The Labyrinth: Musical Intuitions in an Open Work

by Antonella Di Giulio
University at Buffalo
AMS-SW Conference, Spring 2015
University of North Texas

Poster Abstract

For his theorization of the open work Eco used some musical examples characterized by the autonomy granted to the performers. Music scholars have often interpreted Eco’s choices as an apodictic proposition for the definition of openness in music. But this selection portrays an ambiguity between a finished work and a work in progress delivered as finished, allowing as many interpretations as interpretants.

The purpose of my analysis is to investigate Eco’s theory intended as a process of formation: also the composition process, which starts from the composer’s intuition of the work, might be regarded as the transformation into an encyclopedic labyrinth of an initial idea contained in a defined shape. Using Sciarrino’s Etude de concert (1976) and Petrassi’s first Invenzione (1944) as a point of departure, I’ll analyze closure and openness through the motivic development. These compositions belong to the period of Eco’s postulation of the open work, do not allow improvisation, and yet follow a logic based on the elaboration of an initial image. In Sciarrino’s Etude flanging and filtering techniques contribute then to a sense of unlimited development. Petrassi develops an idea as “a series of musical events self-generated according to the needs of the imagination”.
This logic can be summarized in Berio’s notion of formation versus form, described as “the real enriching experience.” Generated from dissimilar routes, such composition processes reflect the idea of a possible unlimited semiosis delimited into a chosen structure and transform in open work any amorphous intuition of the artist.



Click image to enlarge or click here for a pdf version