In this paper, Luciano Berio’s Sequenza V for solo trombone is analyzed along the lines of four analytical dimensions proposed by the composer himself in an interview from 1980.
It is argued that the piece in general can be interpreted as an exploration of the ‘morphological’ dimension involving transformation of the traditional image of the trombone as an instrument as well as of the performance context. The first kind of transformation is revealed by simultaneous singing and playing, continuous sounds and considerable use of polyphony, indiscrete pitches, plunger, flutter-tongue technique, and unidiomatic register, whereas the latter manifests itself in extra-musical elements of theatricality, especially with reference to clown acting. Such elements are evident from performance notes and notational practice, and they originate from biographical facts related to the compositional process and to Berio’s sources of inspiration. Key topics such as polyphony, amalgamation of voice and instrument, virtuosity, theatricality, and humor – of which some have been recognized as common to the Sequenza series in general – are explained in the context of the analytical model.
As a final point, a revised version of the four-dimensional model is presented in which tension-inducing characteristics in the ‘pitch’, ‘temporal’ and ‘dynamic’ dimensions are grouped into ‘local’ and ‘global’ components to avoid tension conflicts within dimensions. Furthermore, in the ‘morphological’ dimension a distinction is made between transformation of ‘instrumental idiomatics’ and of the ‘performance context’. Hence, the revised model accounts for theatricality and performance without failing to realize the increasing transformation of the instrumental idiom which constitutes a key aspect of the musical meaning communicated in this piece.
The author, Niels Chr. Hansen is a graduate student of music theory at Royal Academy of Music Aarhus (www.musikkons.dk), Denmark, and an MSc student in Music, Mind & Brain at Goldsmiths College, University of London (www.gold.ac.uk), UK. Furthermore, he holds a BA in classical piano and music theory. In 2008/09 Niels Chr. Hansen studied as an exchange at the Conservatory and University of Amsterdam. His primary research interests include music theory, analysis, ethnomusicology, and music cognition. He is a member of the “Music in the Brain Group” in Aarhus and has assisted on scientific projects at the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (www.cfin.au.dk). He has previously contributed to this journal (JMM6) and also presented his research at conferences in Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands. As a pianist Niels Chr. Hansen has participated in numerous master classes and given concerts in Denmark, Sweden, Poland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Latvia, and Italy. In 2006-08 Niels Chr. Hansen was the president of the National Board of Music Students in Denmark (www.DKLnet.dk) organizing the national humanitarian event ‘Day of Music’ in 2007 and 2008 (www.musikkensdag.dk).
Read Niels Chr. Hansen’s article here