro Tempo Reale, a center for electronic music research, production, and education, in Florence.

Berio won the Siemens Prize, Wolf Foundation Prize, Leone d’Oro alla Carriera, Venice Biennale, and the Japanese Imperial Prize for the Arts. He received four honorary degrees from the City University of London, and the Universities of Siena, Torino, and Bologna. Beginning in 2000, Berio was President of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

—Angela Ida De Benedictis (Transl.Mark Weir)

“This short piece is a tribute to the memory of Martin Luther King. The text simply consists of the enunciation of the black martyr’s name. The words and their components are submitted to a musical analysis, which is integrated into the structure of the piece. The voice enunciates the different phonetic elements of the name, which is gradually recomposed towards the end: ‘O Martin Luther King’.”

—Luciano Berio