Performance Practice
of Electroacoustic Music

Bruno Maderna

Musica su due dimensioni


Bruno Maderna used the same title ‘Musica su due dimensioni’ for two different works. The first one was written in 1952 for flute, tape and cymbal, the second in 1958 for flute and tape (s. Scaldaferri Introduction to the edition of Musica su due Dimensioni (1952), Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milano, 2001, p. I). The present article refers to the second work and makes only minor references to the first one.

Musica su due dimensioni (1958) was written at RAI’s Studio di Fonologia in Milan. It is the first piece in which Maderna extensively used recorded instrumental sounds and their transformations (such as ring modulation, reverb, filtering, etc.) in addition to synthetically generated sounds, and it is one of the first compositions combining live acoustic instruments and sounds played from an electroacoustic source. The first performance of a preliminary version without the first section took place at the Naples Conservatory on June 11, 1958 with Severino Gazzelloni playing the flute part. The first performance of the complete piece was given only some weeks later in Darmstadt by the same flutist. Two editions of this piece exist, published by Suvini Zerboni (S.5573) and dating from 1959 and 1960, respectively. Only the last one is currently available.

The original idea stems from a previous plan to study the possibilities of combining acoustic and electronic sound. Maderna initially conceived a broad project of serial music, which should have involved other instruments as well, but due to technological limitations and lack of time, he finally decided to reshape the undertaking, writing a piece only for flute, cymbal and tape. The tape was realized at the Institut für Phonetik of the University of Bonn with the technical assistance of Werner Meyer-Eppler and was premiered at the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt on July 21, 1952.

The work from 1958 represents an important compositional step, since in the piece of 1952 there was no real integration between acoustic and electroacoustic sources. Musica su due dimensioni (1952) is divided in three sections: The first one is for solo tape, the second for solo flute and the last is again for tape and a single strike of the cymbal. It has a closed form with no aleatory elements and the tape as well as the flute materials are completely different from those of the work from 1958. Musica su due dimensioni (1958) on the other hand presents a real integration of flute and tape and the players are given a considerable amount of interpretative freedom. The music is notated without bars and offers different choices giving the opportunity to interact relatively freely with the tape. It can be significantly longer (up to approx. 11’30”  vs. approx. 7’ for the 1952’ work) and is divided into five sections: After the first solo section of the flute the tape enters and continues alone before superposing to the flute for a while in the second section. In sections III and V, the flute part is divided in fragments that can be played in different orders, and some of them can be repeated following certain rules. In section V, elements from section III can be repeated again. In both sections instrument and tape engage in an intensive dialogue. The fourth section is marked solo, but, as we will see below, a partial combination with the tape as in section II cannot be ruled out.

The tape can be described as a sequence of fragments separated by pauses of different length that can hardly be understood as musically measured articulations, rests, breaths or fermatas. This suggests that it was conceived as a material that can be organized in different ways (s. early performance history below). The tape includes electronic sounds as well as flute sounds with different degrees of transformation. The electronic sounds have a wide morphological variety and include pitched and noisy impulses, gestures and textures in different registers, dynamic levels and spatial qualities. The longest tape fragment contains an excerpt of the recording of the 1958 Köln performance that starts at the end of the first section of the flute part (third system, a♭2), includes the entrance of the tape and lasts until the end of section II. This excerpt was copied into channel two of the actual tape material starting at 4’04 and combined with other electronic sounds in channel one. This has a major formal impact on the piece: the second section of the flute can be presented in its entirety for a second time. On one hand this mirrors the repetition of flute fragments in parts III and V and their re-combination in V. Considering that this fragment contains materials also included in other tape fragments, this ‘recapitulation’ of section II expands a complex system of repetitions of materials in different musical contexts that increasingly blurs the initial linearity of the piece.

The title itself, Musica su due dimensioni, overtly recalls the idea of a synthesis between two different sound sources. The boundaries between them are not clearly articulated; on the contrary, Maderna organized the sonic material in a way that does not provide a clear aural perception of the different kinds of instrumental, processed and synthetic sounds. He created a colorful, prismatic texture from which elements emerge in a constant oscillation between fore- and background. The piece reflects a great interest in the idea of open form typical of the period. Maderna gets over the integral structuralism by means of statistical, casual and informal organization. His conception of open form is shaped also by the necessary empiricism of work in the studio, where technology at the time did not allow for a high degree of precision. This new relationship with the sonic matter was decisive for Maderna’s later use of aleatoric components in other compositions. In this sense, Musica su due dimensioni (1958) is a first important step in this direction. The score in fact forms a series of possibilities of interactions, and one of its key aspects resides in the opposition between something unpredictable by nature as the playing of the live instrument and a fixed and perfectly predictable source –albeit realized with some aleatoric techniques and the possibility of being played in different constellations.

Performance Material (Edizioni Suvini Zerboni)


The score contains a foreword by Maderna with indications about the coordination between flute and tape and about the use of the variable text in sections III and V according to an open form concept. Indications for the tape are found at the end of section I, “Inizio registrazione”, at section III “con registr. stereofonica” and at section V “Fl. e reg.”. Sections I, II and IV are indicated as solo, although according to the foreword, a free interchange between flute and tape after section II is possible, and this may include section IV as well.
The tape material provided by the publisher Edizioni Suvini Zerboni consists of several tape fragments of various lengths and channel structure, separated by silences of different lengths and with different channel distributions up to 2 channels in one single file. It was restored 1993 by AGON in Milan and is identical in length and content to the original tape from the archive of RAI / Studio di Fonologia (s. below). Differences consist mainly in the reduction of noise levels and the subsequent reduction of the dynamic range.
The inclusion of a fragments of an early recording as well as flute sounds and figures in the performance tape give rise to practical and aesthetical questions such as tuning (which can vary up to a ¼-tone downwards), the use of vibrato as well as the kind of articulation and dynamics preferred at that time, which belong to a specific historical and cultural context and may clearly differ from contemporary practice and taste.
An additional set of performance tapes owned by Alvise Vidolin has also been examined . It includes two files provided by Roberto Fabricciani for a performance at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, New York, November 21, 1995, with Michele Marrasco, flute and Luciano Berio, sound direction. It consists of edited materials from the original tape divided in two separate files. Differences include the omission of some fragments, the shortening of rests, the inversion of the channel layout and improved sound quality.


Archival material


RAI / Studio di Fonologia (Archivio di Fonologia, s. Nomus / Fondo Fonologia)
-Original tape material (tape E003)
-Recording of the performance in Naples, 1.6.1958 (tape E004)
-Recording of the performance in Köln, 1959 (tape E004)
Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt
-Recording of the performance in Darmstadt, September 5, 1958 (13. Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt)
Private archive Alvise Vidolin
-Tape material consisting of two separate 2-channel files edited from the original material (RAI / Studio di Fonologia) with durations 6’02” and 3’10” and inverse channel layout.

Authorial / Editorial instruction

The following comment is found in the introduction to the 1960 edition:

[1] “The recorded part (I section) that starts at the end of the first part of the flute should continue alone for at least 30“ and not longer than 2’, depending on the spatial and acoustic conditions. [2] The II part of the flute starts in the middle or towards the end of the first section of the tape and continues alone. [3] All the following parts will be woven together ad libitum, according to the interpretation of the soloist and the already mentioned acoustic and spatial conditions. [4] The III part of the flute can be performed interpolating and even repeating different fragments, excluding those written in parentheses, which should only be played once. The same can be said of part V (solo flute), which has no fragments in parentheses and therefore can be repeated ad libitum. In the V part, the soloist can interpolate the fragments of this part with those of part III, excluding again those within parentheses. Repetitions of the fragments should only be done alternating them, meaning that a given fragment cannot be repeated immediately, but only after a series of different fragments. [5] The whole performance of this piece should become a kind of bilateral interpretation of the soloist and the technician, an interpretation that can be „invented“ each time.“ (Translation by the editor).

The first two remarks define how the tape should be combined in sections I and II but without specifying which tape fragments constitute the “first section”. The second implies that the tape shall be stopped at some point during section II marking the end of the “first section”. The time limits of the solo segment for this section (between 30 and 120 seconds) imply that its duration may be longer than those values in order to allow at least for a short superposition with the flute. Accordingly, the performers must decide which fragments will belong to it and must take decisions about start points of both flute part and the tape fragments.

The third remark opens a wide field of interpretation with respect to what the “following parts” are (which fragments, how long, in which order?) and the way they will be “woven together”. The wording suggests the possibility of different combinations with a high degree of freedom (“ad libitum”) perhaps including overlaying, omitting and presenting materials in different orders in analogy to the combination of flute fragments in sections III and V, explained in the following remark. Even the possibility of repeating tape fragments must at least be considered.

The last remark emphasizes the spirit of the piece that was already implied in the third remark: a “bilateral invention”, suggesting that both performers should have the possibility to take decisions in dialogue with each other in order to produce different results in each performance.

There is no further information concerning issues such as spatial disposition of loudspeakers, musicians, amplification, etc.



The question of the tempi and the differences in the durations of notes and rests deserve special attention. The relatively slow tempo defined in Part II (eight note = 60) results in very long rests. The freedom in the time domain suggested by the notation and confirmed by the recordings gives the soloist the possibility to interact with the tape. In the following parts III-V, no tempo indications are found in the score and the question arises whether the tempo of the II section shall prevail.


Early performance history

Maderna’s early practice is witnessed in three historical recordings of performances in Naples (June 1, 1958), Darmstadt (September 5, 1958) where the first performance of the complete piece was given and Köln (1959), all performed by Severino Gazzelloni. It can be assumed that Maderna prepared the tapes himself.

A comparison of the use of tape materials in the three historic recordings show a dynamic process of selection and recombination of materials that is completely consistent with the composer’s concept and practice of electronic music with respect to the realization of the idea of open form. Maderna not only shortened and combined materials differently in different performances. He also omitted some fragments, reduced silences (as found in the Vidolin/Berio tapes), occasionally changed the order and combined them differently with the flute sections. We can thus assume that a larger set of materials was available and that he used a different selection each time. He even expanded this set with fragments from recordings of performances. Concerning the flute part, there are some minor differences between the performances and the published score. Additionally, in all recordings the durations of rests have been markedly reduced, adapted to the musical context or rests have been omitted altogether. In some recordings additional improvised elements can be found in parts III and V.


Performance report

Two time-aligned stereo pairs were used in concert: one behind the performer and a second one wider and closer to the audience.

A playing system based on a Max patch was prepared. The tape fragments were set as individual files and configured in a way allowing the tape performer to immediately access any one in any order and to overlap a maximum of three.

The selection and order of tape materials for a given venue was worked out during rehearsals based on, but not strictly following, the order in the publisher’s tape material. It was only partially fixed for the concert, leaving room for spontaneous interaction in parts III and V. Solo passages for the flute were left in sections II and IV. Sections III and V were left open. Only the transition to section IV was previously defined. The final situation at the end of section V was left open as well.

By the combination of three left side-headed fragments found in the first part of the tape, one fragment was channel inverted in order to allow for a more balanced sound image.

The dynamic level of single fragments was adjusted and the sound carefully equalized according to the system and the acoustic response of the room. In both halls the flute was slightly amplified in order to get a better blend of both “dimensions”.



In the recording produced on April 7, 2016[1] the solo and tape parts were recorded simultaneously in the same room.

This time, the number, order and starting points of the tape fragments as well as the starting points of the flute parts were defined and rehearsed in advance. Only the repetitions of the flute fragments in III and V were played differently in each take. Still, the length of pauses between fragments and the exact start of the single fragments was played according to the phrasing and the breathing of the flute. Again, wide solo passages were left in sections II and IV thus resonating with the very first concept of the piece. The fragments played in the first solo of the tape were allowed to slightly overlap.

Corrections in tuning were done locally by the flutist if predictable: due to the heterogeneity, openness and reiterative structure of the tape it is difficult for the flute player to memorize the tape perfectly.

Regarding tempo and duration of silences, Mr. Zołkos consciously remained close to the proportions found in the text at solo passages and took more advantage of the suggested freedom in mixed sections in order to better interact with the tape.

Again, the sound was equalized according to the loudspeakers and the room, the dynamic level of each fragment was carefully pre-set and dynamically changed during the recording in response to the dynamics of the flute. No reverb was added to the tape.

In order to avoid comb filter effects only two loudspeakers were used for recording. The 5.1 mix was done at the postproduction stage widening the sound space of the tape and trying to suggest the sense of a surrounding space in a real auditory.

[1] Zurich University of the arts, recording studio A. Rafal Zołkos, flute, Germán Toro Pérez, tape, Leandro Gianini and Florian Bogner, sound engineers, Carlos Hidalgo, musical assistance.

Selected Bibliography

De Benedictis, Angela Ida, Bruno Maderna et le “Studio di Fonologia” de la RAI de Milan, in: À Bruno Maderna, ed. G. Ferrari L. Feneyrou G. Mathon, Paris: Basalte, 2009, pp. 389-421.

Noller Joachim, Musica su due dimensioni e l’unidimensionalità della musica nuova: sul concetto di dimensione e sulla concezione di due dimensioni, in I Quaderni della Civica Scuola di Musica, Milano, 1992, n. 10/21-22, pp. 65-69.

Rizzardi Veniero, Scaldaferri Nicola, Musica su due dimensioni (1952). Histoire, vicissitudes et importance d’une œvre (presque) absente, in: À Bruno Maderna (ed. G. Ferrari L. Feneyrou G. Mathon), Paris: Basalte, 2009, pp. 423-448.

Scaldaferri, Nicola, Montage und Synchronisation: Ein neues musikalisches Denken in der Musik von Luciano Berio und Bruno Maderna, in: Elektroakustische Musik, ed. Elena Ungeheuer, Laaber: Laaber-Verlag, 2002, pp. 66 – 82.

Gasperini, Marco, Un campionatore per ‘Musica su due dimensioni’ di Bruno Maderna, in: Atti del XVII Colloquio di Informatica Musicale, BV, Radici Futuro, 2008, pp. 103-107.

Toro Pérez, Germán, Auctorial tradition and contemporary practice: performing ‘Musica su due dimensioni’ by Bruno Maderna (2016). Unpublished manuscript.


CD releases (selection)

Musica su due dimensioni: for flute and magnetic tape, Bruno Maderna,

Roberto Fabbriciani (Fl), Alvise Vidolin (Sound direction)

Arts Music, Flute XX, Vol. 2, 2004 (47702-2)

Music in two dimensions: works for flute, Bruno Maderna (1952 and 1958)

Mode Records,  2013, New York (N.Y.) (Mode 260)

Recordings: Florenz, 1982 und 2010

Roberto Fabbriciani (Fl), Alvise Vidolin (Sound direction)

Schematic Overview

Piece information:

Composer Bruno Maderna
Title Musica su due dimensioni
Year 1958
Type For flute and  tape
Duration ca. 11’
Publisher Suvini Zerboni


Rent material:

Renter Edizioni Suvini Zerboni
Format  1 single file, 2 channel
Duration 11’24


Archival material:

Paul Sacher Stiftung
Archivio di Fonologia Original tape material (tape E003)

Recording of the performance in Naples, June 1, 1958 (tape E004)

Recording of the performance in Köln, 1959 (tape E004)



Musikinstitut Darmstadt

Recording of the performance in Darmstadt, September 5, 1958

(13. Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt)


Commercial releases (selection):

Arts Music, Flute XX, Vol. 2, 2004 (47702-2), Roberto Fabbriciani (Fl), Alvise Vidolin (Sound direction)


Mode Records, 2013, New York (N.Y.) (Mode 260), Roberto Fabbriciani (Fl), Alvise Vidolin (Sound direction)