Cathy Berberian's Stripsody: An Excess of Vocal Personas in Score and Performance

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In her close professional relationship to composers, such as Luciano Berio, John Cage, Hans Werner Henze, Igor Stravinsky and Sylvano Bussotti, Cathy Berberian has productively tainted historical preconceptions about the authorial “work” and the role of the singer in the realization of the composer’s creation. Her flamboyant character on the concert stage, where she showcased her more popular work, captured the public’s imagination. The success of this performer–audience rapport was intrinsic to the singer’s performative persona; however Pieter Verstraete argues that through her own composed work ("Stripsody" is the best known), Berberian presented a myriad of personas. She achieved this primarily by deconstructing her own voice as instrument and object, thereby subverting the stability of her relationship to the authorial power of the musical score. Consequently, Berberian’s work invites us to rethink the authorial position of the composer in relation to the singer/performer as well as the enhanced position of the listener whose function it is to imagine such personas in relation to seeing and hearing the performer’s singing body over a number of changing instances.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCathy Berberian
Subtitle of host publicationPioneer of Contemporary Vocality
EditorsPamela Karantonis, Francesca Placanica, Pieter Verstraete
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781315571072
ISBN (Print)9780367669294, 9781409469834
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cathy Berberian
  • Stripsody
  • voice studies
  • vocal persona
  • opera studies
  • anthology
  • voice art
  • audio culture
  • women composers
  • art history
  • feminism
  • vocal pedagogy
  • sound studies
  • listening
  • music theatre

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