Luciano Berio's Sequenza series for solo instruments led him to reconsider the nature of virtuosity and many other questions related to composition and performance, including matters of technique, history, form and aesthetics. One aspect of virtuosity ties in with Berio's innate love of the theater. In a work such as Sequenza III for solo voice (1966), Berio had already explored expression and cliché by using a "nonsense" text of minimal semantic value.
In Sequenza V for solo trombone (1966), the player is asked to attempt similar feats of emotive performance. The piece is an homage to the famous clown Grock, a neighbor of the Berio family when Luciano was growing up. Sequenza V's "theatre of vocal and instrumental gesture" attempts the profound absurdity of clowns, a questioning of the way things are that is both revealing and obscure, but always lighthearted.
Sequenza V was written for the great virtuoso trombonist Stuart Dempster and premiered by him in San Francisco in 1966. Berio requires the trombonist to sing and play at the same time through much of the work; these multiphonics are precisely notated and not optional. Many fast alternations among dynamics and articulations display the exceptionally wide timbral palette available from the instrument.