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A-ronne (author's note)

A-Ronne
Documentary on a poem by Edoardo Sanguineti (1974)
for five actors

In A-Ronne, composed in May 1974 at Hilversum for the Dutch Radio, I tackle again an old problem which is as vast and ancient as language itself, and is also the fundamental problem and theme of all vocal music: vocal articulation (in its broadest sense) is meaning.
Strictly speaking A-Ronne is not a musical composition - even if the procedures which often organize its course are musical (use of inflections and intonations, development of alliterations and transitions between sound and noise, occasional use of elementary melodies, polyphonies and heterophonies). The musical sense of A-Ronne is primordial: that is, it is common to all experiences, from daily speech to theatre, where changes in expression imply and document changes in meaning. This is why I prefer to define this work as a documentary on a poem by Edoardo Sanguineti, as one would say a documentary on a painting or on an exotic country. Originally conceived as a radio programme, A-Ronne may suggest perhaps a tenuous connection with the representative madrigals, that is the theatre of the ears (of the mind, we would call it now) of the late 16th century.
Sanguineti’s poem is not treated as a text to set to music but rather as a text to be analysed and as a generator of vocal situations and different expressive characters. The poem, repeated about twenty times and almost always from beginning to end, is divided in three short strophes: the theme of the first strophe is the Beginning, the theme of the second is the Middle, and that of the third one is the End. The text is rigorously and obsessively built from quotations in different languages that go from the beginning of the New Testament of John (in Latin, Greek and German: Luther’s translation and changes made by Goethe in his Faust) to a verse by T. S. Eliot; from a verse by Dante to the first words of the Communist Manifesto; from a few words of an essay by Barthes on Bataille to the three abbreviations (Ette, Conne, Ronne, in their Florentine designation) with which in old Italian dictionaries the alphabet concluded after Z: hence the saying, no longer in use, “dalla A al Ronne” instead of “dalla A alla Z”.
The musical sense of A-Ronne is to be found in the relation that is established between a written text and a “grammar” of vocal behaviour, between a poem that is constantly faithful to its own words and a vocal articulation that continuously modifies its meaning and its referential aspects. It happens that the two levels (that of the written text and that of the vocal behaviour) always interact in a different way, always producing new meanings. This is exactly what happens in all vocal music and in daily speech, where the relation between the two levels (the grammatical one and the acoustic one) is substantially responsible for the infinite possibilities of human speech and singing.

Luciano Berio