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IJMSTA - Vol. 4 - Issue 2 - July 2022
ISSN 2612-2146
Pages: 6

A Drama of Paralanguage: Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian's Visage

Authors: Misty Choi
Categories: Journal

Abstract - This essay examines the paralinguistic features of Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian's half-improvised electroacoustic work Visage (1961). The peculiarity of the vocal expression in the work is its substantial use of vocalics, such as laughing, sobbing, screaming, and crying, so that the work appears to be a textless drama imbued with emotions, or a "portrait of woman" in all her aspects. While the work invokes the issue regarding whether the incorporation of textless vocal expressions in radiophonic music can be treated as an intersection between music and language, this paper suggests viewing the issue from the perspective of paralanguage and the affective meaning associated with it. Paralanguage refers to the "non-linguistic and non-verbal communication behaviour in human interaction that modifies meaning and conveys a speaker's feeling and emotion". By evoking natural and affective meaning through paralanguage, other electroacoustic materials form various relations with the paralinguistic expressions. The essay concludes that the "pseudo-language" Berio and Cathy were experimenting with was a system to restructure the arbitrary and non-arbitrary relations between sound and meaning, so that conventional semantic meaning is unlocked through the evocation of a "theatre of the mind" in the audience's imagination.

Keywords: Music and Language, Electroacoustic music, Berio, Cathy Berberian, Studio di Fonologia Musicale

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Cite this paper as:
Choi, M. (2022). A Drama of Paralanguage: Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian's Visage. IJMSTA. 2022 July 01; 4 (2): 119-124.