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Keep going: narrative continuity in Luciano Berio's Sinfonia and Dillinger: an American oratorio

Heap, Matthew (2012) Keep going: narrative continuity in Luciano Berio's Sinfonia and Dillinger: an American oratorio. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The analysis component of this dissertation provides a discussion of a continuous narrative that develops during the course of Luciano Berio’s 1969 masterwork, Sinfonia. Previous analysts have tended to either limit their work to one movement of the piece or to undertake analyses that
do a movement-by-movement technical study that does not really touch on overall meaning. Herein, I propose two narrative readings of Sinfonia. The first involves the conflict between music or text that is a signifier of one of three important elements: blood, fire, and water. The piece is defined structurally by the interplay of these elements, especially between referents to water and fire. As the work ends, it becomes clear that the elements of blood and death (which are present implicitly throughout) are closely linked.

Secondly, I propose a programmatic narrative along the lines of the Heldenleben program, in which our hero-composer tries to start a piece, fails, and so looks for inspiration and
enlightenment, first from a recent work, then from the masterpieces of the past. Finally, he continues his piece from where he ended in the first movement, and finishes it in a satisfying way, synthesizing materials from the previous movements. The two narratives come together in this last movement, and, as a result, the movement, and the piece, could be seen as an answer to the question of “What is the point of art?”

I provide evidence for these narratives through a combination of analytical techniques. I also examine the context of many of the textual fragments that Berio uses to show patterns and relationships between disparate sources.

The composition component of this dissertation, with a libretto by Darren Canady, is entitled Dillinger: An American Oratorio. It is set as an opera-oratorio, and deals with the last days of the American gangster John Dillinger as he struggles to settle down and leave his life of
crime. The piece explores the complex American fascination for the outlaw and lone wolf.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMoe, Ericemoe@pitt.eduEMOE
Committee MemberKnapp, Jamesjfknapp@pitt.eduJFKNAPP
Committee MemberRosenblum, Mathewrosenblu@pitt.eduROSENBLU
Committee MemberWilliams, Amyamywill@pitt.eduAMYWILL
Date: 18 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 27 March 2012
Approval Date: 18 June 2012
Submission Date: 9 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 305
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sinfonia, Narrative, Opera/Oratorio, Semiotics, Berio, Twentieth-Century Music
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2012 18:31
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57

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