The Use of Technology in Revolutionary Perspective. Computer Music Research in Luigi Nono’s Prometeo. Tragedia dell’Ascolto (1984–85)
The production of Prometeo. Tragedia dell’Ascolto (1984–1985) brought together musicians, soloists, a choir, a lyricist, an architect, an artist, and sound engineers working on computer generated sounds and live electronics, under the guidance and compositional writing of Luigi Nono. This article focuses on Nono’s collaboration with musical assistants Alvise Vidolin, Sylviane Sapir and Mauro Graziani from CSC (Centro di Sonologia Computazionale, University of Padova), who designed the real-time digital sound processor, called 4i system, used in Prometeo. Taking Konrad Boehmer’s essay “The use of technology in revolutionary perspective” (2011) as an inspiration, I reconstruct the creative process of the computer-generated sounds. The sound design thinking process is analysed following the historical circumstances that led to this collaboration with Nono, the functioning and development of the system, workflow, sketching and testing, achievements and bottlenecks, aspects related to communication. The chapter ends with a bird’s-eye discussion of the score, and the correlation between spatialization and the use of the 4i processor. These concepts are contextualized within three topics from Boehmer’s article: collaboration; the revolutionary connection between technology, composition and politics; the question whether technology affects results, since the 4i processor was no longer used after Venice (1984) and Milan (1985) performances.
Research methodology is based on a combination of genetic criticism and oral history. Published and unpublished source materials (Luigi Nono Archive; the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts of the Venice Biennale; CSC; musical assistants’ personal archives), interviews and, above all, Vidolin’s manuscript diary of his meetings with Nono, are presented here for the first time in literature.