Is this the most bizarre and technically difficult piece of vocal music ever…

2 August 2016, 15:41 | Updated: January 6, 2017, 2:45 PM

Sopranos: Are you looking for a stimulating new work that will drive you crazy at the same time? It’s time to analyze a classic 1965 work by Luciano Berio.

You are a hard-working and adventurous soprano who wants to surpass herself. You’re tired of the novelty of singing things that are either excessively high or excessively long, or a combination.

There’s only one thing for you to do: experiment.

Let’s listen to him for Berio’s Sequenza III, the scourge of sopranos around the world:

We imagine that the idea of ​​performing this legendary piece encouraged this reaction from you at the moment:

Want some cool facts about this coin? Let’s go. First, the Italian composer Berio wrote a side note for the piece, which ends like this:

“In Sequenza III, the emphasis is on the sonic symbolism of vocal and sometimes visual gestures, with their accompanying ‘shadows of meaning’, and the associations and conflicts they suggest. For this reason, Sequenza III can also be seen as a dramatic essay whose story, so to speak, is the relationship between the soloist and her own voice.


Sequenza III was originally written for Cathy Berberian, also Berio’s wife until 1964 – a year before the play was written. Coincidence? Here, she absolutely smashes the room to pieces:

Through all the bizarre ululations and weird performance directions, it’s possible to hear snippets of more conventional singing techniques. Look for the “A few words” and “Build a house, sing” sections to see how Berio incorporates something recognizable into what is basically a mindless mess.

Here is the whole piece, with the score, so you can follow along:

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