More from year 1966
Jan 28, 1967
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Luciano Berio was an Italian composer noted for his experimental work and for his pioneering work in electronic music. On this day (February 23 or February 24, 1966, depending on the source), Paul McCartney attended one of his lectures at the Italian Cultural Institute in London.
On 24 February 1966, Paul went with [Barry] Miles and Sue [Miles, wife of Barry)] to hear the Italian electronic composer Luciano Berio, then a lecturer at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, give a talk at the Italian Cultural Institute on Belgrave Square. Paul had heard Berio’s Thema (Omaggio a Foyce) (1958) at Miles’s house. […] At the lecture, Berio played a tape of his new piece Laborintus 2 (Un Omaggio a Dante), which develops certain themes in Dante’s texts, combining them with biblical texts as well as the work of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Edoardo Sanguineti. During the intermission, Paul was able to have a few words with Berio but the Italian embassy staff clustered around so closely that serious conversation was difficult. The meeting may have sparked Berio’s interest in the Beatles since, not long afterwards, his wife Cathy Berberian released an album called Beatles Arias in which she gave full glorious operatic treatment to such numbers as ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Help!’ and ‘Ticket to Ride’. Berio also made some settings of Beatles material which were sung by Les Swingle Singers, the French choral group whose work varied from popular songs to the most difficult of experimental music.From “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now“, 1997
I used to go to avant garde music concerts like. That was me, all that Stockhausen shit in The Beatles. I went to this guy Luciano Berio who’s now an electronic classical kind of guy. It was good, it was a good kind of crossover. A lot of stimulation for me. What Pepper came out of was all of that. Very exciting period. I’m not trying to say it was all me, but l do think John’s avant-garde period later, was really to give himself a go at what he’d seen me having a go at. He didn’t dare do it while he was living in suburbia. Couldn’t do it because the vibe was wrong. Had to come to my house and sneak vicarious thrills.Paul McCartney – From “The Paul McCartney World Tour” book – 1989
According to musicologist Walter Everett, Paul McCartney sought out concerts featuring the music of modernist composers during the summer of 1966, including Berio, John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. At the time, McCartney was searching for inspiration for his own songwriting and was dabbling with tape loops and electronic music in his home studio.
There is at least one documented encounter between Berio and McCartney dating from that year, although they otherwise admired each other’s work from afar. After listening to Berio present a lecture at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York [sic – In London], McCartney and the composer briefly met in the hallway outside the auditorium, but they were almost immediately driven apart by a crush of reporters.
That meeting, although brief, seems to have inspired Berio. The following year, he arranged a series of songs by the Beatlesfor soprano Cathy Berberian and published an article praising the Beatles in Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana, Italy’s most prestigious academic music journal at the time. Other than that brief encounter, however, it seems that Berio and McCartney otherwise lived and worked in separate spheres.
They did, however, share many common musical influences. Stockhausen’s early electronic works, and Gesang der Jünglinge in particular, influenced Lennon, McCartney, and Berio alike. The piece, created in 1955–56, integrated electronic sounds with recordings of the human voice. According to an account of Lennon’s life by his friend Pete Shotton, Lennon too had become infatuated with Stockhausen’s music by May of 1968, just prior to creating “Revolution 9.” It’s worth noting at this point that the Beatles even included a picture of Stockhausen on the cover of their 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band.From What do The Beatles have in common with avant-garde composer Luciano Berio? | by Seattle Symphony | Medium
When Luciano Berio, the maestro of tape manipulation, gave a rare performance in London, Paul turned up eagerly at the Italian Institute to see him. But the recital was ruined by press photographers with no interest whatsoever in the performer. This insult to Berio angered Paul in a way that little of his pop-star life ever could. ‘All you do is destroy things,’ he shouted at the jostling lenses. ‘Why don’t you create something?‘ The Daily Mail’s sarcastic headline next morning was “THIS IS WHAT A BEATLE DOES IN THE EVENINGS.’From “Paul McCartney – The Life” by Philip Norman, 2016
After the lecture Paul and Miles spoke with Berio, but the conversation was cut short by the crush of photographers and the attention of the Italian embassy staff. The press had been tipped off about the presence of a Beatle. Photos subsequently appeared in publications ranging from the Daily Mail (“What a Beatle Does in the Evenings”) to the Musical Times (“Beatle Meets Modern Italian Composer Luciano Berio”). On February 24, the Times briefly commented on the event, although it didn’t mention Paul’s attendance. “Everything that Luciano Berio does is interesting even when it isn’t entirely convincing,” it reported. “Last night at the Italian Institute he talked for almost an hour about his new work, Homage to Dante [sic]—mostly about what it was not, and what is the only possible way of creating a work of art, and suchlike topics.”From “Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year” by Steve Turner
That’s my thing, really. I’d once said to John — I was talking about Stockhausen, Berio, Cage and these far-out composers — ‘I should do an album called Paul McCartney Goes Too Far.’ He said, ‘That’s a great idea, man, you should do it’. Of course, I never did.Paul McCartney – From “Conversations with McCartney” by Paul du Noyer, 2016
Last updated on December 3, 2023
"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."
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