An analysis and performance guide of Luciano Berio's Sequenza IX

Date
2022-05-03
Authors
Lim, Jiyeon
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Abstract

Berio’s Sequenza IX is one of the most well-known and influential compositions in the contemporary repertoire for clarinetists. Indeed, many prominent competitions require clarinetists to play it. For example, Berio’s Sequenza IX appeared as a second-round repertoire selection in the 2019 Nielsen Competition. Although I had avoided contemporary music (like most of performers) because of its difficulty, I became fascinated by Berio’s Sequenza IX when I had to listen and study the piece in preparation for the Nielsen Competition. During my study of the piece, the history of the Sequenza series – the fact that Berio wrote Sequenza IX as part of a series for all kinds of instruments – and the difference between Berio’s music and the repertoire that I typically played piqued my interest. This treatise provides an analysis of and performance guide for Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IX (1980). I first outline the compositional history of the work. I then contextualize the piece in relation to Berio’s electronic music and experience at IRCAM; in particular, I explore how the relationships between the electronic and clarinet parts in Chemins V were transferred to Sequenza IX. I analyze the pitch content, phrase structure, and form of the piece. And, lastly, based on my analysis, I provide a performance guide to help performers play Berio’s Sequenza IX. Numerous factors – its complex harmonic language, fragmented melodies, unclear phrasing, un-notated meter, and extended techniques – make Sequenza IX one of the most difficult modern works for solo clarinet. My research will help performers understand the details and structure of the piece so that they can have more direction and efficiency in their practice of the piece.

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