Confronting Modernism


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:




Scherchen encourages his protegees to submit works for the Darmstadt Summer School in 1950. Nono’s Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell’op.41 di Arnold Schönberg is premiered there with success. It establishes Nono’s technique in its polyphonic permutation-based serial fabric and use of displacement matrices to introduce asymmetry. Architectural aspects are also identified. He meets Varèse and forms a lasting friendship with Darmstadt director Wolfgang Steinecke. At Darmstadt 1951 Nono presents Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica in which he develops his essentialist approach to musical material. A dramatic work Fučík, based on the memoir of a resistance martyr, uses a similar articulation of materials and approach, but is uncompleted. Composizione per orchestra n.1, his first radio commission, is premiered in early 1952. It is the first clear example of the binary, vertical/horizontal model that will subtend much of his work. Nono joins the Italian Communist Party (PCI), reads Gramsci, discusses communism with Maderna. He envisions closer collaboration with composer colleagues around Europe – they have other ambitions. Nono frequently visits Scherchen and works for his Ars Viva Verlag. In Epitaffio 1–3 per Federica Garcia Lorca (1952) Nono uses external material for the first time and establishes the poetic/dramatic core of his language.

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Confronting Modernism

The emergence of a language

Tall, long, infinitely slim, he carried on his straight narrow shoulders a head likewise all length, which irresistibly made one think of that of some painting, still primitive, of the pre-renaissance, perhaps one of the familiar saints. The gentleness of a vague expression, which seemed to come from very far and to be going very far, towards some mysterious inner vision, a whispering voice, airy, dying on final syllables which one never understood, an apparition, transparent in the air which seemed to vibrate around him, without thinking twice I would have thought him to be Francis of Assisi. […]

These Variations in the form of a canon gave rise to an enormous scandal, […] a scandal provoked, above all, by the sonic consistency of this music, which seemed to call in sound just as a vacuum calls in the air, irresistibly. […] Little by little, these soft short sounds organised themselves like a procession of signals moving slowly forwards, with long spaces between them, spaces inhabited by a disturbing silence. 1

Antoine Goléa’s florid description conveys the impact Nono made at the Darmstadt Internationalen Ferienkurse für neue Musik in August 1950. 2 Scherchen had first taught conducting at Darmstadt in 1947; on this occasion he proposed that both his Venetian apprentices should submit works for the concerts he was to conduct. Nono worked on the orchestral Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell’op. 41 di Arnold Schönberg from autumn 1949. In May 1950 he sent his score to Wolfgang Steinecke, founder, director and guiding light of the Darmstadt Summer School. 3 A month later, Steinecke replied that ‘The score met with the high approval of the jury, and I think that the work will be programmed if the considerable performance difficulties can be overcome.’ 4 He immediately offered Nono a scholarship to attend the course.

As Maderna’s conducting career began to flourish, Nono found himself in the role of assistant to both Maderna and, increasingly, Scherchen. He attended Scherchen’s concerts, as far as means allowed, visited him at his home at Rapallo in Liguria, and carried out research to support Scherchen’s increasing interest in performing pre-classical music. 5 He was party to the rapid, avaricious evolution of Maderna’s compositional thought; for Maderna, study, research and teaching were a single process of shared intensity. Maderna’s early serial experiments embody much of Dallapiccola’s influence – contrapuntal development through canons and mirrors, total chromatic harmony consolidating about quasi-tonal centres – but maintain a reflective distance: ‘Personally, I thought that serialism offered musicians more possibilities than the, lets say, “traditional” technique. But I never really felt like poor old Leibowitz […] nor yet like Dallapiccola, enclosed within his rock-crystal.’ 6

Maderna’s work retains a synthetic quality; he confronts the listener with a multiplicity of connections reflecting the diversity of his musical experience. From the outset, the interweaving of structural and referential elements is more mediated in Nono’s music. In Variazioni canoniche he consciously sets out the elements of a coherent, self-assured and individual language and the foundations of his subsequent practice. Many of the fundamental components of his technique are here, particularly the weaving of densely worked material from polyphonic strands – even if the result is to be a single line – and the initial spinning of its warp and woof from miraculously fine resources. These resources have a crucial lack of mimetic or semantic burden. Nono’s essentialist approach to material allows him to carefully manage its evolving structural properties through an iterative compositional process. At the same time, a self-awareness of composition as an ethical activity subtends the poetic integrity of the musical surface. That Nono developed this approach before becoming embroiled in the wider discourses of compositional modernism and politics is crucial to the independence and poetry of his work.

For me it has always been clear that a man can realise himself only in his relationships with his equals and with society. In my first pieces individual sounds are not so important; for example pitches do not count so much as intervals, the relationships between resulting musical figures; and these relationships cannot be explained away in terms of the vertical or the horizontal but embrace every level of composition – like a net that extends in all directions. […]

I always worked in three stages. First I chose the material, intervallic, timbral, rhythmic. Then I experimented with this material, subjected it to various procedures just to see in what directions it could evolve. And then I composed, deduced an appropriate form from the material and from its inherent possibilities. Thus for me composition was never the making concrete of preformed structures. 7

Nono’s concise description of his process holds for much of his career. This chapter will consider his early procedures in some detail; we see the emergence of paradigms and practices that will evolve and resurface throughout his work.

‘Variazioni canoniche sulla serie dell’op. 41 di Arnold Schönberg 1

The idea of basing such a significant work on material from Schönberg was with Nono from the outset. He writes out the twelve-note rows from the Suite op. 29, Quartet op. 30, Piano Piece op. 33a and Piano Concerto op. 42 as well as the op. 41 Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte itself. The op. 41 row stands out in its reflective symmetry and concentration on two intervals: semitone and major 3rd (Figure 3.1). As in his notes from Scherchen’s lectures, each is notated as a series of intervals as well as pitches. Schönberg sets Byron’s poem against tyranny for Sprechgesang, strings and piano. The Ode is the embodiment of his own ethical stance and serves as reference for Nono in many respects.

Figure 3.1   Variazioni canoniche: series from Schönberg op. 41 as notated by Nono

From the beginning Nono planned four ‘episodes’. He already displays an acute sense of the scope of compositional structures, of the time and degree of manipulation they can sustain. The Due liriche greche could be built as single spans; here a more complex architecture is necessary to sustain his aesthetic vision. As he maps the terrain of his new work, models and procedures emerge that allow a glimpse of Nono’s conceptual musical space – archetypes of thought that will persist and evolve. For example, he uses an iterative, narrowing spiral remapping to generate three new series. He takes every seventh note of the original, every seventh of the result, and subsequently every third, eliminating pitches already used. He maps the interval content of each series against an axis of ‘calma – tensione’ derived from Hindemith’s Unterweisung (5 4 6+ 3+ 6– 3– 7– 2+ 4+ 7+ 2– in Nono’s diatonic notation). This practice would persist; Guerrero makes a convincing argument for the fundamental importance of Hindemith’s approach to Nono’s early works, but its traces remain throughout the next forty years. 8 He marks the series’ characteristic intervals and works over the material in its every manifestation using multiple colours. Analysis in colour seems to derive from conducting practice as taught by Scherchen. Such multilayered graphical filtering will become increasingly central to Nono’s compositional process.

The third variant, rich in perfect fourths, is marked serie iniziale at one point (Figure 3.2). The E he considers eliminating; in fact, it will become a structural pivot. In the midst of this serial exploration appear verses 9 and 10 from the Gregorian Dies Irae. Nono notes that, like Schönberg’s row, it consists almost entirely of seconds and thirds. The interval analysis of Gregorian chant was a staple in Scherchen’s classes. The Dies Irae is central to Dallapiccola’s Canti di Prigionia, his own statement against repression, which Nono presumably had in mind. On the same sheet he sets out the rhythmic base of the work – a characteristically essentialist sequence of values reducing from eight semiquavers to one, the last three grouped together to make six elements in all (Figure 3.3). A variant replaces each value with two of half its length; retaining ties between note values introduces an asymmetry that makes the new variant more than an elaboration of the original by creating distinct retrogrades. This property is retained in a sequence of canons and permutations. The role played by the conventions of notation is significant. In later work, such durations become abstract values; here their development is conditioned by the metrical structure.

Figure 3.2   Variazioni canoniche: third derived row

Figure 3.3   Variazioni canoniche: rhythm base and variant

Another area for exploration is opened out through a process of permutation and remapping, a graphical technique that allows him both to perform distant manipulations of the material and to see potential structure in the results. Schönberg’s row is transformed by remapping space rather than series. The first begins with a ‘salto a 1’ (‘jump by 1’). Instead of 12 … 1 down the vertical axis, we now have 11 9 7 5 3 1 2 4 6 8 10 12. The pitches of the original series are projected onto this new space. By mapping the transformed pitch space back onto a conventional ordering, a new series is derived; 9 10 5 6 becomes 11 2 4 9 (Figure 3.4). Below, Nono plots the interval succession thus generated, noting symmetries, periodicities and similarities. Variants of this process are grouped into four sections in which he performs such permutations on reducing subgroups of 12, 6, 4 or 3 notes, such that the numbers of possibilities increase. The folding and stretching of space will remain characteristic of Nono’s musical thought. In working with contrapuntal models it permits him to manipulate abstract structures while retaining a sense of their compositional role.

Figure 3.4   Variazioni canoniche: remapping of series. (ALN 01.01/05. © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

Four episodes do indeed emerge, characterised not by row form, but by their different polyphonic weave. The first, Largo vagamente, sets the sonic scene described by Goléa and establishes key elements of Nono’s palette: low woodwind at a dynamic such that they barely speak; high, muted string harmonics; a tempo (♩ = 30) below the range of human physicality that leaves space for hearing to explore detail; the whole punctuated by isolated, ringing harp notes. The listener is unsure whether perceived melodic fragments are actually written into the musical surface or are a product of their own search for structure in this shifting space. This property will become the very stuff of Nono’s music in the later works.

A 10-bar passage of two-part counterpoint forms the basis of the whole section (Figure 3.5). It appears to be a product of the process of reordering described above, and the rhythm cell is clearly presented in the last four bars. Nono’s use of this material demonstrates his technique for weaving a musical fabric irrespective of the number of voices it ultimately contains. His indications ‘a 2’, ‘a 3’ etc., redolent of earlier polyphony, refer to the simultaneous number of such textures; the number of individual voices may be much greater. Rooted in Venetian polyphonic, polychoral writing, this will remain fundamental to Nono’s practice. This material is developed as a double mirror-canon according to a scheme described in full in terms of inversion and direction, transposition and relative delay (Figure 3.6). ‘Per Bruno’ refers to a list of errands for his absent friend.

Figure 3.5   Variazioni canoniche: Largo vagamente, contrapuntal basis

Figure 3.6   Variazioni canoniche: combination scheme. (ALN 01.03.01/02 (detail). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

The resulting four-voice polyphony is subjected to painstaking analysis in four colours. Nono looks for harmonic augmented fourths, unisons, semitones and emergent motivic relationships. Below, he constructs a new polyphony of five voices from the aggregate of the double mirror-canon. The notes of the original are freely selected, recombined and octave-shifted. This is subject to further analysis to derive a second set of new voices, now four. In both cases a bass part is written first, perhaps an artefact of his continuing study of conventional counterpoint. An additional voice is constructed of the notes not used in the second four-part construct. This concept of negative material will become important, a reminder of the broader space of potentiality through which a work navigates. Finally, the four voices are retranscribed in conventional order, marked as section I and annotated with ideas for orchestration and tempo (Figure 3.7). This passage, its durations doubled, will become the first fifty bars of the Largo vagamente.

Figure 3.7   Variazioni canoniche: mirror-canon, filtering and retranscription. (ALN 01.03.01/03r. © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

A canonic structure distributed among multiple voices of percussion elides into the Andante moderato. Sustained rolls at extreme dynamics will become another stable Nono trope. Waves of muovendo and rallentando are laid across a patchwork of canons – canons in their origin and in their strength as musical fabric, but without a transparently imitative surface. They begin as rhythmic structures. The six elements of the ritmo base and their mirrors are rearrranged in four permutations. Each of these is also mapped as a sequence of pairs of pitches from the original row, retaining traces of Schönberg’s melodic succession in their rearrangement. In another process of remediation, Nono then constructs a thirty-two bar three-part rhythm canon in 6/8 using the sequence of permutations of rhythm elements. The gap between voices is progressively increased by an additional quaver between each group of six elements. From this Nono derives a sparser five-part rhythmic texture, ignoring ties in the original where additional attacks are needed (Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8   Variazioni canoniche: derivation of new voices from canon on ritmo base

He is careful to give the new voices quite distinct characteristics, introducing asymmetries and additional imitation. He then maps out a series of mirror-canons based on these five voices, and a process of substitution by which the rests are to be gradually reduced. The first three of these are the basis of the Andante, the last (marked base) of the third episode Allegro violento. The second voice appears in the double mirror canon 2–2R-3R from bar 95 (Figure 3.9).

Figure 3.9   Variazioni canoniche: second voice from Figure 3.8, in bars 95–8

The original three-part canon provides the rhythm of the Allegro violento, its durations doubled to make sixty-four bars. Pitches appear precisely as in the plan of rhythm-pitch correlation made prior to the canon. Schönberg’s row is thus the first to appear, the presentation of each pitch by two instruments preparing the pairwise permutations that map out the subsequent pitch space of this section. Nono exploits rhythmic and imitative continuity to draw broad, dramatic waves of crescendo and diminuendo punctuated by single attacks, repeated notes or brief passages of sustained fff. Extreme registers and colours characterise the orchestration; piano, harp and timpani link the remaining percussion into the structure. As often in Nono’s later work, clearly pitched sounds are the mid-point on a timbral continuum from the spectral complexity of percussion to the perceptual ambiguity of extreme registers and dynamics.

The final Lento seems to have been taking shape in Nono’s mind from early on. He had experimented with the fourth-rich third variant of the row at various stages. He writes out all twelve transpositions of Schönberg’s row, each followed by its mirror. Below, he notates two ascending circles of fourths – one beginning on E, the other ending on E. The twin circles of fourths and map of mirrored rows reflect Nono’s initial conception of the work as an enveloping mirror form. His sequences of permutations use patterns of forwards and return, often illustrated graphically. Nono regularly seems to imagine a structure simultaneously with its mirror, and there is a further simultaneity in his exploration of this space both as sequence (out followed by back) and as bifurcation (two parallel possibilities of development). This is a lesson learned from his study of early polyphony. Herein lies the origin of the ‘wedge’ shape of expansion and contraction, ascent and descent, which writers would observe in Nono’s work. It is evident in his very first sketches for the opening of this final section and will determine its entire serial structure (Figure 3.10).

Figure 3.10   Variazioni canoniche: pitch structure of Lento (bars 217–83)

Two circles of fourths – one rising E–E, one falling E–E – form the skeleton around which Nono hangs all twelve transposition of Schönberg’s row, in their various mirrors and inversions, but otherwise unchanged. With two exceptions, the ascending cycle presents original forms of the row while the descending cycle explores its variants. The original row is introduced by the harp over the fourth-chord F♯–B–E–A–D sustained from the opening, and balanced by an inversion in the piano. Its complement at the end of the work, a retrograde starting on F♯, is likewise presented by the harp at bar 280, now over a chord of fourths built on B♭. The centrepiece of this symmetrical journey is the soprano saxophone solo in bars 244–53, presenting the original row on F – the sixth member of the ascending cycle – followed by its mirror, with rhythms permuted from the original six-element cell. Accompanying this uniquely sustained lyrical passage, the retrograde row on E♭ – the sixth member of the descending cycle – moves up through the entire string section. This sustained texture sustain dissolves into individual pizzicato attacks following the mirror of the same series at precisely the moment when the saxophone begins its return in bar 249. Either side of this solo, Nono manages serial transparency with great invention. There are melodic loops, elisions, echoes and compression into harmonic aggregates – especially in the piano. He plays with the degree of continuity – timbral, temporal and rhythmic. A series might continue after a gap and with an entirely different gesture. Whole series in single voices are rare; the complete violin 1 statement at bar 226 is mirrored near the end by the viola at bar 276. Once again, Nono approaches the problem graphically, drawing interlocking shapes to show the distribution of different versions of the row among the multiple strings – four violins, violas and cellos, two double-basses. Apart from the saxophone, the wind remain silent to the end of the work. Each presentation of a row-form is characterised by its degree of polyphonic complexity, the number of real voices across which it is distributed (as distinct from the number of instruments for which it is scored). The initial expansion into the cycles of fourths illustrates this process (Figure 3.11).

Figure 3.11   Variazioni canoniche: Lento bars 223–27, showing distribution of rows Oa and Ib. (Reproduced by kind permission of Ricordi.)

The remaining pitch material derives from the modulation of the various row forms with the cycles of fourths which occasionally emerge explicitly, as in the harp at bar 264. This process – the resonance given to certain pitches because of their relation to a wider harmonic context – both shows traces of modality and anticipates the ‘spectralist’ composers of thirty years later. Figure condenses into ever smaller units through the final section. The romantic gestures of string solos are focused down into pinpoint outlines of piano and harp, a last clear image emerging from rolled cymbals. They rehearse the four-note shape with which Schönberg’s row begins and ends, like fragments of song-memory in a Mahlerian coda.

The moral, supra-political engagement of Schönberg’s Ode clearly stood as a landmark for Nono, but the resonances are also structural. Nono certainly knew Leibowitz’s analysis, in which he points to the importance of fourths and fifths, the freedom or opacity of Schönberg’s use of the series (it never appears straightforwardly), and the way in which Schönberg constructs a language that moves freely between chromatic and triadic patterns. All of these are important properties of Nono’s Variazioni. In addition, Schönberg’s explicit references to the Marseillaise and Beethoven (the Fifth Symphony at the entrance of the reciter and the heroic key of E♭ in the final cadence) anticipate Nono’s own incorporation of other material. Schönberg’s radical recasting of the relationship between word and musical figure, his reimagining of song, will have a fundamental and enduring impact on Nono’s thought.

Nono later described the performance on 27 August as ‘an incredible scandal’, a situation that may have been exacerbated by Scherchen silencing the audience; he described them as ‘a band of pigs’, Nono recalled. 9 Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt reported the scene described by Goléa, but his conclusion was less generous; he found the music ‘incomprehensible to the unprepared’. 10 Developments at festivals such as Darmstadt were discussed in detail in newspapers across Germany – a situation difficult to picture in our own century. While several critics found no music in Nono’s work, others reflected in more detail. The Darmstädter Echo found that:

The Italian composers demonstrate a felicitous connection between structure and sonority: Bruno Maderna in his Composizione II for chamber orchestra, and Luigi Nono in an even more concentrated, esoteric way in his Variazioni canoniche which puts sections of exceptional development against long-winded passages which thus slowly maltreat his tone-row to death. 11

For the Göttinger Tageblatt, Nono’s ‘economical variations on a theme of Schönberg bespeak a very subtle sensitivity to sound, but also an uneven focus […]’. 12 There was also partisan reaction: Hans-Werner Henze, another of Scherchen’s protégés, found that ‘This music unites past and future […] Nothing is known, neither the borders nor the paths that lead to them.’ 13 This last observation will prove prescient in terms of the motto of Nono’s last years. The variations would have to wait thirty-five years for another performance; the only score was lost and Nono would reconstruct it from the parts for a performance conducted by Michael Gielen in 1985.

As well as the self-confidence gained from a first encounter with the international atmosphere of Darmstadt, Nono’s development was fuelled by contact with extraordinary individuals. Three lectures on ‘The Sound-World of Electronic Music’ were given by composer and sound editor Robert Beyer and scientist Werner Meyer-Eppler. Meyer-Eppler, on the faculty of the Phonetic Institute of the University of Bonn, had set out a view of purely electronic composition and its relationship with speech in a book in 1949. 14 His work with communication related to the new science of information theory. At Darmstadt he gave a lecture on ‘The Problem of Timbre in Electronic Music’ in which he demonstrated not only filtering techniques but also the vocoder, developed for the analysis and resynthesis of speech. 15 Sound is thereby understood in terms of its energy in different frequency bands, a radically new mode of conception for musicians that Meyer-Eppler illustrated graphically, projecting ‘the score of the future’. Nono thus encountered ideas on information theory, psychoacoustics, models of sound, graphical representation, and the role of technology that were entirely outside his experience and were to become fundamental to his work.

Most dramatic was Nono’s encounter with Edgard Varèse, whose presence at Darmstadt marked his rehabilitation in Europe and the acknowledgement of the visionary nature of his earlier work.

The day after the performance I went to his class and he asked me for the score. He analysed it for some hours and then instead of giving me his opinion, he posed problems, he made me understand what questions that score gave rise to, informing me in that way what I had done without realising. As you see it’s always a question of that famous mystery of composition. 16

Varèse’s Ionisation for percussion was performed the week before Variazioni canoniche. As we have seen, Nono was already exploring the liminal space between pitched and unpitched sounds in the opening of his own work. Here he is establishing a continuum between sound and not-sound – an active silence of many possible colours – which will become a principal structuring feature of his later works. Already in these early pieces the use of extreme registers and dynamics begins to blur the distinction. There are other Varèsian features in Nono’s work which pre-date their meeting: the use of pitch to articulate rhythm, the dimensional shifting of pitch material from horizontal, linear energy to a vertical gravitational force and the use of clear attractors in both pitch and rhythm. Varèse’s fascination with the energy of figural rhythm also resonated with Nono; in his work premiered at Darmstadt the following year, he would likewise turn to Latin-American sources. Nono was particularly struck by Varèse’s ‘projection of harmonic space’, 17 an image that tells us much about his own modes of thought. The most important product of meeting Varèse appears to have been a sense that Nono was not alone or eccentric in his intuitions and concerns, that the thoughts taking shape – formulated quite differently to those of his peers – constituted a coherent response to the historical and technical state of music.

Dodecaphonic variations

Venice, 2 June 1951

Dearest Maestro,

I have sent a copy of my music for Darmstadt to Zürich: ‘Polifonica-monodia-ritmica’, together with the score on transparencies.

In this work I have tried to express three successive relationships with nature: polifonica, based on an original Brazilian rhythm shown me by Catunda in Venice during your course, is a gradual coming alongside to nature to find myself, in the monodia, listening directly to silences, to songs, to echoes that she seems to suggest and which draw me into her primordial life, making the indestructible force even clearer to me – ritmo, which is life itself.

You will sense the presence of Catunda in my work: with Eunice particularly I felt nature – in Fučik the force of nature is identified with the serene resolution of man –

I have finished the first episode: it characterises the limits which would constrain man, almost destroy him – arrest, interrogation, violence and the consequent state of semiagony –

In the second episode the memory of the reality of struggle allows the overcoming of the dangers of isolation; and in the third episode the man, despite his impending execution, is strong and serene in the certainty that ‘life is cut down in one and grows in a hundred, life is stronger than death’, that ‘the duty of man does not end with this struggle: being a man will continue to require a courageous heart, until men are finally completely men.’ 18

This characteristically non-linear letter summarises Nono’s work since the previous summer – two major compositional projects: Fučík, never to be finished, and Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica for wind, piano and percussion, finished but radically edited before its performance at the Darmstadt Summer School in 1951. It suggests a close relationship between them; two parallel three-part narratives, one concerned with the experience of music, the other with that of humanity. The letter also points to the emergence of longer term concerns: silences, songs and echoes, and a sense of the fundamental relationship between creativity, individual struggle and human progress. It is surely no coincidence that Maderna had been working on another literary project, a treatment of Kafka’s Trial, likewise not to be completed.


Julius Fučik’s Notes from the Gallows is an account of his imprisonment as a resistance organiser in occupied Czechoslovakia and subsequent condemnation to death in Berlin in 1943. 19 Assembled from notes smuggled out of the prison, it details the basest and finest of human behaviour. Fučik’s journalistic skills are evident even in this distressing document, and the book went through many editions. Particularly poignant and significant for Nono’s later dramatic work are the moments when the prisoners sing together, united in their resistance to inhumanity despite their different languages. Buoyed by the experience of Variazioni canoniche, Nono now confronted head-on both the ethical and technical aspects of his view of composition.

Fučik – no more polished title emerges – is conceived as a cantata for chorus and orchestra with both singing and speaking soloists. A model may have been Schönberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw which Nono had heard Scherchen conduct at least twice: at the 1948 Venice Biennale and at Darmstadt a week before his own Variazioni canoniche. Three episodes are planned from the start, as Nono experiments with three-sided acrostic permutations of forces (Fučík, Nazis, chorus), material and compositional approaches (melody, rhythm, harmony). He begins by distilling a dialogue from crucial scenes: Fučík’s arrest and brutal interrogation, separation from his wife and his final meditations before his execution. From this, Nono derives quasi-natural speech rhythms in a framework suggested by the Nazis’ first instruction: Marsch! He works with nested permutations of the anapest rhythm Hände Auf! to construct a canone atomica a 4 by shifting and augmenting the delay between entries. In this he plans a microcosm of the whole and of the parallel work: voices (melody) – percussion (rhythm) – harmony.

Nono’s starting point is an expanding all-interval series of the kind demonstrated by Scherchen in his course, arranged such that its inherent symmetry is partially obscured (Figure 3.12).

Figure 3.12   Fucˇík: pitch series

Writers would later point to the importance of an expanding all-interval series in works from ll canto sospeso onwards. Here Nono already explores the role of the series as a pitch mine, a dynamic generator of intervallic material. The series had lost any trace of thematicism with the permutation techniques of Variazioni canoniche. In Fučik, Nono still prefers to characterise dramatic elements at this level, however. He evolves separate series for Fučik himself – ‘melodic’, an outward-facing undulating series of major and minor ninths and major sixths – and the Nazis – ‘harmonic’, major and minor sevenths and minor sixths descending across seven octaves. Individual and social structures orthogonally define a conceptual space to be explored in music. From these he plans to derive two versions for each of the three episodes, the intended sequence of which is the mirror of Nono’s subsequent Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica:

  1. episode: harmonic – rhythmic;
  2. episode: monody;
  3. episode: contrapuntal and harmonic construction.

Nono experiments with applying permutation to dynamics, anticipating a more integrated serialism. He also begins to cut pages of sketches into strips of one, two or three staves, reassembling them into extended lines. The physicality of his material is becoming important.

The first episode is complete apart from some of the vocal parts. Again, a slow introduction seems to bring music into existence from nothing, presaging Nono’s later obsession with liminal sounds at the boundaries of audibility or stability. He shares with the listener the emergence and self-construction of the music from space, silence and the slightest of gestures. Pianissimo percussion are joined by pitched sounds in extreme registers, energy increasing as the texture is disturbed by extreme crescendos of unpredictable speed. An allegro violente follows, built around the ‘nazi canon’. The shout ‘Hände auf!’ initiates the process in an array of percussion, the entries of wind and strings intensifying the drama and providing distorting mirrors for the canon. This rhythmic complexity evolves in dialogue through Fučík’s interrogation in the third part, an ostinato ritmico, between the unbending ritmo nazi and Fučík’s freer human prose rhythm. Fučík’s is alone in the final adagio, his speech rhythm derived from Nono’s initial annotation of the text. His line dissolves as the composer seems to wrestle with the question of how to give it appropriate dramatic prominence against the background of closely woven orchestral texture.

Why was Nono unable to finish a project so close to his heart? The political currency of Fučik’s book is illustrated by Burjakowski’s 1951–2 production at the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin, which Nono saw during his first visit. It may be that after this experience he felt either that his own work was no longer necessary or that it was dramatically irresolvable. The compositional process itself presented a technical challenge: the construction of a complex orchestral texture, albeit on the basis of rhythm derived from the text, on which Nono lays the solos and choral parts carrying the words themselves. In effect, therefore, the music was structurally and poetically complete before the addition of the text. Stenzl suggests that Nono had recognised that a work based on a text by a communist was unperformable in the current climate. 20 The powerful melodrama of the existing episode suggests a more personal reason, however: that Nono was resisting the temptation to treat the material in any way that could possibly be regarded as indulgent. The suddenness of his discontinuing of Fučik suggests that he had surprised himself with the ease with which his technical fluency could generate a musical narrative with its own emotional momentum. Still decades later, working with live electronics, he would describe the risks of sound becoming lost in its own beauty. 21 The voice of Fučik will resurface in Intolleranza 1960, which in many ways is the realisation of musical-dramatic, political and technical ideas developed in the earlier project.

‘Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica’

The more abstract nature of Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica would seem to confirm its inception as a series of technical studies for Fučik. Even here, however, the work is bound up with external narratives. The fair copy of the score is dedicated to Eunice Katunda. The process of its composition manifests a desire to explore the personal and social power of music, motivated by Nono’s understanding of the common, transforming ownership of a simple piece of musical material – the Brazilian popular song Jumanja shared with him by Katunda. 22 He does so forensically, experimenting with the primacy of various parameters in the compositional process, approaches Nono had refined in his work on Variazioni canoniche. In Fučik, these types afforded a dramatic function. Here, their sequence constitutes a perfectly classical scheme: structural and developmental weight in the first movement, clearer, more spacious melodic focus in the second, and a finale driven by rhythmic energy.

Polifonica, the most complex, consists of four episodes based on the same pitch material but structured quite autonomously. In the opening Adagio Nono adopts a technique developed by Maderna over the previous months. 23 The original series is analysed by interval content, as was by now conventional in their work. New sequences of diminishing length are then generated as each pair in one iteration is replaced by a single pitch in the next. The new pitch is determined by the difference between the two it replaces (A–D or 1–6 in this case, a difference of five semitones) counting from A, the note of origin. Hence in this case A and D are replaced by C♯. This progressively reduces the length of the derived series, such that after ten iterations only a single pitch remains. The intermediate stages have intervallic roots in the original material but little audible thematic relationship. This filtering of pitches creates the kind of opportunity for disequilibrium being sought by composers as they confronted the implications of serialism. Nono arranges the results as inverted pyramids, one for each form of the series. Repeated notes are replaced with rests, giving each form its own rhythmic character and decreasing the density of events as the process evolves (Figure 3.13).

Figure 3.13   Polifonica: series substitution process. (ALN 02.03/02rsx. © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

Nono lays bare these properties by allocating a full 12 quavers to each stage of the process – two bars of five, one of two. He begins from the most reduced stage of each of the four row-forms in canon, separated by 3 quavers. Some intervening rests and repeated notes are replaced by cymbals – a different pitch associated with each the row form. Cymbals alone mark the start of the otherwise empty twelfth line of the process with which the piece begins, their succession outlining the pitch contour of the initial entries. The wind play sempre suono d’eco, the cymbals are touched only with feathers; the music arises from the distant memory of its own outline. Clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and horn then each add a single note to the texture and the subsequent increase of textural, rhythmic, intervallic density follows Nono’s plan (Figure 3.14). Pitch centres and characteristic intervals thus emerge to dissolve into a more complex texture as entropy increases, until at bar 34 they are presented in sequence, each distributed through the entire ensemble.

Figure 3.14   Polifonica: opening, bars 1–14

The Andante that follows is a remediated, redistributed rhythmic canon of the type used in Variazioni canoniche. He begins by generating a set of elemental rhythmic figures from the simple long – short seed (Figure 3.15).

Figure 3.15   Polifonica: root rhythm from Andante

To this he adds additional semiquavers, producing further rhythmic figuration by combining some into quavers. These are recombined according to a plan of permutations to produce the upper and lower voices of the rhythmic canon. The middle voice disrupts their symmetry by an incremental process of additional rests. Permutations of inversion, retrograde and retrograde inversion of the opening series match the ten groups of six rhythm cells. They are extended by internal loops, creating local figure, pattern and pitch centre.

Finally, the canon is analysed for interval content and retranscribed, its three-part nature largely obscured in the process (Figure 3.16). Despite references to percussion in the canon – usually the ‘tails’ of sixteenth notes – the retranscription is for wind only, clouding its rhythmic origins still further.

Figure 3.16   Polifonica: retranscription of opening of Andante. (ALN 02.03/02vsx. © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

That Scherchen almost entirely removed this passage from the performing edition – 120 bars between bars 58 and 59 of the published score – may have benefited the drama of the work at its first performance at Darmstadt on 10 July 1951. Indeed, Nono’s sense of form in this case was certainly architectural rather than rhetorical, but this Andante presents a fine example of Nono’s craft at this moment. The folding together of layers of process design, invention and selection is such that every element of the resulting musical surface is the product of multiple modes of decision-making. At each juncture Nono is careful to produce materials that both afford his next intended manipulation and are robust under its transformation: plastic, highly integrated and able to withstand radical composition decisions. If the structural derivation of the musical surface is often opaque in Nono, it is because of this richness of origin and significance. Choice, circumstance and technique are carefully situated in the process.

Scherchen’s cut also encompasses the fifty bars of the following Allegro moderato. Another redistributed canonic structure, it uses exactly the same pitch material as the previous section. Rhythmic elements now derive from Katunda’s song, its main figure divided into three units (Figure 3.17).

Figure 3.17   Polifonica: rhythm from Katunda

An additional quaver rest allows Nono to permute, shift and reconfigure these elements to create six three-beat variants, each with its retrograde. Materials and their mirror by default exist together, whether rhythm or pitch, allowing him to pilot their development through time by the introduction and management of asymmetries. The basic rhythm pattern is finally announced by percussion alone at the start of the Allegro (bar 179 = bar 59 in the published edition) and generates the rest of the movement. Density and orchestration give shape to the internal canons as they shift between percussion, piano and wind; sometimes pure rhythm, sometimes in waves of fragmented polyphony, sometimes punctuating the texture with harmonic rhythmic unisons. A progressive reduction of density and rhythmic diversity towards the end of the movement mirrors the opening, reinforcing the bidirectional nature of the underpinning structures and returning to isolated percussion sounds.

The central movement Monodia is an orchestrated, elaborated monody, to which Nono adds an almost programmatic narrative in one sketch:

In the face of nature (sand dunes – sea – serene nocturnal atmosphere) – echoes of natural life are heard from afar

To be able to join in! Very difficult

They seem less unclear to us: perhaps they’re not just echoes

Still difficult!

The desire to understand and participate is strengthened by the will to liberate ourselves from the superstructure to which we are conditioned

[…] but is this possible?

Gradually the echoes reveal themselves as songs of freedom

Nature begins to join in

It is already less difficult to understand

Joy grows within us; we are constantly more aware of the relationship – perhaps nature continues to sing

nature calls us; we hear it, sweetly penetrating us with violence, with loving insistence we are sand dunes, sea; serene nocturnal atmosphere 24

The role of this text is ambiguous: a structuring device, his response to his own work, a personal confirmation of his music’s poetic origins, or perhaps for another reader, for Maderna? It appears to be by Nono himself, recalling the concerns of his grandfather and echoing the imagery of Pavese, in whose work Nono would soon be immersed. Most resonant are the references to ‘echoes and silences’. ‘Suono d’eco’ is a performance instruction that appears here, at the opening of Variazioni canoniche, and throughout Nono’s work. Echoes and silences are not dramatic or colouristic devices; they are essential technical/aesthetic material woven into the whole and will become a vital structuring metaphor. In his late works, the physical response of an acoustic to a single sound will provide enough feedback to seed the compositional process. Here the quietest possible sounds magnify and explore the edge of silence, the edge of the act of performance, just as he often uses percussion to investigate the edge of pitch.

For Monodia. Nono selects a sequence of series permutated in pairs and spatially reordered as in Variazioni canoniche. They are characterised as being either harmonic or melodic according to circular diagrams Maderna and Nono derived from Hindemith (Figure 3.18). 25 Probably not by coincidence they resemble one of Schönberg’s row-manipulating devices, or the colour wheels of Goethe or Johannes Itten, whose work would inform Nono’s late music. The harmonic wheel derives directly from Hindemith’s Unterweisung, with the addition of ninths. 26 The melodic wheel embodies a principle of complementarity whereby the narrowest intervals are balanced by the widest. In both cases the tritone, the still point, stands at the centre. In Monodia, chains of intervals of different lengths persist, are transformed, disappear and return as in the multiply folded and kneaded forms of chaos theory. Nono arranges them to give the movement a characteristically symmetrical form:

  • A – 4 harmonic, 2 harmonic/melodic
  • B – 9 melodic
  • A – 2 harmonic/melodic, 4 harmonic, original series.

Figure 3.18   Interval circles: ‘melodic’ and ‘harmonic’. (ALN 02.02.01/82r, 81v (details). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

In the first performance and subsequent edition, Scherchen retained the drama and symmetry at the cost of entirely removing the melodic heart of the movement. 27 The monody runs through the entire movement. Nono uses the poem as a guide for its orchestration – distributing the monody, sculpting texture by overlapping and proliferation, and adding his ideas for the percussion. We hear the fine grain of his material as melody is constructed through the first section: first with a single note barely emerging from the sound of cymbals, then two overlapping pairs, phrases of four notes, six notes, and finally an extended nine-note phrase ending with the first repeated pitches of the movement and returning to the percussion in a double echo (Figure 3.19). 28

Figure 3.19   Monodia, bars 1–6

The monody is a song suspended above the sound of quietly rolling cymbal, as if condensed from its sonic background by breath. No sound is static in Nono’s music; attention is constantly drawn to their dynamic equilibrium. The movement proceeds by the progressive elimination of silences until the entire middle section is almost seamless. At the same time the rate and diversity of internal rhythmic figuration increases such that complex melodic constructs become single rhythmic gestures. Repeated demi-semiquavers and isolated tom-tom triplets begin to suggest faster rhythmic grids. In his final draft Nono marks this last section ‘più armonica’. Certain pitches are subject to more sustained repetition (‘nature continues to sing’) as periodicity leads to pure rhythm in the accelerando to the last movement, the piano mediating between pitched instruments and percussion in a mirror of the opening emergence of pitch from noise.

The mirror continues in the opening of the final movement Ritmica, now with reference to the opening of the whole piece: unpitched rhythm emerges from the sustained pitch of the horn. The formality of a fugue, replete with subject, countersubject and episodes, is disguised by the essentialist nature of its material (Figure 3.20).

Figure 3.20   Ritmica: rhythmic seed

Once again, there is no figure in this; material does not emerge over-formed but is moulded according to its role. A single beat, the essence of rhythm, is simply repeated at diminishing intervals, as is its negative, a rest. The minimal countersubject plays with different internal divisions while the episodes develop fragmented and permutated subgroups, almost invariably presented with their mirror. The remnants of pitch consist of a series presented by the xylophone, emerging from a sustained horn note and followed immediately by its retrograde as if being folded away. Finally, selective piano resonance is punctuated by a synthesis of percussive piano chords and cymbals; resonance and percussion die back into the space of barely perceptible pitch and time, the rests of the rhythm subject augmented until it dissolves. Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica is a tribute to Varèse as well as Katunda; the percussion-reverberating piano resonance of its final bars is a clear echo of a similar effect at the end of his Ionisation, heard at Darmstadt the previous year.

The performance was a resounding success in the hall. Critics largely admired the intensity, coherence and originality of the work, although some were uncertain as to at what point the boundaries of music might be overstepped. Karl H. Wörner wrote: ‘in his three movements for 10 soloists, Luigi Nono writes a twelve-tone music of the highest mental concentration, even if it is completely isolated in its uniqueness.’ 29 His view was echoed in Die Zeitschriftfur Musik: ‘The Italian Luigi Nono pushes farthest ahead. The extreme economy of his musical language leads to the complete abstraction of composition and ends coherently in rhythmic noise.’ 30 Even an unconvinced critic had to acknowledge the clamorous reception:

Then came a ‘work’ from the 23-year-old Italian Luigi Nono; it had a priceless advantage: the whole thing lasted only six minutes. […]. What happened then was shocking. For more than ten minutes the hall was in rapturous uproar (mainly young snobs). Again and again Mr Nono appeared on the stage waving both hands as a sign of thanks like a boxer after delivering a knock-out blow. 31

Herbert Fleischer identified Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica as the most original work of the evening and described it as being a study for a longer work. 32 Perhaps Nono had suggested a link with the ongoing Fučík project. The swingeing cuts made by Scherchen are telling in terms of the relationship between Nono and his mentor. The latter clearly saw his role as vital to the success of the work, as letters make clear. He wrote to his wife after the performance:

The applause for Nono was rare for a young man – at the end of the piece everything broke out into bravo and praise. The problem with his work is its cerebral nature, which I had moderated a little […]. Thankfully Nono seems to have enough integrity not to draw false conclusions from this success. 33

Scherchen also put pressure on Nono to publish the work with his own Ars Viva Verlag rather than with Schott. In a letter emphasising his role, he ambiguously expresses his certainty that Nono is above the vanity of others. 34 Nono’s immediate response illustrates his selfawareness and growing independence. Not only had he immediately acknowledged his mentor’s part, he says, but he has also learned from Scherchen not to reflect flattery. 35

His success in this final concert of the 1951 Summer School seems to have consolidated Nono’s position at Darmstadt, although only in 1957 would he become a faculty member. He arranged an invitation for Steinecke to come as a guest to the Biennale in September, for the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress and a Schönberg memorial concert to be conducted by Scherchen. Steinecke was unable to attend, but over the next few months the relationship reflected in their correspondence evolves from respectful formality to warm friendship; ‘Herr’ and ‘Doktor’ become ‘Gigi’ and ‘Lieber Freund.’

‘Composizione per orchestra [n. 1]’

Herbert Hübner, producer of Das Neue Werk for North-West German Radio, had been in correspondence with Nono since hearing Variazioni canoniche at Darmstadt. A year later he proposed a new orchestral work, to be conducted by Maderna. Nono set out his intentions in a letter to his friend:

I am thinking about a work […] in which I confront the famous melodic/harmonic problem getting right to the bottom of the magic square procedures and reducing my own intervention to the aspect of timbre – a line that progressively gives rise to counterpoint. Two movements: the first a melody using the squares in two different ways, at first alone, rhythm is also derived from the square, then, using simultaneous projections of the squares in a harmonic sense instead of rhythmically, to initiate a harmonic plane that in the second movement develops into polyphony. The second movement will be essentially rhythmic and schematic, naturally without mechanical processes [’soluzione di continuità’]. 36

On one hand, ‘reduction of intervention’ reflects the search for a more organic integration of parameters that was preoccupying young composers. On the other, the development of the work itself demonstrates his search for a way of relating parameters that runs deeper than numbers or remapping. In particular, the relationship between melody and harmony is mediated by a concept of counterpoint, of proliferation on multiple time-scales that inevitably has rhythmic implications. The idea of simultaneous projections is a clearly spatial mode of thought that allows him to conceive of developments in multiple dimensions. The binary model imagined for both the overall form and the inner structure of the first movement is characteristic of Nono: two different perspectives of the same musical organism, or two possible worlds that spring from the same underlying premises. It will resurface through Nono’s work, but appears also to have been a point of discussion with Maderna, who adopts a similar principle in his 1955 Quartetto per archi in due tempi. Finally, at the heart of this work there is still drama, theatre, however far removed it has become from its seed, Fucík.

Composizione per orchestra [n. 1] lasts 283 bars, precisely the same number as Variazioni canoniche. Given his architectural plotting of balance and proportion – always early in the process – a coincidence seems unlikely. As in that work there are four episodes, here framed by an introduction and finale tripartito. For the most part Nono uses a series of only nine pitches, developing Scherchen’s discipline of choice limitation. In place of variation or proliferation we see emerging a sense of process as inherent in the material, as material itself. The introduction and first episode are the most literal in their non-intervention in such processes. A table in Maderna’s hand now relates duration to intervallic tension (Figure 3.21). As Guerrero has pointed out, in this Hindemith-derived continuum of intervallic tension, the tritone has moved from its earlier position of neutrality at the centre of their interval wheels to that of extreme tension. 37

Figure 3.21   Composizione per orchestra [n. 1]: interval/duration mappings. (ALN 03.01.03/01 (detail). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

This determines the rhythm of the slow introduction, the pitches a sequence of permutations of a nine-note series (Figure 3.22a) distributed among a group of high-pitched percussion – the instruments of Maderna’s ‘fixed sounds’ (suoni fissi), as Rizzardi has observed. 38 The same instruments continue to punctuate the first episode as a monody works its way across the entire range of the large string orchestra. Here Nono begins to use a technique developed with Maderna, a solution to the integration of melody, harmony and rhythm that had so exercised him in previous works – the ‘magic square’ of his letter. 39 A Latin square, a square in which every horizontal and vertical line contains the same elements in a different order, is constructed of the same dimensions as the pitch series – here 9×9. It consists initially of letters rather than numbers so that the composer can experiment with different values, including duplications – here (3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15). One line of values is then read from the square for each element of the series (Figure 3.22b). The pitch series is mapped onto a grid of the same dimensions, the values from the Latin square determining the intervals between the recurrence of each pitch such that after a full cycle of nine the original series is restored (Figure 3.22c). Thus, in Figure 3.22c, initial repetitions of successive members of the series are separated by 3(F), 4(F♯), 4(C) and 15(B) silences, followed by different permutations of the number series. The sequence for each pitch adds up to 90: the sum of the number series (72), nine instances of the notes and the nine initial offsets. The grids thus produced are mapped on to the musical surface by selecting a basic duration; Nono uses a quaver. Organisation of pitch and rhythm is unified in a series of displacement matrices; Nono and Maderna refer to this as their ‘tecnica dei spostamenti’ (‘displacement technique’). Here, Nono plots the first episode from the first repeated pitch, F, reducing his intervention in this passage to ‘the aspect of timbre’ (Figure 3.22d – note that in the first square he uses only the bracketed elements).

Figure 3.22   Composizione per orchestra [n. 1]: derivation of episode 1, bars 17–21. (ALN 03.01.02/05r (detail). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

In this way repetitions, patterns and simultaneities can emerge from a serial procedure. Through this symbolic–graphical technique, the same structure of relationships can produce quite different musical surfaces by changing the offset values, time-base or pitch series. In his 1957 Darmstadt lecture on the development of serial techniques, Nono would point to this innovation as having freed dodecaphony from its one-dimensionality: ‘the series is projected into a wider space. […]. The results of the permutations produce the sonic material […] from which the composer creates his own music.’ 40

From this two-dimensional matrix emerges an integrated pattern of melody, harmony, density and rhythm. Nono leaves himself free to concentrate on colour, register and dynamics, with which he constructs a rich space for the monody to move through. Annotations in his displacement matrices indicate how he had considered reading them in two directions and generating counterpoint by working through them at multiple tempi. Material is proliferating into different spaces. Units of material and their associated polyphonic and serial processes become mobile, bidirectional objects from within which he can project onto ‘real’ musical space. Halfway through the first episode these projections begin to multiply; an accelerated time-base generates a greater variety of rhythmic figuration against a sustained aura of violins (con sordina, sul tasto, sempre ppppp) and suspended cymbals.

The remaining sections avoid any suggestion of mechanical process. Chains of internal, external and retrograde permutations grow from three rhythm cells with distinctive characteristics: three different short/long pairs, a sequence of diminishing note values, and a pattern of two, three and four attacks separated by rests. They are presented in sequence at the opening of the second episode (bar 71) in a fragmented monody to which an additional rhythmic voice is added with each new cycle (Figure 3.23). Here Nono’s line follows the displacement matrix of Figure 3.22c from the beginning, selecting single pitches from dyads and triads that occur.

Figure 3.23   Composizione per orchestra [n. 1]: II episodio, monody bars 71–78

The finale, for percussion only, is introduced by the three missing pitches – E♭, E, D – in the timpani. After a series of multiple canons they restate the motto at the end of a final accelerando. The three notes Es (E♭), E, D – Nono’s sketches are annotated increasingly in German through this period – appear on an early page ‘for Hamburg’, suggesting that the motif might have some wider relevance. SED may well be a subversive reference to the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (German Socialist Unity Party), the state party of the DDR since 1949. Shortly before the Hamburg premiere of Composizione Nono had met composer Paul Dessau in Frankfurt, where Scherchen was conducting the controversial first Western performances of his and Brecht’s Die Verhöhr des Lukullus. 41 Dessau, to become the leading establishment musician of the DDR and with whom Nono later had extensive contact, used the musical notes D E Es (Des) as his signature.


The efficiency with which Nono was able to respond to this important commission reflects the level of his technical fluency, and with this came the confidence to confront other issues. He already had a sense of the importance of this moment; as he arrived in Hamburg, he wrote to his parents: ‘You can imagine how happy I am – I know well that all these opportunities are offered by people who have faith in me – now it’s up to me to turn them into something positive’. 42 His work was taken seriously when Maderna and the North-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra gave the premiere on 18 February 1952, in a programme called ‘Young Italy’. Die Welt described it as ‘An impressionistic playing with extreme colours, sounds and rhythms, almost confusingly naturalistic in its effect and yet at the same time strictly stylised like Byzantine mosaics.’ 43 Such reception contrasted with what he perceived as the corrupt conservative provincialism of his own country. A month later he wrote to Hübner: ‘I feel myself ever closer to the musical life of Germany, that the brotherhood with people[Mensch]-musicians like you grows ever stronger and more powerful, and that our hope to work in your sweet and lively country is ever greater.’ 44

The trip to Hamburg seems to have been transformative. In Frankfurt Nono had also met Karl Amadeus Hartmann – composer, producer of the Musica Viva series in Munich and previously a student of Scherchen. In Hamburg he encountered the radical theatre director Erwin Piscator, recently returned to Germany, and spent the days in excited discussion with Maderna. After the project, on the way to Zürich to take conducting lessons with Scherchen, he accompanied Hübner to Hannover, to hear a new piece by Henze. A successful premiere outside the protected environment of Darmstadt and being accepted as a fellow artist by major figures in German cultural life such as Piscator and Hartmann engendered a clear sense of opportunity and responsibility, as Nono makes clear in conciliatory letters to his parents:

We will always remember these days in Hamburg – in four days we have slept perhaps seven hours – and all because of the intensity of the work, the limited time. At a certain point Bruno and I said: maybe we’ll suddenly just collapse, or perhaps we will actually live forever […] we have understood even more clearly the intensity and concentration with which we should live.

Hübner and other musicians have told me that they were surprised at the violence and tension in my music – given my appearance, or demeanour, of being calm and almost in a dream – and that my inner strength is most violent […] 45

Discussion of future plans with Maderna had evidently proceeded apace at Hamburg, reanimated by a new sense of place in the wider world. Nono wrote to his friend:

I have a great yearning for the incredible plans of Hamburg. I think that’s what life is. In fact I’m sure.

You could say that it’s the first time that we have shown ourselves together to the others, openly and directly. Now our work and our life in common is stronger and more certain than ever, also our responsibility. Scherchen told me: your talent brings obligation and a heavy responsibility. […] He wants that our work should be intense and total. I think we will never die. 46

While his friends were touring Europe pursuing their conducting careers, Nono spent much of 1951 and 1952 in Venice taking care of Maderna’s composition class and copying scores onto transparency for Scherchen’s publishing venture, while running errands for both. He visited Zürich to assist Scherchen, who suggested he should take over the running of Ars Viva and encouraged him to study conducting. ‘It’s a dog’s life,’ he wrote to Maderna in June 1952. 47 Nationality – or, perhaps regionality, given Nono’s developing internationalism – was evidently beginning to exercise him in terms of both career and politics. After the Hamburg concert, when Maderna had returned to the south of Italy for concerts, Nono wrote to his friend: ‘Don’t let yourself be influenced by the south. The north is for us.’ 48 A month later he would write to Stockhausen that both he and Maderna hoped to live in Germany. 49 And yet in November of the same year he would write to Maderna concerned about the dominant influence of Germany in their work.

The differences in tone between the impassioned, committed declarations of the two friends become most notable in the area of politics. In the almost entirely state-funded cultural world of post-war Europe, musical and political influence were inextricable. ‘Where the Italians arrive, there’s trouble for us,’ wrote Maderna of the closed circle of broadcasting and festivals. 50 Composer-turned-power-brokers such as Mario Labroca and Mario Peragallo were regarded as particularly unsupportive – perhaps both protective of their power within Italy and envious of the Venetians’ reputation in the wider world. 51 Of the powerful Italian critics, Nono identified only Massimo Mila as ‘a rare man, for his simplicity, his seriousness, his human openness – gold!’ 52

Mila – anti-fascist, partisan leader, mountaineer, public intellectual and music critic – was a generation older than Nono. His radical politics, rooted in the Italian liberalism of Croce and Giustizia e Liberià, were not aligned with those of the PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano, the Italian Communist Party), and he maintained a scepticism in respect of any perceived musical formalism. Such crucial differences of perspective fuel the rich exchange of ideas that would later run through thirty-five years of correspondence – a relationship of deepening mutual respect and affection. 53 They had met in Venice some months earlier. Nono had arranged for Mila to be invited to Darmstadt and they discussed the possibility of a new music journal. Their idea of such a journal being progressive both musically and politically represented significant risks in the context of mid-century left-wing orthodoxy, as Mila pointed out in a letter. On one hand, this would entail contradicting the party line; on the other, such explicit political declaration could be seen as ‘artistic heresy’ and would ‘make life difficult for both of us in a Europe that is increasingly demo-Christian and compliant.’ 54

While beginning to engage with the manoeuvrings of cultural power, both Nono and Maderna had also decided to make clear their party-political affiliations in the new Italy, to become members of the PCI. The PCI had strong links with the resistance movement in what Pavone has described as the civil war of 1943–5. Mila spoke of that time as a ‘self-revelation’, a sense of new possibility for the Italian people. 55 Pavone documents a spirit of vision, liberation and common struggle at the beginning of the resistance, a humanism both joyful and tragic that echoes Nono’s later references to ‘a sense of the possible’. 56 When Nono talks of ‘continuous resistance’ it should perhaps be understood in the light of these events that informed his own coming of age. The PCI took part in the initial post-war government of 1946 and under Palmiro Togliatti became a mass party, the second largest in the country. Nevertheless the right-wing Christian Democrats, with US support, would govern Italy for the next four decades. By 1952, therefore, the political optimism of the new Italian Republic had evolved into a new, much longer struggle that external powers from both sides successfully manipulated as a proxy cold war.

His sister Rina has suggested that Nono was introduced to communism by Katunda; however, taking a political stance must have been unavoidable for an increasingly public figure in the febrile political atmosphere of post-war Italy, and Gramsci-informed Italian communism gave a particular role to the artist-intellectual. The mature writings of Antonio Gramsci were produced in ‘exile’ – imprisonment by the fascist government from 1926–1937 – from which he was not released until he was too ill to survive. Their publication between 1947 and 1951 was a major contribution to a national re-formation.Gramsci’s ideas would influence many aspects of subsequent Italian and European communism as well as cultural theory more generally. His writings address the specific state of evolution of Italian society, rather than assuming a Soviet model; they also pre-date external awareness of the brutality of Stalinism. Their significance to the Italian left was enhanced by their myth-inducing transmission: from his prison in the south of Italy to his sister-in-law in Rome, to his wife in the USSR and thence to Palmiro Togliatti, Gramsci’s successor as leader of the PCI, who returned to form part of the new Italian government in 1944.

Nono seems to have acquired these books soon after their publication: the Letters from Prison and the volumes of theory distilled from the Prison Notebooks. Three strands should be identified as particularly important at this formative point in the evolution of Nono’s thought: Gramsci’s concept of the organic intellectual – the engaged intellectual who will emerge from the working class to lead social change – his observations on the particular nature of Italian culture, and his views on the political roles of culture and the artist. Gramsci notes the dominant role of the lyric theatre in Italian culture, which encourages the national tendency to melodrama – to sentimentalise and thereby distract from human realities while giving the impression of offering ‘higher’ feeling; he holds Verdi specifically responsible. 57 His insistence on the responsibility of artists to lead, to present truths and alternatives, is at odds with the Zhdanov doctrine of socialist realism adopted by much post-war communism; in many respects it has more in common with Adorno, even in his consideration of the relationship between material and form. Gramsci’s observations on literary criticism seem to encapsulate Nono’s emerging ethos:

It seems clear to me that one can talk of a ‘new culture’ rather than a ‘new art’. […] One has to speak of a fight for a new culture, that is, for a new moral life that cannot but be intimately tied to a new conception of life, such that it becomes a new way of sensing and seeing reality and, therefore, a world which is connatural with the artist and his works. 58

The Letters from Prison were the first to be published, the most personal – reflections on his own situation and intellectual development, on his family and the education of his children. The notes on Nono’s copy have the air of a biblical concordance. Nono seems more interested in matters of personal development than political theory; inside the back cover he lists Gramsci’s observations on love, old age, solitude, happiness, moral reform and the church. He marks a line that will resurface in one of Maderna’s letters: ‘It is not difficult to find splendid formulas for life; living it is difficult, however.’ 59 Gramsci’s humanism and his views on the role of the artist–intellectual stand at the root of Nono’s musical and political development; the two lines are fused inseparably from this early point. Nono seems to have expressed some doubt as to the political motivation of Maderna, who replied with some admonishment: ‘My joining is a conscious and deeply-rooted act. I have done it in a moment of fundamental importance. […] I have done what I can. But practically, not reading nice texts or following great examples.’ 60

This seems to have struck a chord with Nono. Two months later he confessed: ‘I really need direct, practical contact with reality. […] MORE SOLID, REAL MUSIC. Even here he [Scherchen] is right.’ 61

Lorca: drama, struggle and reference – ‘Epitaffio n. 1–3 per Federico Garcia Lorca’

Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble had been invited to the Venice International Theatre Festival in the autumn of 1951, but were declined entry visas. Protest was led by film director Luchino Visconti and would certainly not have gone unnoticed by Nono. Scherchen had introduced Nono and Maderna to the thought of radical Weimar culture with which he had been closely connected. Brecht himself had been a protégé of Erwin Piscator, who, after his expulsion from the USA, had returned to Germany in 1951. 62 Piscator’s return was much discussed in the socialist press; as a senior German artist free of Nazi association the new cultural establishment gave every opportunity for his radical productions. Nono was most likely absorbing the ideas from Piscator’s 1929 Political Theatre while he was working on Fučik. 63 Its intellectually coherent mix of political, aesthetic and technological elements must have resonated with Nono’s current preoccupations. Piscator’s use of architectural and theatrical space, of other media such as film, and his distribution of narrative across multiple threads and time-scales would all contribute to Nono’s concept of azione scenica (‘staged action’), not only in the stage works, but at the root of his approach to composition in general. From the early 1950s onwards, the making of theatre works becomes perhaps the most appropriate analogy for Nono’s perception of his own activity as a composer.

Nono met Piscator in Hamburg in February 1952. He would later recall the moment when ‘I suddenly found myself in the presence of one of the people who would most inspire my imagination.’ 64 In their subsequent exchange of letters, Nono displays his keen sense of sociocultural responsibility. He volunteers to facilitate publication of an Italian translation of Politische Theater – a project eventually realised in 1960 – and stresses the importance to Italian culture of organising a production by Piscator, possibly in Venice. He describes his current project, a setting of Myakovsky’s Lenin, and his desire to discuss a new form of music theatre with Piscator. His request for advice on the selection of a further text gives an insight into his pre-compositional formal thinking and the primacy of drama in his imagination:

I would like a German text, in which women speak, tell, sing of the contemporary feelings of contemporary women, a piece of contemporary life. It must be a general, simple human text, in which everyone thinks about and reflects on contemporary life. The text must be [both] individual and common, so that I can build a dialectical musical construction between solo and choir. The choir can also function as commentator. […] And they will speak, recount, sing – also with Sprechgesang. The text must not be explicitly political, otherwise it will certainly not be performed, but human in terms of our political opinion. 65

‘Epitaffio n. 1: España en el corazón’

In the event it was the poetry of Lorca that provided the stimulus and text for the next group of works, to become Epitaffio 1–3 per Federico Garcia Lorca. Katunda had given Nono copies of Lorca’s poetry in 1949. Thirteen years after Lorca’s assassination by Spanish falangists, his reputation was spreading rapidly as awareness of the extent of his achievement grew. From Manzoni’s I promessi sposi to Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero, Spanish oppression in Italy and elsewhere had served as a metaphor for dark political forces in Italy. Through the post-war years, opposition to communism in Italy was still centred around the Church. The continuing fascist regime in Spain provided Italian commentators and artists with parallels to their own recent past and the hazards that they still faced. 66 Even in 1961, the year of Maderna’s Lorca setting Don Perlimplin and of Nono’s own Intolleranza, a right-wing coup was a real possibility. Political instability, corruption and intrigue may have averted civil war in Italy, but they afforded little nobility of cause with which to identify. There is perhaps also a yearning for a vital folk culture to which Nono could subscribe, that could provide the authentic basis for his compositional and cultural vision. Many of the more vital musics of Italy, such as the Sicilian songs later explored by Berio, have roots in the Spanish-influenced culture of Bourbon rule.

For Nono the resonances of Lorca’s poetry were manifold: the combining of modernism and a deep sense of history, of political charge and individual humanity, of the popular and the radical, of cruelty and love, even of consonance and dissonance, and not least the personal significance it held for Katunda. He was attracted by the metaphysical, surreal qualities of Lorca, not just the poet of the gitani and cante jondo. 67 As Nono selects poems, he marks aspects of their structure, including Höhepunkt – a remnant of Scherchen’s melodic analysis – rhyme patterns and ideas for orchestration or dynamics. Structural thought and instinctive poetic response are indivisible in the germination of the work. A simple architecture emerges for what will become España en el corazón (Spain in the heart), the first of the series of three Epitaffii dedicated to Lorca. For soprano and baritone soloists, speaking chorus and woodwind, strings and percussion, it sets two poems by Lorca – Tarde and Casida de la rosa – which were to surround the more complex treatment of Myakovsky’s Lenin.

Nono’s correspondence with Maderna and, since Darmstadt in 1951, with Stockhausen suggests the urgency of the common search for a post-dodecaphonic way forward. Nono’s previous works already contained indicators of possible paths. In Tarde he divides the series into three four-note groups, expanding and contracting in range (fourth, fifth, augmented fourth) and subjected to a two-dimensional permutation (Figures 3.24a, b).

Figure 3.24   Epitaffio n. 1: Tarde: derivation of opening. (ALN 04.02.02/02r (detail). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

I was still under the influence of those studies that Scherchen had me do using three or four notes. If you take the pieces of the Epitaffio you see that they’re based on four or five sounds. These four or five sounds can come from Bandiera rossa or that song from Katunda or, in the last part of Guardia civil, simply from the sounds of the six strings of the guitar. 68

Durations are now mapped from intervals in a more sophisticated manner (Figure 3.24c). He selects and hews material before sculpting his design layer by layer. The opening – again a characteristic clarinet pp, suono d’eco against a suspended cymbal – is filtered from the resulting monody (Figure 3.24d). Shifting the rhythm to avoid beats is typical of Nono’s close attention to the detail of sound, performance and reception; it helps the player maintain a sense of tension and temporal suspension.

Again, we hear the material forming itself from almost nothing. This habit seems almost a matter of integrity, of validation. It demonstrates that the work and the stuff from which it is made have a necessary, essential relationship. Both arise in the act of their performance. Pitch and rhythm emerge self-organising from silence and noise. The obsessive circling around a few pitches recalls the melos of the Andalusian music that Lorca himself had sought to preserve. Two phrases of soprano vocalise reinforce this image and relate the instrumental material to the speech patterns of the poem, spoken by a baritone. Moments of madrigalian word-painting emerge: ‘ha florecido en círcolos concéntricos’ is accompanied by the longest uninterrupted phrase in the piece, the clarinet cycling through permutations of its four notes.

For the concluding Lorca poem – Casida de la rosa – Nono divides the series asymmetrically to articulate colour, materials and musical roles. Flute and vibraphone carry the melodic development of an eight-note set, against a backdrop painted with the colours, dynamics and registral disposition of the rest of the ensemble (harp, celeste, piano, strings, flutes and clarinets) using the remaining four notes – G, A♭, A, B. He constructs displacement matrices for both pitch sets as before, using Latin squares of offset values to produce cycles of permutations. That of the four-note group is read straightforwardly in crotchets, that for the melodic line in quavers. Foreground and background thus evolve at different speeds. Simultaneities become chains of semiquavers and long notes are extended to enhance melodic differentiation. He then selects passages from the result to create a melodic architecture and rhetoric that embody his conception of the poem. The natural speech rhythms of the poem and the autonomous rhythmic process of the background are tailored to complement each other without compromising their internal coherence. The occurrence of three-note chords frames the opening lines of the poem, that of longest durations shapes the scope of flute phrases. At bars 10, 19 and 30 the entire background structure is shifted by a semiquaver, changing the relative phase of melody, poem and background, and disrupting any emergent sense of over-stable pulse to maintain the floating atmosphere of the whole. As in Tarde, the relationship and overlapping between melodic intervention and spoken poem continuously shifts. The distribution of the melodic line between flute and vibraphone likewise marks its relationship with the poem. The vibraphone becomes the shadow of the flute, maintaining the ghostly presence of the line between the flute’s phrases and entering the sound world of the background group; sometimes it echoes or pre-echoes, adding additional beats. The range of the line itself expands continuously from the closest possible form, reminiscent of Tarde, to two and a half octaves.

What was to be the central piece, the first-imagined setting of extracts from Mayakovsky’s Lenin, is more complex structurally and dramatically. Mayakovsky had worked with the revolutionary theatre director Meyerhold; both would afford lifelong inspiration for Nono. The heroic vision of Russian constructivism appealed to Nono more than the shaky theoretical foundations and fascist overtones of Italian futurism. There is a brazenness to Mayakovsky’s poetry that Nono seems to emulate in his choice and use of musical source material; it derives entirely from two phrases adapted from inner voices of Bandiera rossa, the anthem of Italian socialism, such that the total pitch material amounts to a scale of Bb (Figure 3.25).

Figure 3.25   Epitaffio n. 1: Lenin: extracts from Bandiera rossa

The first is divided into seven units in three groups, their permutations nested, alternated and cross-cut before being combined into canons. Scored for large percussion section, a group of xylophone, harp and piano, speaking chorus and reciter, Lenin consists of four episodes. All but the third are based only on the first of the two phrases. In the opening canon for unpitched percussion, the distribution of rhythms among instruments is determined by their pitch in the original phrase, such that a vestigial melodic structure emerges. Timpani and xylophone introduce the pitches directly in the section that follows. The entry of the reciter, ‘Compagni! Basta!’, is the interruptive rhetorical gesture of Beethoven’s ‘O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!’ – surely, a conscious reference to Schiller’s revolutionary summons. A moment of dramatic quietness (‘qui venendo senza rumore […] passo Lenin’) begins a crescendo to the climax in the third section, after which the secondary material is introduced. The first phrase is asserted clearly by the timpani at the opening of this section (bar 66) and at the end of the piece after a percussion coda – a transformed mirroring of the opening.

As Nono explained to Maderna, he knew that Lenin was unperformable in the political climate of the time, 69 although he would return to Mayakovsky in Intolleranza 1960. 70 He chose to replace it with a setting of a poem by Pablo Neruda, La Guerra, which develops some of the same themes in a more distanced context: the brutal destruction of Inca civilisation, an allegory of the suffering in Spain. The eventual title of the whole group – España en el corazón – is that of Neruda’s collection begun following Lorca’s death and printed in the midst of the Spanish civil war. 71 Neruda – communist, internationalist and close friend of Lorca – had lived in Italy since 1950, in much-publicised exile from his native Chile. The authorities had made attempts to expel him, fearing he might become a focus of political activity. His presence was thus a matter of public debate during the composition of España en el corazón. 72 By joyful coincidence, Neruda’s arrest warrant in Chile was dropped in June 1952, and Neruda returned home to support the candidature of Allende on 26 July, five days after Nono’s premiere in Darmstadt.

The five stanzas of Neruda’s poem are set as seven episodes; Nono adds an interlude after the third and a coda for percussion, mirroring that of Lenin. Flute, clarinet, bass clarinet and low strings are added to the hard-edged instrumentation of Lenin. The musical material for La Guerra is likewise taken from Bandiera rossa, but, as with the political themes of the text, these melodic roots are less blatant, subjected to more sophisticated development. The first phrase is now also used in inversion a semitone lower, to give a combined set of B♭, C, C♯, D, E♭, F. This provides the pitch material for the first section of the piece, which, like every piece of the first Epitaffio, begins from nothing with ppp woodwind and suspended cymbals. A Latin square generates three polyphonic textures; sections are differentiated by orchestration, density of voices, the rate at which rhythms are read and the degree of substitution by rests. For the opening, he derives three voices by reading in different directions: for clarinet (omitting F), harp (using all six pitches) and flute (omitting B♭), the latter in a rhythmic diminution of 3:2. To these are added a voice constituted of four suspended cymbals outlining the melodic contour of Bandiera rossa, the repeated note dotted figure of the second and third notes omitted to allow more explicit reference to emerge in the course of the piece (Figure 3.26).

Figure 3.26   Epitaffio n. 1: La Guerra: opening. (Reproduced by kind permission of Schott Music.)

In the second stanza (from bar 34), the introduction of the second phrase from Bandiera rossa with its inversion expands the pitch set nearly to a full chromatic (no E or B) as well as intensifying rhythmic figuration and complexity. Given an emerging dynamic whereby single pitches constantly expand to chromatic completion, the use of negative pitch bands, of discontinuities in the chromatic continuum, is becoming increasingly important. The strings provide an additional polyphonic unit with which to explore this expanded palette. A group of four drums relates perceptually to the speech rhythms of the chorus and baritone reciter while sharing the rhythm and pitch material of the other instruments. A second group of drums is added for the third stanza, which is entirely without pitched instruments. Its final outburst – ‘aguijoneado en agonia’ – heralds the Violento instrumental interlude, the last four pitches of which are sustained pp in harmonics by the strings. This static halo of sound – a reminiscence of the first section of Composizione – illustrates the hushed tension of the text. It is a technique borrowed from the scherzo of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony by means of which two musical discourses can exist simultaneously; the time of one is suspended while we examine the development of another. The flute and clarinet return to the limited pitch range of the opening flute line, in the low register, pp, and with the rhythmic units distributed equally between rests and notes. In the last stanza the unison speech rhythms of the chorus, united and defiant as they reach ‘y sereunan los frutos dividos en la tierra’, are accompanied by four groups of four percussionists. Permutations of the source material are distributed among them sparsely and with metrical simplicity, such that recognisable figures emerge. In the fourteen bars of the percussion coda the initial four-bar phrase is announced in full three times. Mapped across the relative pitches of the drums, each statement is more assertive until there is nothing more to say.

For all its raw emotion, La Guerra is a polished centrepiece to the group. The swiftly changing moods and sounds of Neruda’s poem become the framework of a complex dramatic miniature. At the same time, Nono’s use of material is less episodic, more economical than hitherto. He has developed a technique best described by Boulez’s later term polyphony of polyphonies, that allow him to manage the density, rate of development and perceptual clarity of coherent, but ever-changing textures in which pitch and rhythm derive from the same sources. Nono has found a way to mould the rhythms of crowd dynamics, balancing the intensity of individual expression. This will be clearly evident in the dramatic works, but the relationship between subject and group is now a fundamental driving force; composition and idea are inseparable. La Guerra also brings together much of the repertoire of rhetorical devices developed in previous works; from a technical points of view it constitutes an elegant selfportrait.

Among the other premieres at the Music of the Young Generation concert at Darmstadt on 21 July 1952 were Maderna’s Musica su due dimensioni and Kreuzspiel by Stockhausen, with whom Nono had developed a warm correspondence since their meeting at Darmstadt the year before. This comprehensive picture of the state of new music led to the mythologizing of the evening as the ‘Wunderkonzert’, and it looms large in various reports. 73 ‘In this way we made the leap’, recalled the flute soloist Severino Gazzelloni dramatically. ‘No more Stravinsky, no more Hindemith, no more of anyone but the young the Darmstadt team ready for conquest.’ 74 To Stockhausen’s chagrin, Steinecke had proposed a money-saving scheme whereby the composer, Nono and Maderna would all play percussion in Kreuzspiel. At the end, only the irrepressible Maderna took part. Nono’s work is certainly vastly different from Stockhausen’s absolutist architecture. His relationship with his material is more intimate – by no means less coherent, but less brittle, more plastic. Maderna’s Musica su due dimensioni is one of the earliest instances of a new genre that would become central to Nono’s later work: the combination of live performer and electronic sounds. On this evening, Nono’s España en el corazón ended the concert and was applauded until it was encored. Critics also praised his work, finding it less incomprehensible than those of Stockhausen and Maderna, although, as Iddon describes, they tended to conflate the styles of all three as ‘punktuelle Musik’, despite the clear stylistic and technical differences. 75 As a term to describe what was perceived as a discontinuous, post-Webern style, ‘punktuelle Musik’ had gained currency despite its very specific technical connotations for the inventor of the neologism, Stockhausen. 76

During the Summer School, Nono attended the seminars on rhythm led by Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen’s Modes de valeurs et d’intensité, often seen as the first attempt at multi-parameter serialism, had coincidentally been written at Darmstadt in 1949. 77 Boulez and Goeyvaerts had been his students in Paris, and Stockhausen had joined Messiaen’s class there following a lecture by Goléa at Darmstadt in 1951 at which he had played a recording of the Quatre etudes de rhythme. Indeed, Boulez’s Structures uses the material from Messiaen’s earlier piece, and Stockhausen acknowledged its influence on Kreuzspiel. The explicit coherence and individuality of Messiaen’s technique as set out publicly in his 1944 book clearly attracted Nono. 78 He painstakingly worked through the musical examples. He annotated the text, especially the more metaphysical passages – replacing ‘human imagination’ with ‘my imagination’, for example – and paid particular attention to Messiaen’s observations on the properties of popular song. Indeed, while Modes de valeurs et d’intensité is iconic for its structural innovation, it may be that the two Iles de feu movements may have been of more significance for Nono, with their rhythmic energy, permutation patterns and explicit reference to the sounds of Papua New Guinea. Assimilating the clear, recognisable figure of significant material within a more mobile musical space was emerging as an important preoccupation. However, to consider the stuff of Nono’s own compositional thought as ‘material’ is perhaps misleading. The elemental units of Nono’s invention are rather the seeds of behaviours, dynamics and emergent structure that articulate and give life to broader canvases of pitch, rhythm and colour.

‘Epitaffio n. 2: Ysu sangre ya viene cantando’

A newly confident grasp of form is clear in Nono’s work on the second EpitaffioY su sangre ya viene cantando, for solo flute with large string orchestra, suspended cymbals and the group of suoni fissi (celesta, xylophone, vibraphone and harp). He worked rapidly on this, a commission from South-West German Radio for Heinrich Strobel’s prestigious Ars Viva series in Baden Baden to be conducted by Hans Rosbaud with flautist Severino Gazzelloni. Nono had acted as translator for Gazzelloni when he taught at Darmstadt in July, and heard his performance of Maderna’s Musica su due dimensioni. 79 Strobel had heard a tape of Composizione and proposed a work for the recently revived festival in Donaueschingen. This would not happen until the following year with Due espressioni; in the meantime, Nono worked through the summer to prepare the new piece for a studio concert in Baden Baden on 17 December 1952.

The title Y su sangre is taken from Lorca’s Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, an impassioned description and lament on the death of his friend, the famous bullfighter, writer and champion of the culture of the people. Nono uses the line to refer to the blood of Lorca himself. The poem Memento is a poignant but more accepting view of death: When I die, bury me with my guitar beneath the sand. When I die among the orange trees and mint plants. When I die, bury me, if you would, inside a weathervane. When I die!

Images of nature such as these resonate through Nono’s subsequent work. His use of the poem in Y su sangre – printing one stanza under the solo flute part in each of the three sections – pre-echoes the silent role of lines from Hölderlin in Fragmente twenty-eight years later.

His bold graphical plan for a five-part architecture was rapidly resolved into three sections to match those of the poem – I–II, III, IV–V – but its formal complementarity persists (Figure 3.27).

Figure 3.27   Y su sangre: formal plan. (ALN 05.02/02v (detail). © The heirs of Luigi Nono. Reproduced by kind permission.)

Initial ideas included the use of brass and drums, perhaps to conjure up the atmosphere of the bullring as a celebratory finale to the series. He intended from the outset that three Spanish dances – one for each image – should provide the rhythm. The dances are used for their capacity to generate continuous energy rather than as reference. Pitch and rhythm are derived separately in this case; the origins of both remain farther below the surface than in La Guerra. Nono returns to the use of a 12-note series: three groups of four notes, the first chromatic, the second with the addition of a whole tone, the third two semitones and a minor third. This interval pattern anticipates his segmentation of the scala enigmatica, introduced in Scherchen’s course of 1948, which will become central resource for the works of Nono’s last decade. Here, he characterises the versions for each of the three sections by their absent intervals. Like the backwards and forwards of his directional structures, positive and negative coexist.

The sound world of Y su sangre emerges seamlessly from that of the first Epitaffio. The solo flute continues its role established in Casida de la rosa, but begins again from the minimal, obsessive melos of Tarde. Its quasi-poetic pattern of phrases, accents and rests is produced by dividing the continuous line generated by Nono’s established polyphony-reducing process between flute and harp. The accompaniment – three groups of suspended cymbal, suoni fissi (here celesta, xylophone, vibraphone and harp) and strings – is like a magnification of the detail of the first Epitaffio. Permutations of the series and readings of an displacement matrix produce three sequences of rests, notes, bi-and trichords projected into a three-dimensional instrumental space through which the sustained flute line with its harp shadow can move freely. Rhythms derive from augmentations, reorderings and retrogrades of the simplest of figures and its altered diminution – a Sarabanda, as Nono begins to look to Spain also for musical source material (Figure 3.28).

Figure 3.28   Y su sangre: Sarabanda rhythms A and B

The manipulation of polyphonic space – not just the number of voices but the perceived complexity and correlation of material – is the parameter by means of which Nono shapes the piece. Instrumental colours bounce between the three instrumental surfaces, used to distinguish or conflate them; strings arco, pizz, arco battuto and col legno battuto provide continuity across the timbral space. The whole first section is united in a great sweep of accelerando; continuous crescendi and diminuendi mark changes of density across the whole orchestra.

The brief central section, labelled armonico as Nono began work, again develops what has become a trope: high violin harmonics and suspended cymbal sustained throughout, against which the suoni fissi bring together the strands of accompanying material of the first section and concentrate them into a single sound-space. This suspended harmony of the spheres provides the background for a more free, rapidly developing flute line – a canto sospeso, a suspended song. The latent energy built up in the process bursts into the final section, in the event the only part that makes explicit use of a found Spanish rhythm. The fandango, almost as elemental as the initial cell, is subjected to the same processes (Figure 3.29).

Figure 3.29   Y su sangre: fandango

‘Epitaffio n. 3: Memento – Romance de la Guardia Civil Española’

As soon as continued funding was assured for the Neue Werk series, Hübner offered Nono a new commission. His enthusiasm for Nono’s music was clearly genuine, but the regionalised structure of West German support for new music may also have engendered a spirit of competition for the most exciting projects. Certainly, Nono’s own country afforded fewer opportunities; in June 1952 he wrote to Hübner: ‘for Bruno and me it gets worse and worse here (RAI and the festivals are taboo for us and always fighting); but we always work with strength and joy.’ 80 In November, Scherchen conducted Polifonica – Monodia – Ritmica at La Fenice in Venice. It was not the moment of recognition that Nono must have hoped for. Both audience and press, there to hear Haydn and Beethoven, responded uncomprehendingly. The local newspaper wrote of ‘absurd, disconnected processes […] squalid, formless laments,a receptacle of all the most corrupt, extreme consequences of dodecaphony.’ 81 Nono wrote to Maderna:

Polifonica opened a wasps’ nest! Of course from the outset we knew that the only serious and intelligent reactions would come from our circle. […] I have understood certain errors, or rather the dangers of some of our situations; for example that Germany is monopolising our musical life. Dangerous, because it takes us away from life in Italy, or rather we are distracted from considering reality. And yet we are well placed relative to the others (Henze, Stock., Boulez etc.), closer to clarification. 82

Nono started work on the final Epitaffio as soon as its predecessor was complete. It would be too late to be the opening work of the new season, as Hübner had hoped, but Nono was able to set out his needs for the new piece when they met at Donaueschingen in December, days before the première of Y su sangre. Most of the new work was written between November 1952 and January 1953 at the seaside villa rented by Scherchen at Rapallo, on the Ligurian coast – a villa owned by a relative of Nono’s mother, it transpired. Nono wrote to his parents full of enthusiasm for the place and for the mentorship of Scherchen: ‘we have made an interesting new plan of study – analysis and study of historical and modern Italian songs, special melodic studies (using five notes at most) – all never done before – together with my own work, of course.’ 83 His physical environment is important to him: ‘I’m in a room on the first floor, quite nice, small and quiet; the sea comes right under my window, against the rocks, it is beautiful.’ He also writes to them about the political situation, tentatively but firmly, as if testing a new relationship. The premiere was to take place in Hamburg on 16 February, as part of a programme dedicated to settings of Lorca. Maderna was engaged to conduct and the Sprechstimme part was to be performed by Christa Ludwig, who had participated at Darmstadt as early as 1949.

For the final EpitaffioMemento, Nono chose one of Lorca’s longer and most dramatic poems. Romance de le Guardia Civil Española tells the story of a nocturnal gathering of Andalusian gitanos, massacred in their city by the fascist paramilitary police. 84 Having analysed the poem, Nono envisages a four-part structure: a Prelude, two tempi (festa gitana and sacco della città) separated by an interlude, and a Finale. He reduces the text by about half, principally and tellingly by eliminating passages with religious references. Saints Mary and Joseph, around whom the victims gather for protection, disappear. Religion and superstition play no part in Nono’s Gramscian understanding of an ideal state of popular culture, but perhaps the paradoxes and complexities of Lorca’s poem also have to be somewhat simplified for the sake of clear music drama.

Following Messiaen’s example, Nono finds source material in an encyclopaedic collection of Spanish popular song and dance: La musique et la danse populaire en Espagne. 85 He groups the rhythmic patterns of some fifteen dances by region and metre. He experiments with juxtapositions, relationships and subdivisions, selecting those that afford properties of interest: contrast and asymmetry. From these simple materials Nono will spin and weave the entire work. Memento is constituted almost entirely of three-or four-part polyphony. Some or all voices may be unpitched, or one may take the foreground as a monody, in which case either rhythm or pitch material is derived differently from the other voices. Such contrast between different types and densities of polyphony is the principal architectural device. He plots the dramatic structure in terms of these rhythms, sometimes dividing material between the two groups of protagonists (Figure 3.30).

Figure 3.30   Memento: form and dances

The first section – the original Prelude – is a four-part canonical texture derived entirely from the Rueda rhythm, against which the chorus speak the opening scene-setting lines to adapted speech rhythms. Clarity of text is never compromised; changes in type or number of voices shape colour and accent. There is no precise pitch, only speech and drums. The ordering of the four bars of the rhythm is subject to continuous permutation. A process of complementary deletion means that quavers sounded in bar 1 become rests in bar 2. While the retrograde is used as equivalent to the original, a single non-retrogradable rhythm in bar 3 functions as a rhyme in the polyphonic ebb and flow. Tension between rhythm bases of quaver and crotchet generates forward momentum until a process of erasure and alignment dissolves the polyphony into a unison punctuated by ff rolls.

The second section – bars 102–62 – corresponds to the festa of Nono’s first plan. Its three distinct parts illustrate well his use of different polyphonic textures, reminiscent of the Venetian patchwork of Gabrieli’s motets; they develop from a monody to pure rhythmic polyphony. A twenty-six bar melody was first intended to be sung by solo alto, accompanied by two harps. In a characteristically graphical process, Nono interleaves Sarabanda and Fandango rhythms to construct an oscillating, expanding quasi-Andalusian cantilena recalling the earlier Epitaffii, The text is now spoken by the alto, while the unison wind melody loops its way through the first nine notes of the main series, outlining a modal region that relates directly to the ‘modes of limited transposition’ of Messiaen’s Technique. The accompanying harp lines are each distributed among a group of three suoni fissi in a form of compressed isorhythmic heterophony (Figure 3.31a). Nono will develop this principle to clarify polyphonies within polyphonies in subsequent works. Wind monody and text form a tightly constructed song in rhythmic heterophony. Words begin to emerge as the monody leaves its initial E♭ modality, pivoting about G#/A♭ at ‘ciudad de los gitanos’, low harp C# reinforcing its new C# minor modality (Figure 3.31b). The start points of the suoni fissi voices are organised such that they coincide at the Höhepunkt ‘ciudad de dolor’, forming a C major triad with the Monteverdian lamenting monody (Figure 3.31c).

Figure 3.31   Memento: bars 102–7, 110–12, 118–21

By generating pages of sequenced pitch material containing dyads, rests and local loops and repetitions, Nono is free to experiment with different start points and time-bases to cut the fabric he requires to assemble his design for the next section. Now the pitches constitute an Ionian mode on A with an additional C♯. Mode and rhythmic proportions are derived from a popular song from Polesine, an area of the Veneto. Rhythms are mapped on to a set of six reducing durations in versions based on both quavers and semiquavers. Its own text ‘Guarda la luna’ (‘look at the moon’) relates to the lines of Lorca in this section, ‘cuando llegaba la noche’ (‘when night fell’). Against this, three small percussion – nackers, triangle and tambourine – sound like folk instruments after the massed drums of the opening. As the lines develop, their own rhythmic origins become clearer – Malagueña, Charrade and Bolero – and the three dances remain alone as the festa emerges.

Pitch and figure re-enter dramatically at the height of the crescendo, with a switch to four new dances: Zortzico, Ezpata, Jota Castillana and Baille, arranged by Nono as two pairs of polyphonic voices, then distributed across the entire orchestra. The basic rhythms are divided into separate components which with their retrogrades are reordered by non-repeating permutation. The final texture is created by selecting and overlaying passages from pages of painstakingly prepared potential material. An examination of the provenance of a single strand of this texture demonstrates the weaving and folding, the inner polyphony of an individual line (Figure 3.32). The Baille rhythm is divided into nine segments, ordered by reading a Latin square forwards and backwards (the permutations numbered in the figure), subject to a process of erasure, then interwoven into contrary sequences that are folded together and divided by rests which expand every time voices come into alignment. Pitches come from a continuous permutation of the series, ordered according to displacement matrices.

Figure 3.32   Memento: bars 163–75, first four sequences of Baille

This section is the dramatic centrepiece of the work; a surreal, swirling, impossible dance, in its conception as much La Valse as Darmstadt. The robustness of Nono’s material leaves him free to pay great attention to orchestration, articulation and dynamics. The essentially orchestral movement in 6/8 is punctuated by returns of the previous percussion coda under Lorca’s description of the dance. These two interruptions divide the section into three parts; the second Nono gives to strings only, the third to wind and harps. By erasing elements of his fundamental polyphony during a sustained diminuendo, he increases the tension until with a fortissimo interruption the arrival of the Guardia Civil is announced.

The menace of the opening is now realised and the sack of the city begins. Nono had intended to use the Ezpata and Zortzico rhythms here, experimenting with layers of multiple 5/8 material. Instead, his concentration on that of the Rueda produces a straitjacketed, totalitarian conduit for the violence of the scene. The rhythmic structure derives from the same fabric of sequenced permutations as previously, spread over multiple time-bases. As in the Prelude, the chorus narrates the terrible events in unison speech-derived rhythms, intonation and accent enhanced by changes in voice and number. Against them the drums continue their inexorable searching. Pitch begins to play a greater part here, however, introduced first in low double basses – almost the sound of the drums – and then sustained low clarinets: rhythmicised sequences of notes from the same series as before. After a central passage of unison string and drum rhythms as the gypsies congregate to face their attackers, a three-note figure signals their resistance to inhumanity. Like a series of shouted exchanges using one bar of the Rueda rhythm, this figure uses diatonic sequences from the series stretched across wide intervals. As it resolves into a two-note figure of fourths or fifths, the strings begin to accumulate a sustained chord ppp; the resonant halo another evolving Nono trope. Here the pitches are those of the open strings of the guitar, the instrument of the people and the natural vehicle for the rhythmic material that has generated the entire work.

Melody triumphs, therefore, and with it the spirit and voice of the oppressed. From this virtual guitar resonance springs a pentatonic, unison, unaccompanied choral melody – the first time the chorus actually sing, their voices freed. In the simplicity of this coda Nono may have had in mind Katunda’s chosen path, or the devotional modality of Messiaen. Something between a hymn and a spiritual, the careful melodic balance of this final lament bears the traces of Scherchen’s lessons on Gregorian chant. Indeed, the final draft of Memento is dedicated to ‘Hermann Scherchen, Maestro – Father – Friend.’ Another is dedicated ‘to the glorious fighters for liberty’. The score was finished at Scherchen’s home at Rapallo, and comments in German through the sketches suggest that the two discussed the progress of the work.

Azione scenica is the term Nono will shortly use to refer to his own concept of socially, culturally, politically aware music theatre. To refer to Memento as an azione scenica is, of course,a stretch of the imagination. However, it represents an important stretching of Nono’s own imagination in the direction of a new music–text–drama relationship, integrating ideas and aspirations from Fučïk, Lenin and La Guerra. The very scope of Nono’s thought has broadened and matured, and with it a keen sense of how to support such structures. Melodic and rhythmic figure are used confidently in an architecturally moulded flow of polyphony. Local periodicities and modalities emerge in keeping with his poetic vision. The action is carried essentially by the chorus, the people, from whose own musical material Nono generates his fabric in a completely coherent, consonant process. In technical terms, he is confident in being able to provide himself with decisions and choices appropriate to his poetic vision. Together with Maderna, he has developed a synthesis of polyphonic and serial techniques that will underpin the rest of his work. He has established a practice, a repertoire of strategies – intellectual, graphical and physical. The use of resonance, space, silence and the suspending or folding of musical time have found place at the centre of his thought. The resonances of performance and the act of listening are written in to the musical surface; they are given space and a structural role. Above all, he has confronted the central question of meaning, central to the musical understanding of his mentors – Dallapiccola, Scherchen, Varèse, Messiaen and, vicariously, Schönberg – and to Nono’s mind avoided by his own contemporaries.

Scherchen conducted subsequent performances, including the first full sequence of Epitaffi with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1957. Following the success of Il canto sospeso the previous year, Nono’s international reputation was confirmed. Le Monde wrote:

For many listeners it was a moment of rare and intense emotion. But the beauty of this work lies not only in how it is made. It is a deeply moving work in which we find, transfigured to the plane of sound, the lyrical, sometimes tender, sometimes cruel tension that characterizes the genius of Garcia Lorca. […] A work that confirms Nono’s place at the highest level of contemporary music. 86

Nono’s own text for that event makes his purpose clear:

The music of us young people is the core of our humanity in human society. In this fundamental truth exists the reality of our work. This is the only possible way to exist for us and only in this sense can we be musicians today. Unfortunately this is not clear to all of us. Today there is too much talk of technical problems and of the ordering of material, as if this was our only goal. Or we put music on the operating table, as if it were an object of curiosity, and at the end proudly announce that we have expressed something valid. But we talk and write too little of the heart of our music; that is, of our own heart. […] The song of free Spain is around us and within us […] 87


Golïa, 1962, vol. I, pp. 191–2.

The courses initially took place at Schloss Kranichstein, on the edge of the city. From 1949 to 1957 the courses were held at Seminar Marienhöhe (Borio and Danuser, 1997, vol. 1, p. 61).

Iddon, 2013, pp. 1–32, provides a concise picture of the origins of Darmstadt and the role of Steinecke.

Letter from Steinecke, 26 June 1950. ALN.

Legrenzi’s opera Totile, for example.

Maderna, quoted in Fearn, 1990, p. 26.

Interview with Hansjörg Pauli, 1969. LNII, pp. 23–4.

Interview with Enzo Restango, 1987. LNII, p. 495.

Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, ‘Speilerei, Pathos und Verinnerlichung.’ Neue Zeitung, 30 August 1950. Quoted in Iddon, 2013, p. 37.

Darmstädter Echo, 29 August 1950. Uncredited press cutting. ALN.

Göttinger Tageblatt, 30 August 1950. Uncredited press cutting. ALN.

Stenzl, 1998, p. 19.

Ungeheuer, 1992, pp. 104–5.

Interview with Enzo Restango, 1987. LNII, p. 495.

Interview with Massimo Cacciari, 1980. LNII, p. 253.

Letter to Hermann Scherchen, 2 June 1951. ALN.

Fučik, 1948.

Stenzl, 1998, p. 23.

André Richard, interviewed in Ehrhardt, 2001.

Interview with Enzo Restagno, 1987. LNII, p. 501.

It appears in the sketches for Maderna’s Studi per Il Processo di Kafka (Rizzardi, 2004, p. 19).

ALN 02.04/17–18.

Next to the diagrams there is a reference to Pietro Cerone’s El melopeo y maestro of 1613, a 22-volume compendium of music theory renowned for its extensive and obsessive treatment of subjects including the nature of intervals.

Guerrero, 2009, pp. 489–91.

34 bars are cut at bar 10 in the earlier edition. The central section (‘nature joins in’) comprises bars 20–43 of the complete version.

Scherchen’s cut, presumably agreed with Nono, occurs at this point.

Das Musikleben, September 1951, vol. 4, no. 9.

Die Zeitschrift für Musik, September 1951, vol. 112, no. 9.

Hans Mayer, in Iddon, 2013, pp. 47–8.

Herbert Fleischer in an unnamed Italian press agency cutting. The other works on the programme were: Michel Ciry Troisiïme symphonie; Peter Racine Fricker Concerto No. 1 for Violin; Serge Nigg Pour un poète captive; Armin Schibler Sinfonische Variationen.

Scherchen, quoted in Stenzl, 1998, p. 20.

Letter from Hermann Scherchen, 22 July 1951, ALN.

Letter to Scherchen, 22 July 1951 [sic]. ALN.

Letter to Maderna, August 1951, ALN. The number squares developed by Nono and Maderna are usually referred to as Latin squares. Each side produces the same constant when summed. Webern’s SATOR – ROTAS word square is an analogous example. A magic square also produces the same constant along both diagonals.

Rizzardi, 2004, 49. Nono uses the term in his sketches for later works.

Rizzardi gives a detailed account of the evolution of this technique in Maderna’s Improvvisazione n. 1 of the same year and its use in Composizione (Rizzardi, 2004).

‘Lo sviluppo della tecnica seriale’, 1957. LNI, p. 34.

The Dessau performances began on 30 January 1952. Nono’s premiere in Hamburg took place on 18 February.

Letter to Mario and Maria Nono, 14 February 1952. ALN.

Die Welt, 21 February 1952. Other works on the programme were Maderna Improvvisazione N.1 per orchestra and Petrassi Coro di morti.

Letter to Hübner, 14 March 52. ALN.

Letter to Mario and Maria Nono, 19 February 1952. ALN.

Letter to Maderna, February 1952, in Baroni and Dalmonte, 1989, p. 60.

Letter to Maderna, June 1952. Sacher Stiftung, Basel.

Letter to Maderna, February 1952, in Baroni and Dalmonte, 1989, p. 60.

Letter to Stockhausen, 13 March 1952, in Stockhausen, 2001, pp. 39–40.

Letter from Maderna, 13 May 1952. ALN.

Mario Labroca (1896–1973), pupil of Malipiero, manager of the Teatro Communale, Florence 1936–44, artistic director of La Scala 1947–9, director of music for Italian Radio 1949–58, and subsequently involved in the Venice Biennale and festivals. Mario Peragallo (1910–96), pupil of Casella, Artistic Director of the Accademia Filarmonica, Rome, 1950–4.

Letter to Maderna, June 1952. Sacher Stifting, Basel.

Benedictis, Ida and Rizzardi, 2010.

Letter from Mila, 16 July 1952, in Benedictis, Ida and Rizzardi, 2010, p. 3.

Gramsci, 1977, vol. 2, p. 969.

Gramsci, 1977, vol. 3, p. 2192.

Gramsci, 1947, p. 124.

Letter from Maderna, 1 April 1952. ALN.

Letter to Maderna, June 1952. Sacher Stiftung, Basel.

Piscator (1893–1966), theatre director and theorist, had pursued a radical rethinking of German theatre through the 1920s, worked in the USSR from 1931–6 and subsequently in the USA until he was obliged to leave in 1951. De Benedictis and Schomerus, 1999/2000, provide a survey of his relationship with Nono.

The socialist martyr Karl Liebknecht, who figures in Nono’s original thoughts on Fuçik, appears in Piscator’s Trotz alledem of 1925.

Interview with Enzo Restagno, 1987. LNII, p. 518.

Letter to Piscator, 14 March 1952. ALN.

Pestalozza, 1989, describes the significance of Lorca’s poetry and the struggle in Spain for Italian composers.

Interview with Enzo Restagno, 1987. LNII, p. 556.

Interview with Enzo Restagno, 1987. LNII, p. 502.

Undated letter. ALN.

Following his theatrical suicide in 1930, Mayakovsky had been praised by Stalin as a national hero, his work disseminated as state propaganda.

Lines quoted in Feinstein, 2004, p. 125, are characteristic of Neruda’s opinion of Lorca: ‘we, the poets of Spanish America and the poets of Spain, cannot forget or ever forgive the murder of the one who we know to be the greatest among us, the guiding spirit of this moment in our language.’

In fact, Neruda visited Venice on 5 June 1952, but there is no indication that he and Nono met.

Also on the programme were Camillo Togni Omaggio a Bach and Jacques Wildberger Quartett.

Gazzelloni and Granzotto, 1984, p. 86.

Iddon, 2013, pp. 85–8.

Stockhausen, 1989, p. 35.

Messiaen’s Quatre etudes de rhythme for solo piano also include Neumes rythmiques, composed at Tanglewood in 1949, and Ile de feu I and II, written a year later (Deliège, 2003, p. 101).

Letter from Steinecke, 22 April 1952.

Letter to Hübner, 1 June 1952. ALN.

Il Gazzetino, 16 November 1952.

Letter to Maderna, November 1952, in Baroni and Dalmonte, 1989, p. 60.

Letter to Mario and Maria Nono, 25 November 1952. ALN.

A short extract was used for the popular civil war song Noche Nochero.

Lavignac, Albert 1920. Encyclopèdie de la musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire. Paris, Librairie Delagrave. Première Partie. Nono’s transcriptions are to be found in the Paul Sacher Stiftung and ALN.

Le Monde, quoted in Il giorno, 15 October 1959.

Programme note for Berlin performance, 1957. LNI, p. 421.

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