Luciano Berio – Laborintus II

for voices, instruments and tape
Text by Edoardo Sanguineti

Laborintus II, composed in 1965, was commissioned by the French Television to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. It takes its title from the poetic collection Laborintus by Edoardo Sanguineti.

The text of Laborintus II develops certain themes from Dante’s Vita nuova, Convivio, and Divina Commedia, combining them - mainly through formal and semantic analogies - with Biblical texts and texts by T. S. Eliot, Pound and Sanguineti himself.

The main formal reference of Laborintus II is the catalogue, in its medieval meaning (like the Etymologies of Isodore of Seville, for instance, also appearing in Laborintus), which combines the Dantesque themes of memory, death and usury - that is, the reduction of all things to market value. Individual words and sentences are sometimes to be regarded as autonomous entities, and sometimes to be perceived as part of the sound structure as a whole.

The principle of the catalogue is not limited to the text: it underlies the musical structure as well. Laborintus II is a catalogue of references, attitudes and elementary instrumental techniques; a rather didactic catalogue, like a school book dealing with Dantesque visions and musical gestures. The instrumental parts are developed mainly as an extension of the vocal actions of singers and speakers, and the short section of electronic music is conceived as an extension of the instrumental actions.
Laborintus II is a theatre work; it can be treated as a story, an allegory, a documentary, a dance. It can be performed in a school, in a theatre, on television, in the open air, or in any other place permitting the gathering of an audience.

Text of Laborintus II
In that part, in that part of my memory, in that part of the book, in that part of the book of my memory IIncipit vita novaπ. She appeared dressed in noble colours, modest, pure and sanguine: ecce Deus fortiut me: dominabitur mini.

A painful infirmity: for nine days bitter anguish: and on the ninth day feeling almost intolerable pains a thought came o me; and I began to weep and I began to travail; and I began to have visions as here follow: my eyes streamed tears and I was taken with trembling and I called upon death, saying: sweet, O sweet death, come unto me, I already wear your colours. I saw things: which I had to propose not to say, I saw things: I hope to say what has never been said: they made me unwilling to talk of her: I hope to say of her, what was never said of any woman.

It gives me horror (a gentle sleep); but gay; but with much joy; but a wonderful vision of disquieting aspect (love), crying dubiously, eating a mist of the colour of fire; ego dominus, ego dominus tuus; (a figure); (one lord, love); and the woman, in bitter tears, in anguish, crying, vide cor tuum, a wondrous (you are dead) vision: osanna.

All, all, from the library to the baboon: from 1265 to 1321: from the potassium cyanide to the city fathers: from the first communion to the Treasury Department: from the darkness which ever surrounds our lives to the 4% profit: from the jugular to the tibia: from the walrus, great beast of the Pacific, with two long tusks to 1965; from the liver to the refrigerator: from the stamp to the cheese; from the square root to the Trojan horse; from the lapsus linguae to the Russian Revolution; from the hadacasyllable to the snuff: from the pedestral which must sustain all the columns to the illumination: act and effect of illuminations: to the flint, to the moon: to the copper: to the dust ah! For you I invented copper and dust; I freed the letter ‘r’ and the letter ‘c’ from the chain gang: I dragged wild rabbits and nails through Paradise Valley: of you I also said perfectionis intellegibilies: I said: novimus enim tenebras aquas ventus ignem fumum: let’s look together at the past and the future: I said: Quoi qu’elle lasse elle est désir: imrpoportionabiliter exceeds.

Nature takes its course from the divine intellect and its art: your art follows that course as the diciple follows the master: and thus one finds life and the true way: the usurer takes another path: he despises nature: with usura hath no man a house of good stone, with usura hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall, harpes et lutes.

And in the middle, for me: valley of the abyss, profound and shrouded valley, a place mute of all light and mourn and lament; for me; crying – with usura; with usura; with usura; with usura.

All, all, all, from the candy to the honey: from the Sino-Indian frontier war to the idola tribus; to Brussels, to Paris, to my feet: to the answering service: to the President of NYU to the Sunday Times: to Mills College, to Sante Fé, to Mass, Avenue, to Via Moscati 7, to the window, to Via Vespucci 25, the Susanna and the Elders, to Kastaniealle 34, to the Queen Elizabeth Hall: to the composed land instructural complexes, which are Palus Putredinis: to Mare Humorum, which watches me closely, which dilates me, which combines me in an epoch, focusing the senses, because I am at the most precise border, organic tomb of complicated orgasms, and I will succeed, I will succeed, after the fluid intromission, I succeed – a multitude, in the speculative grammar, symbolised in terribly harmonious ciphers, before tall smoking mushrooms; before you, Valles Mortis: before you, totius orbis thesaurus: before you, my vegetal alphabet: before you, my phantom: before the silence: silence: silence: silence: silence.

Music is all relative as can be seen in harmonised words and songs: the sweeter the harmony the more beautiful are the relations, for more is to be heard in them: music draws the human spirits which are virtually the principle humours of the heart, nearly stilling their action: thus is the soul in its entirety hearing it, and the true virtue of all is attracted to that sensitive spirit, which receives the sound.

Edoardo Sanguineti

Laborintus II
Laborintus II
St-Paul's Hall