In Pursuit of Utopia Between Sound and Sense: Luciano Berio’s “Linguistic Project”" of Meta-Music

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This study explores Luciano Berio’s search for a utopian relationship between music and language. This utopian vision of pursuing the “eternal path between sound and sense” led him to initiate a series of “linguistic projects.” I illustrate Berio’s investigation of the relations between music and our cognitive ability, or “universality of experience,” in three areas: the analysis of music, its generation process and its perception.

Although the utopian search was left inconclusive, it allowed Berio to develop what he called a “music of musics” or a “language of languages” in music. I argue that Berio’s “meta-music” generates a signification system similar to artificial intelligence that is able to identify, analyze and produce music elements. The system is based on a hybrid of structuralist discourses addressing human’s linguistic capacity. My study discusses the earlier model of this system established in the electronic work Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) (1957‒58), its perfecting in the two symphonic works Sinfonia (1968) and Coro (1974), and its expansion onto the theatrical works La vera storia, (1982) and Un Re in ascolto (1984). I show that Lacanian psychoanalysis strongly informs La vera storia as well as its dramatic elements and provides a theoretical basis for the connection between signification and the unconscious. Concerning the perception of music, by deconstructing the hierarchy of a series of oppositions (e.g. sound-silence, Self-Others) in Un Re, I suggest that Berio introduced us to “deconstructionist listening” in relation to the human’s “universality of experience.”






Choi, Ka Man Misty (2022). In Pursuit of Utopia Between Sound and Sense: Luciano Berio’s “Linguistic Project”" of Meta-Music. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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