Acousmatrix 7: Berio/Maderna is the seventh installment in a series of discs from the Dutch label BVHaast that is canvassing the output of the pioneering European electronic music studios, such as the ORTF in Paris, the WDR studio in Cologne, and, in this case, the RAI Studio di Fonologia in Milan. It contains several of the key electronic pieces produced at this facility in the late '50s and early '60s by two early masters of the genre, Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna.
Fans of John Cage's early electronic masterwork Fontana Mix, created at the Studio di Fonologia in 1958, may be surprised to find Berio drawing from the same pool of taped sources as Cage in his work Momenti (1960). This is its first appearance on CD, whereas it is the second for both Thema -- Omaggio a Joyce (1958) and Visage (1962). Yet it is not particularly easy to find RCA's Berio album Many More Voices, which is out of print, containing both of these pieces. Thema -- Omaggio a Joyce (1958) and Visage (1962) are famous milestones within the history of electronic music and feature the irreplaceable artistry of Berio's then-wife, soprano Cathy Berberian.
Maderna's electronic music is generally not well known outside of Europe, and the appearance here of Le Rire (1962) and Invenzione su una voce (also known as Dimensioni II) (1960) is most welcome. Whereas in Cage's electronic music, where one laughs but the composer doesn't seem to get the joke, Maderna revels in outwardly ridiculous, fragmented sounds, clearly choosing and combining what pleases him personally without the slightest recourse to apparent structural procedures. The "una voce" is once again Berberian, utilizing an unusual text source, the notorious Letteristic book by Hans G. Helms Fa:m'Ahnewgwow published in 1959 and entirely made up of word fragments devoid of "sense" or story. The sound on this BVHaast disc is great, as through some miracle they have transferred the vintage and artifactual tapes to disc without the slightest hint of tape hiss. Contrary to the notes, both Le Rire and Invenzione su una voce have appeared on CD before, in an Italian collection of Maderna's electronic music on the Stradivarius label. Yet as with Many More Voices, who can actually find a copy of it? By any measure, Acousmatrix 7: Berio/Maderna is an excellent option for these key early electronic works.