Collaboration at the Studio di Fonologia della RAI in Milan (1955-1983)

Berio, Zuccheri, Maderna, Lietti, Castelnuovo at the RAI Studio di Fonologia in Milan

This week, I will be in the conference TCPM (Tracking the Creative Process in Music) at the University of Huddersfield, UK (September 14-16). In this context I will do an oral presentation of my latest research and will focus on the origins, dynamics and evolution of collaboration at the Studio di Fonologia della RAI in Milan (1955-1983).


Electroacoustic music is a very good example of music in which technologies engender new creative processes as a network, a collective of human agents organised within a collaborative system. I’ve been studying this collaboration for some time now, driven by the desire to unveil the role of those people who helped composers in the making of musical pieces now considered to be milestones in the history of electroacoustic music.

In this communication, I will address the origins, dynamics and evolution of collaboration at the Studio di Fonologia della RAI (hereafter SFM) in Milan (1955-1983). I have been working with a systematic analytic approach of different kind of sources which covers the role played not only by Marino Zuccheri – chief sound techinician and music assistant/collaborator of Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, Henri Pousseur among others – but also by physicits Alfredo Lietti, who ‘designed’ the technical equipment at SFM in 1955, and a plethora of other persons working in the broadcasting company RAI at the time involved in the recording process, installation, studio wiring and cabling.

In 2008, Umberto Eco presented his insights as regards the role sound technician Marino Zuccheri could have had to play in achieving many of the musical pieces: he suggested that Zuccheri’s contribution was so strong that in some cases electronic pieces going under other names were really his. As he recalled «all the protagonists of Neue Musik used to pass by there and it is fair to recall that, since many of them were in Milan to study with scholarships and had to present a complete composition at the end of their term, and the period had not been long enough to master all nine oscillators secrets, great Marino Zuccheri would put together an acceptable composition with a couple of moves, thus many of electronic music incunabula are his and not from those authors who signed them» (Eco 2008).

In their writings and statements, composers who worked at the SFM in those days, did recognize the presence and contribution of musical assistants and technicians. However, it is more difficult to reconstruct the dynamics of this collaboration and the mode of thoughts. Other than a lively interview with Zuccheri with interesting remarks on the work methods he used with composers (published in De Benedictis – Rizzardi 2000), not much has remained specifically dedicated to the topic of collaboration. My research tries to combine a comparative study based on heterogenous sources, in order to reconstruct Zuccheri and other technicians’ interventions, and some of those collaborations occurred at the SFM with John Cage, Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Prix Italia. I will report findings based on archival research, unpublished sources (written, oral and video) and administrative documents, conserved now at NoMus Association in Milan (director: Maria Maddalena Novati). Moreover, writings published over the past 60 years dedicated to the SFM are also useful when mentioning collaboration at the SFM, although in a dispersed and fragmented way, as in (Zuccheri 1962; Lietti 1956; Scaldaferri 1997; Vidolin 1998; De Benedictis – Rizzardi 2000).

The observation of the collected data can give an understanding, at least the attempt to understand, of the protocol collaborative process: synchronicity, diachronicity, areas of expertise, problems, communication, coordination, mode of thoughts of the protagonists at the SFM.

As I will also ascertain, this research introduces a parallel level of historiographical investigation. The history of the scattered “studies on Marino Zuccheri’s collaborations” – which led to the publication and the organization of some events during the 2000s – generates some interesting remarks based on lost documents, a symposium and many stories that were never recorded.

Complete program of the conference here:

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