Sei sulla pagina 1di 15

The ‘Serenata per un satellite’

by Bruno Maderna

– Research Project –

…A work from which thousands of possibilities can stem…

1
The first approach to

‘Serenata per un satellite’

What is the ‘Serenata per un satellite’? When, how and why was it born?

The ‘Serenata per un satellite’ (serenade for a satellite in Space) is an important work of

European Music written after the Second World War and composed by Bruno Maderna in

1969 for his friend Umberto Montalenti, a Professor of Physics and Director of the

European Space Operation Centre. At that time Montalenti planned and coordinated the

sending of a satellite into Space to study phenomena associated with Aurora Borealis. On

the night of the 1st October 1969 the satellite was launched whilst Maderna was conducting

the premiere performance of his Serenata which initially bore the title ‘Serenata per un

missile’ (Serenade for a missile).

The musicologist Massimo Mila (1999) suggests that Maderna was fascinated by both the

futuristic and supernatural aspects of this operation, so he produced a composition in sound,

formally notated whilst containing graphic aspects depicting the orbits formed by satellites.

The directions written by Maderna on the score suggest that ‘Serenata per un satellite’ can

be played as a solo by the violin, flute, piccolo, oboe (or oboe d’amore), clarinet, marimba,

harp, guitar, mandolin, or as a mixed ensemble of any grouping of these instruments. The

piece is constructed of many fragments of written music which can be played in any order

and in an improvisatory style.

2
Looking at the score which is just one page, it is impossible not to notice the strange way in

which the musical fragments have been placed. They can be straight, diagonally or crossing

the page. This method of construction offers the performers a variety of different paths to

follow starting anywhere they wish. This graphical aspect of the score has a direct effect on

the performer in an attempt to help them represent a feeling of the satellite in orbit.

The duration is between 4 and 12 minutes.

(Bruno Maderna, Serenata per un satellite. 1969)

3
The aim of the piece is to create a new ‘Serenata’ every time so the artist’s rendition may

and should change over time. It could be thought of like a puzzle in which all the pieces are

interchangeable and can be grouped together in any manner of ways to produce an end

result. The comprehension and interpretation of the performer is paramount as they have a

great deal of control over what to play and how to give the piece structure.

I will elaborate more upon this within the ‘Theory and Practice’ section later.

Some valuable recordings and brief analysis of them.

The importance of player’s freedom.

Creating a variety of musical atmospheres, episodes and characters are the keys to

developing a good interpretation of the Serenata. The piece itself offers many paths to

follow and an experienced performer will first analyze these paths exposing the distinct

differences of each one and deciding upon an order which will create a convincing

interpretation. There are lot of possibilities and routes hidden within piece and Maderna

gives the player freedom to develop their own interpretation, allowing the music to be

presented in a new way every time.

In these recordings each musical fragment is very obvious if accompanied by following the

musical score. These recordings share common aspects but there are also some interesting

peculiarities which can be identified in these performances.

4
For instance, an often nervous rhythmical character can be heard at the beginning, which

changes later and becomes more lyrical when the end of the piece is coming. This can also

be the opposite in some recordings.

The presence of less well defined (hazy) moments often helps balance the tension and calm

that this piece creates within an overall atmosphere of suspense.

The more carefully the characters are integrated and developed in each fragment, the more

varied and interesting a piece it is.

There are only a few examples, common to all the recordings.

However, each of them has its own peculiarities too.

For example, Roberto Fabbriciani & Luisella Botteon’s recording (playing flutes), is

developed and built around the fragment placed in the middle of the score, like a thematic

idea used as a fil rouge. Their performance is more routed in the development of rhythmical

characters than lyrical and they also use their flutes in a percussive fashion when the

notation calls for it.

Ex Novo Ensemble’s recording shows a perfect dialogue between each instrument of the

ensemble, the Tutti works really well and a very nice mixture of sounds is achieved when an

identical fragment is played in unison by instrument of different timbre.

The order of each fragment has been carefully and thoughtfully chosen building to a perfect

climax. It is an amazing result because it shows what can be done with just one page, a

handful of musical ideas and a good ensemble. They have produced a piece of

Contemporary music which is a pleasure to listen to, because the common elements as
5
rhythm and melody are used to create interesting characters which combine to produce a

very satisfying overall interpretation, even though the listener might not be used to the

atonal music.

The Guitalian Quartet brings in their performance some impressive ideas: the uses of their

human voices and the guitars as percussive instruments. There is a generally circular idea of

the piece, as they open and close with the same fragment. The listener will be surprised by

the echoes and the rhythmical patterns created by the four players that overlap one another

at times.

The two performances of Arturo Tallini are interesting for many reasons. For example, the

guitar is used like a percussive instrument at times and the human voice has been used like a

special effect at the end of the piece; some bars from Mauro Giuliani’s ‘Sonata Opus 15’

and from Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘third Partita’ for violin solo can be heard within the

improvisation, like an echo from earth received by the satellite in Space.

Although these two performances are different to one another they are convincing because

the general idea is well presented and the development can be easily followed within both

interpretations. They can be also seen as proof that it is possible to handle and perform this

piece well with just one player. Not only an ensemble can achieve great results .

Indeed, looking at the final result of the ‘Serenata per un satellite’ is a good starting point,

but this leaves questions about the process and the approach an artist needs to take

while studying a piece like that.

6
Theory and Practice

There is a close and essential relationship between theory and practice in this work: one

cannot exist without the other and both have a direct effect on the eventual outcome of the

performance. The theoretical aspects of the piece such as the random choice of fragments,

their performance duration and repetition directly infer the practice and performance of the

work also the improvised nature of much of the piece and choices made by the player during

performance directly affect the theory of the work.

It is essential for the performer to understand the importance of their role in realizing a

convincing improvisation of the Serenata as Maderna intended the piece to be adapted or

even better, completed with the improvisation of the player. Maderna specifies at the bottom

left of the score that only the written notes are to be used but gives no direction on their

order or when, where and how to begin or end. So any note, fragment or phrases can be

considered a starting or ending point. To interpret the piece it is necessary to create a

metaphorical toolbox in the mind of the player, a rough plan and different paths/orders we

may follow. Especially for the guitarist it is advisable to decide upon any extended

techniques we may wish to employ such as pizzicato, Bartok pizzicato, brushing of the

strings, artificial harmonics and rasgueados so we have any idea of where and when they

might appear as the piece develops.

7
Practical considerations and solutions.

Despite the fact that it is not easy to understand and find a good route inside this

complicated space maze made of orbits, I had the fortune to be advised about how to

approach this piece by my teacher Arturo Tallini during these years.

Here below is a synthesis of some practical considerations and solutions which can be taken

into account.

It is very important:

· To learn the phrases with different fingerings, each one providing a different colour

of sound: for example, a scale played across multiple strings, using the technique of

campanella will sound more like a ‘harmonic splash’, rather than scale played on one

string without over ringing can sound like a more direct melodic fragment. These

fingering options can be effective at a variety of tempi.

· To make musical sense of every phrase, searching for motifs that could then become

independent phrases through their repetition, transposition, diminution and any other

articulation or solution the player finds suitable to employ.

Some of these suggestions are directly related to the guitar but can be easily adapted to other

instruments.

These basic considerations of structure, techniques, articulations and phrasing are only the

starting point not the completed piece, they are to be used like a toolbox that the player will

be able to dip in and out of use during their improvisation.

8
The improvisational aspects are based on listening and reacting to the ‘here and now’

adapting each new musical phrase as it comes in and out of existence.

It has to be remembered that it is not necessary to play everything, because Maderna writes

so the guitarist may avoid those phrases not playable by the guitar (“Playing what they

may”). Moreover, the metronome is just an indication and it gives us the possibility of a

huge variety of tempi that can be used throughout the piece.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the piece is to have the freedom to change the

interpretation of the piece and to make each performance sound different from the previous

one. Keeping or developing any successful interpretations overtime can be aided by

recording performances then studying, improving and developing any successful material

for future performances.

It is important to play the piece many times during the study phase in order to become

familiar with every musical phrase and get comfortable starting each time from a different

position or fragment – this will help develop more reactive and improvisatory ideas.

Choosing a limited number of phrases and creating a mini Serenata is a good way to start.

As time passes, there will be an even closer relationship between the piece and the player

creating a personal interpretation through familiarity and the development of an emotional

relationship to the music. The role of the musician is to create characters, develop the

expressive areas of the piece and navigate with a clear vision the fragmented structure of the

work.
9
Assigning a letter to each fragment can be a useful tool during the early stages of study,

deciding what type of character each idea contains for example nervous or dreamy. This will

help to give the performance some basic structure and direction preventing the performer

from becoming lost whilst playing – which is a possibility in these early stages.

In this sense, considering what has been said before, the relationship between composer and

musician is a complex one, at times the roles are juxtaposed and when following the written

score the performer is allowed great freedom.

In fact, Bruno Maderna has composed a draft of a piece in order to give to the artist the

opportunity to complete the work every time it is performed.

This responsibility that Maderna asks of the performer is something can create difficulty for

an inexperienced musician or one who is motivated more by the regurgitation of music and

interpretation. An artisan, simply put, is a person who creates something with their hands,

they might know how to do something well but it is an artist who is the one creating

something special that combines use of hands, the mind and emotion.

And we must be both, an artisan and a good artist.

10
The performance

I have been developing my musical idea about this piece for two years. I wanted to find

something that could make sense for me as a musician and an artist, and for the audience

too, because I wanted to present a clear image of it that could have helped them during its

listening. Unfortunately, most of the time people are not used to music like this because it

can be difficult to understand at first hearing and because they are not accustomed to such

music in today’s society. It is an art form which might be far from our comfortable listening

habits so you have to find a creative idea to present to the audience, in order to create a

ground and a path where they can enjoy their experience of this music.

As this work is dedicated to a satellite, at first I thought it was important to think about the

‘Theory of birth’ – the creation of the Universe. Initially there was the Big Bang, which was

then followed by the many different Epochs and Eras.

Since life has an ephemeral nature – the cyclical certainty that after life comes death – the

universe will also have an end.

Then, thinking about my way of playing it and how I usually develop the piece during my

improvisation, I realized, comparing the performances with that theory, that my ‘Serenata’

could start with a kind of a Big Bang. My Big Bang is represented by the most lyrical and

vibrant phrase of the piece, from which everything develops later. As it happens in the ‘Big

Crunch Theory’, in which the Universe recollapses on itself, I decided to end the Maderna’s

work as it starts.

11
I could not forget the ‘Cosmic Microwave Background’ though, that is represented in the

improvisation by some very little cells of that first idea which return sometime during the

whole piece. Finally, I had found a good compromise to introduce and make this music

understandable to the public.

However, once all the theoretical and practical processes have been absorbed and the

general musical idea as well as the big picture of the piece have been gained,

why should I take the risk and play this piece differently every time?

This piece is one of the few works that allows the musician to have the role of the composer

and the player at the same time. It is something that has provoked and pushed me beyond

my limits many times. It has given me the opportunity to get in contact with the technique

of improvisation for the first time and it has given me the motivation to try to improvise

better than the previous performance every time, without ceding to the comfortable playing

of the identical music. It has helped me to be more spontaneous and at the same time it has

also taught me the importance of listening always to what I am playing during a

performance…a performance that should be based on the “Hic et Nunc” (Here and Now).

In this way the player is completely at the center of the moment.

Therefore, the musician is not only someone who improvises, but he is also a special

channel that can educate the audience in something deeper than the simple pleasure of

listening to something.

Every live performance is filled with many unrepeatable and unique moments, but

considering the piece’s ‘improvisational’ nature there is the possibility for so many precious

and rewarding moments.


12
The last time I played the ‘Serenata per un satellite’ by Bruno Maderna in a concert was

last December 2015 in Sardinia. While I was explaining the piece I asked to the audience:

“Which phrase was pronounced by Julius Caesar after leading his army across the river

Rubicone in Northern Italy?”. During the first few seconds they were looking at me, waiting

and wondering if I was going to give them the answer. And fortunately a person from the

back of the room said: “Il dado è tratto!”, which in English means “the dice is cast”.

Right after, I explained to them the reason of that question and my musical idea about it.

The phrase ‘Alea iacta est’ (The dice is cast) was pronounced by Julius Caesar on that

occasion and it is used nowadays when referring to a situation from which you cannot

return back anymore. However, the most important thing is that the phrase contains within

itself the Latin word ‘Alea’, which means dice – ‘Aleatoric Music’ takes its name from this

word. The ‘Serenata per un satellite’ is an example of Aleatoric Music, in which the final

result of the performance depends only on the performer’s choices during his playing,

because some elements of the composition are purely left to chance.

I feel myself very close to this phrase every time I play this piece in a recital because, once

you have begun, you will have to go till the end whether or not you win ‘the battle’.

Word Count: 2869

13
Reference List

· Arturo Tallini. Year 2008. Maderna Serenata per un satellite - Arturo Tallini.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol2H9DWq5Z0
[accessed 17 th December 2015]

· Guitalian Guitar Quartet. Year 2013. Serenata per un satellite by Bruno Maderna,
available in “Contemporary Italian Music for Guitar Quartet”. CD. Track 10. Label
Bridge Records Inc. [accessed 17 th December 2015]

· Maderna, B. 1969. Serenata per un satellite. G. Ricordi & Co.,S.p.a. ed. Milano.
[accessed 20th January 2016]

· Mila, Massimo (1999). Maderna musicista europeo, nuova edizione. P.126. Piccola
biblioteca Einaudi, nuova serie 17. Turin: Einaudi Editore. ISBN 88-06-15059-6
[accessed to the quote on the 15th December 2015; cited [online] either in
http://theartofalea.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/serenata-per-un-satellite-analisi-della.html
and http://www.novurgia.it/profili/compositori/comp_maderna.html]

· Ministriles. Year 2010. Serenata per un satellite, Bruno Maderna. Arturo Tallini.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hazwE9W4Vc0
[accessed 17th December 2015]

· Mode Records. Year 2013. Mode 260: Bruno Maderna | Serenata per un satellite.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4ZtDuAPM14
[accessed 17th December 2015]

· TheWelleszCompany. Year 2011. Bruno Maderna: Serenata per un satellite (1969).


[online] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZlvc4_0ox0
[accessed 17th December 2015]

14
Bibliography

· No author. No year of publication. Aleatoric Music (from Wikipedia). [online]


Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleatoric_music
[accessed 3rd January 2016]

· No author specified, considered “Novurgìa – Arte e Musica Contemporanea” as


author. No year. Bruno Maderna (1920-1973). [online] Available in Italian from:
http://www.novurgia.it/profili/compositori/comp_maderna.html
[accessed 15th December 2015]

· Arturo Tallini. Year 2008. Maderna Serenata per un satellite - Arturo Tallini.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol2H9DWq5Z0
[accessed 17th December 2015]

· Elle, Blog’s author. 26 June 2015. Serenata per un satellite: analisi della partitura.
[online] Article available in Italian on this blog:
http://theartofalea.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/serenata-per-un-satellite-analisi-della.html
[accessed 15th December 2015]

· Guitalian Guitar Quartet. Year 2013. Serenata per un satellite by Bruno Maderna,
available in “Contemporary Italian Music for Guitar Quartet”. CD. Track 10. Label
Bridge Records Inc. [accessed 17th December 2015]

· Maderna, B. 1969. Serenata per un satellite. G. Ricordi & Co.,S.p.a. ed. Milano.
[accessed 20th January 2016]

· Ministriles. Year 2010. Serenata per un satellite, Bruno Maderna. Arturo Tallini.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hazwE9W4Vc0
[accessed 17th December 2015]

· Mila, Massimo (1999). Maderna musicista europeo, nuova edizione. P.126. Piccola
biblioteca Einaudi, nuova serie 17. Turin: Einaudi Editore. ISBN 88-06-15059-6
[accessed to the quote on the 15th December 2015; cited [online] either in
http://theartofalea.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/serenata-per-un-satellite-analisi-della.html
and http://www.novurgia.it/profili/compositori/comp_maderna.html]

· Mode Records. Year 2013. Mode 260: Bruno Maderna | Serenata per un satellite.
[online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4ZtDuAPM14
[accessed 17th December 2015]

· TheWelleszCompany. Year 2011. Bruno Maderna: Serenata per un satellite (1969).


[online] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZlvc4_0ox0
[accessed 17th December 2015]

15