Essential Repertoire: The Music of Sylvano Bussotti

Friday, December 6, 2019. 8:00 pm

Essential Repertoire: The Music of Sylvano Bussotti

Friday, December 6, 2019. 8:00 pm

Controversial and formidable, the Italian composer Sylvano Bussotti (b. 1931) is recognized in American academic circles for his intricate and poetic graphic scores, but is often overlooked as a trailblazing total-artist, whose 70-year career spans grand opera, theater, film, dance, and queer activism, and whose tenure in New York during the early 1960s formed strong alignments among John Cage’s circle. His successes have been in Europe, as a protean creator and mise-en-scène of spectacular experiments in music, art, and performance.

As part of Brooklyn’s mercurial Darmstadt series, the composer and pianist Luciano Chessa has organized an evening of Bussotti’s music with two fellow longtime Bussotti collaborators: cellist Frances-Marie Uitti and bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood. The program will feature realizations of some of Bussotti’s finest graphic scores, from Sette Fogli to Fogli d’Album to Autotono, and will include the NYC premiere of Bussotti’s Variazioni Chessa (2011)

Presented in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute as part of Notti Sylvane, a two-day mini festival organized by Luciano Chessa and Nick Hallett to broaden the scope of Bussotti’s work in New York. The launch event will be at the Italian Cultural Institute, Thursday, December 5th, featuring a lecture, musical performance, and screening of Bussotti’s film Rara (1967–69).

Luciano Chessa, pianist
Frances-Marie Uitti, cello
Nicholas Isherwood, bass-baritone


  1. Foglio grigiofrom Silvano Sylvano (2002-2004) for bass
  2. Centoundici tocchi a Stefano. Impromptus Cloirec (1999) for piano
  3. Isherwood Isherwood (2007) for bass and piano
  4. Fogli d’Album (1970) for cello, bass and piano


  1. Sensitivoper arco solo (from Sette fogli, 1959)
  2. Variazioni Chessa(2010) for piano and percussion
  3. Posto in capo from Tieste (1989/1993) for bass
  4. AUTOTONO (1978) for open ensemble

Frances-Marie Uitti, composer and cellist, is known for her performances of contemporary classical music. She is the dedicatee of close to 100 composers including Louis Andriessen, Giacinto Scelsi, and György Kurtág; and has collaborated closely and recorded with Scelsi, Nono, Xenakis, Cage. The Guardian recently wrote “Uitti is the world’s most influential avant-garde cellist.” Uitti has invented a radically extended technique using two bows simultaneously in one hand—being the first to transform the cello into a four-part chordal instrument. She has invented resonators, and designed electric instruments including her stringless 12-string double bridged cello at CNMAT, University of California, Berkeley. She is published by Contemporary Music Review, Cambridge University Press, Granta, and Arcana, among others. She has given masterclasses worldwide for composers and string players at Yale, Stanford, Juilliard, and Harvard among many others and teaches advanced students.

Bass Nicholas Isherwood has an extensive repertory, ranging from the Middle Ages to world premieres. He has worked with composers Sylvano Bussotti, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis in prestigious venues around the world (La Scala, Covent Garden, the Théatre des Champs Elysées, Salzburg Festival, Concertgebouw, Berlin Staatsoper, Vienna Konzerthaus, Tanglewood). Operatic roles include Bussotti’s Tieste, Mauricio Kagel’s Der Tribun, Paul Hindemith’s Lehrstück, Cage’s Song Books at at the Berlin Staatsoper, the Hotel Manager in Thomas Adès’ Powder her Face at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna and La Fenice, and Lucifer in the world premieres of Stockhausen’s Montag, Dienstag, and Freitag from Licht at La Scala and the Leipzig Opera and in Donnerstag aus Licht at Covent Garden. He has improvised with Steve Lacy, Joelle Léandre, Sainkho Namtchilak, and David Moss, recorded 60 cd’s for companies such as Naxos, Erato and Harmonia Mundi and appeared in three films. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Universität der Künste in Berlin.

Luciano Chessa is a composer, conductor, audiovisual and performance artist. His compositions include Cromlech, a large organ piece he premiered in Melbourne’s Town Hall in May 2018, the opera Cena oltranzista nel castelletto al lago—a work merging experimental theater with reality TV, which required from the cast over 55 hours of fasting—and A Heavenly Act, an opera commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with original video by Kalup Linzy. Chessa has been commissioned multiple times by the Performa Biennial, and in 2014 he presented three events at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as part of the exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe. Chessa is also a music historian specializing in 20th-century Italian and 21st-century American repertoire. He is the author of Luigi Russolo Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult (2012), the first book dedicated to Russolo and his “Art of Noise.” In 2009, his Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners (OFNI) was hailed by the New York Times as one of the best events of the year; Chessa has conducted this project across the USA and internationally to sold out houses. Chessa’s music has been published by Rai Trade and Carrara, and has released by Sub Rosa and Stradivarius. His record, “Canti felice” was August 2018 Record of the Month for one of Italy’s leading music magazines, Rumore. His most recent record, The Noise of Art, produced by Prague’s OPO, came out in March 2019. He recently conducted Julius Eastman’s Symphony No. II, the world premiere of which he conducted at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with Mannes Orchestra. The New York Times has described Chessa’s rendition as a work that “radiates Cosmic Grandeur”.

Darmstadt is the presenting series led by composers Nick Hallett and Zach Layton, known for staging radical re-interpretations of works from the experimental music canon, including John Cage, Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alvin Lucier, and Anthony Braxton. Originally conceived in 2004 as a casual listening event of avant-garde recordings, Darmstadt quickly began hosting informal, modern-classical music concerts in nightclubs, and within a few years had evolved into a presenter of festivals and large-scale performances. A five-year partnership with ISSUE Project Room resulted in two annual initiatives, Essential Repertoire and Darmstadt Institute New York. Darmstadt presents a celebrated, annual concert of Terry Riley’s In C.

Nick Hallett is a composer, vocalist, and cultural producer.  He is currently the Music Director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and has toured with the group for the past five years as composer and performer.  He received a New York Dance & Performance “Bessie” Award for Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd (2016), made in collaboration with Ishmael Houston Jones and Miguel Gutierrez.  With artist Shana Moulton, he shaped Whispering Pines 10 (2010), an opera adaptation of Moulton’s cult video art series.  The opera has been redeveloped for the internet and as an installation.  Acting as Music Director to the multimedia artist Joshua White, Hallett helped produce a decade-long revival of the iconic Joshua Light Show.  He continues to present new music concerts with Zach Layton, as part of the long-running Darmstadt series.  www.gutcity.com

Zach Layton is a guitarist, composer, curator, teacher, and visual artist based in High Falls, NY. His work explores emergent visual and auditory phenomena occurring in space, time, sound, and light. He has composed orchestral music for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony and the String Orchestra of Brooklyn and has performed and exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum, The Kitchen, MoMa/PS1, ISSUE Project Room, Roulette, EMPAC, Eyebeam, International Computer Music Festival, Experimental Intermedia, Performa, Exit Art, SculptureCenter, Transmediale Berlin, SCOPE Art Foundation, Audio Art Festival Krakow, and many other venues in New York and worldwide. Layton is also founder of the experimental music series, Darmstadt: Classics of the Avant Garde (co-curated with Nick Hallett), former co-curator of the MoMa/PS1 WarmUp music series, and former curator of Issue Project Room. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music Production at Ramapo College in New Jersey.

Essential Repertoire: The Music of Sylvano Bussotti is co-presented by Italian Cultural Institute, Darmstadt NYC, and Roulette.

Photo: © Roberto Masotti / Lelli Masotti Archivio.