Editing Luigi Nono's

Editing Luigi Nono's "Prometeo"

The present edition serves a twofold objective. First, it proposes to document the musical text as defi ned through the experience of the performances in which Nono participated. Second, it aims to provide necessary instructions relating to the performance practice of the voices, instruments, and electronics. It meets the criteria of practicality also in the decision to include an extensive essay by Carola Nielinger-Vakil, which illustrates the philosophical background of the work as closely linked to its formal aspects.

The edition avails itself of the text of the second, final version of Prometeo, performed for the first time in Milan at the Stabilimento Ansaldo (September-October 1985) and reprised in Frankfurt (Alte Oper, August 1987), Paris (Théâtre National de Chaillot, October 1987) and Berlin (Kammermusiksaal of the Philharmonie, August 1988), with Nono at the Sound Direction. While the purpose of the edition is eminently practical, the specific nature of the work, combined with Nono’s own compositional approach, has made it necessary for the editors to access a number of sources, in order to accurately define the musical text. These include the autograph score supplied to the publisher and the printed copy that Nono used in all of the performances he took part in, the scores and parts used by the performers who worked with the composer, the work protocols of the Experimentalstudio of Freiburg (where Nono realized the live electronics part for Prometeo), the radio broadcast recordings of the performances in which Nono was directly involved.

The concept of the edition owes much to André Richard’s extended experience realizing Prometeo, from the premieres of Venice (1984) and Milan (1985) up until 2015. He assumed a variety of roles in his plurennial involvement, from preparing the chorus and vocal soloists to leading the Sound Direction, to the design of the sonic space.

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Excerpt from "Editing Prometeo"

by Marco Mazzolini, Managing Editor Casa Ricordi

As is known, above and beyond his experience at the Studio di Fonologia della Rai of Milan and the Centro di Sonologia Computazionale of Padua, Nono had the opportunity to experiment with live electronics beginning in 1980 in Freiburg at the Experimentalstudio of the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung of SWR Südwestrundfunk), at the time, known as SWF (Südwestfunk). Here, he could count on an arsenal of innovative technologies at the highest level, and benefi t from the collaboration with a fixed group of interpreters and engineers. Knowledge and practice intermingled in the teamwork and, in the interaction between compositional invention and experimentation, the technical and interpretative dimensions fl owed from one into the other, merging and engaging inextricably. Such a way of working that encouraged the individual contribution and active participation of everyone in a workshop atmosphere, promoted the emergence of specific practices and implicit conventions. The expression of such practices crystallized spontaneously in a jargon that, especially in relation to specifi c techniques, resulted in becoming widely diffused in the scores.

Another consideration should be noted here. For Nono, the musical text is a dynamic reality not only because it arises from an experimental dimension, but also because, through the mediation of the interpreter, it lives from the tensions of the performative context. In particular, in works with live electronics, the text is sensitive to the acoustic characteristics of the performance space, especially with regard to defining the parameters of the electronic processing of the sound. Thus, Nono intervened in the score of Prometeo in each of the performances in which he took part, not only in passing from the first version (Venice, 1984) to the second (Milan, 1985), but also in subsequent reprises of the latter.

From a strictly editorial perspective, the consequences of a situation such as this are essentially three-fold.

The first is that the score that Nono delivered to the Ricordi publishing house appears, in many aspects, elliptical due to the absence of necessary performance instructions, or because of the insider character of the language – quasi a jargon – with which these were expressed, the result of a routine of secondary orality that was established in the experimental work environment of the studio. Consequently, in preparing the new edition of Prometeo, the existing code set in the score and intended for interpreters of the “workshop” needed to be rendered explicit and ecumenical. Completing the technical and stylistic information, codifying the methods of producing the sound and the electronic processing, developing criteria and symbols for a notation of the electronics in the absence of a standardized notation (see also under Editorial Criteria, the section Notation of the Electronics): these were the fundamental tasks of this edition.

The second consequence of the practices described above is that to a certain extent, the text is diff used, that is to say, contained in several sources. Whereas the scores of Nono – the autograph supplied to the publisher and the printed copy he used in all of the performances in which he took part – represent the principal sources, alongside them – and complementing them – are the memories, variously codifi ed, of those who worked with Nono, in the studio, in rehearsal, in concert: the scores and the performance parts of the interpreters, or their own written personal accounts, the work protocols of the Experimentalstudio of Freiburg. These eyewitness accounts have been critically evaluated and any diverging readings, insofar as they were established with the participation of the composer, have been considered as authentic variants (see, also, the section Sources).

The third consequence of the situation described above is the multi-stratifi cation of the text, connected to Nono’s practice of intervening in the score with each new performance, introducing variants of major or minor importance. In the score used by Nono, these variants are indicated in different colors, corresponding to diff erent performance cycles of the work. It was therefore necessary – within the limits dictated by the practical objectives of the edition – to create a stratigraphic layout that would make it possible to discern the diff erent levels of intervention and to distinguish the variants integrated into the text in a permanent way from those having only occasional value.