Home > Programma > Dag 2 > Attinello

Paul Attinello
Lecturer in the International Centre for Music Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Portraits of intimacy: Sylvano, Voix de Femme, Cathy, and La Passion

The burst of creative energy that characterized Bussotti’s early career is framed by two major works written for Cathy Berberian Voix de Femme (1959) and La Passion selon Sade (1965-66). Both are fragmentary, polyglot, and spectacularly complicated, demanding a confident and wide-ranging flexibility that few other performers could exhibit. However, they both have a focal point not evident at the surface of each work: they are created around facets of Berberian herself, operating as portraits of the intimate confidences shared by the singer and the composer, partly interpreted in relation to a third party, namely Berio.

Voix de femme, the solo with intermittent and changing ensembles which is the largest and most strongly characterized section of the song cycle Pièces de Chair II (1958-1960), celebrates a younger and more innocent Berberian, her vocal techniques, her languages, and even jokes among composer, singer and husband. Indeed, of all the compositional responses to Cage’s Aria written for Berberian, I suggest this is the richest Cathy. This piece is looking at and commenting on the world, showing an increasingly assertive and voracious interest in a great range of sounds, gestures, words and images. La Passion selon Sade is also a portrait; this Cathy, however, inhabits a larger world, one that acts on her in ways that are violent and exciting. This is rooted in the archetypal; the resultant stage images help us understand the denser, mature persona of that later Berberian, with all her strength and seductive humor.

Paul Attinello is a lecturer in the International Centre for Music Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne; he has also taught at the University of Hong Kong and UCLA. His 1997 dissertation analyzed the aesthetic implications of European avant-garde vocal music in the 1960s. He has published in the Journal of Musicological Research, Musik-Konzepte, Musica/Realtá, the revised New Grove and several collections. Current projects include a monograph on music about AIDS, a co-edited book on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and books on Meredith Monk and Gerhard Stäbler.

For more information: