Jun 9, 2022
In 1964, the popular 20th century composer Luciano Berio was commissioned by Mills College in California to write a piece for voice and chamber orchestra. What Berio came up with is one of his most remarkably creative works, which is really saying something considering the innovative and constantly evolving way that he wrote music. Berio once said: “My links with folk music are often of an emotional character. When I work with that music I am always caught by the thrill of discovery… I return again and again to folk music because I try to establish contact between that and my own ideas about music. I have a utopian dream, though I know it cannot be realized: I would like to create a unity between folk music and our music — a real, perceptible, understandable conduit between ancient, popular music-making which is so close to everyday work and music.”
The words "thrill of discovery" are at the core of what makes the Folk Songs so wonderful and easy to listen to. They combine a modernist classical aesthetic with songs that are of such beauty that it is hard not be overwhelmed by them. Berio took 11 folk songs from 5 different regions of the world, from places as far away as the United States and Azerbaijan, and transformed them. He wrote: “I have given the songs a new rhythmic and harmonic interpretation: in a way, I have recomposed them. The instrumental part has an important function: it is meant to underline and comment on the expressive and cultural roots of each song. Such roots signify not only the ethnic origins of the songs but also the history of the authentic uses that have been made of them.” Today on the show I’m going to take you through these 11 songs, going on a historical expedition to find some of their roots and to get as close to the original songs as I can, and then looking at how Berio re-worked these songs into this cycle that consistently stuns people with its beauty and creativity. If you’ve never heard these pieces before, get ready, because Berio will take you on a remarkable journey. Join us!