Pioneer of Contemporary Vocality and Performance

Date: 27 and 28 April 2006
Location: University Theater, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam

This International Conference presents a variety of approaches to the cultural legacy of Cathy Berberian (1925-1983) from various disciplines in the Humanities. Berberian was an extraordinary vocal performance artist, a cant’actrice, who broke with musical conventions and found unheard€™ ways of bringing the voice to meaningful expressions. Her invaluable legacy and contribution to the development of electro-vocal music calls for an interdisciplinary approach.

Cathy Berberian did not accept the traditional dichotomy between “€˜high brow”€™ and “low brow”€™ music and constantly strived for cross-overs with pop culture and folk music. She had a big influence on many avant-garde composers and vocal/theatrical performers after 1950. A muse and an inspirer, she remained in the shadows of the composers and the authors with whom she collaborated. This solicits a discussion on the status of the performing musician as co-author, and on the differentiation between score and vocality/theatricality, as well as the gender aspects involved.

This Conference brings Berberian’s pioneering work to the foreground through lectures and discussions, and attempts to place it in a broader historical context of contemporary vocality and musical performance art. Guest speakers are among others composers Louis Andriessen and Sylvano Bussotti, vocalist and music professor Carol Plantamura, biographer Marie Christine Vila and musicologist David Osmond-Smith. International academics will discuss the work of Cathy Berberian and issues of contemporary vocality in relation to their latest research.

Furthermore, the award-winning documentary on Cathy Berberian “€˜Music Is The Air I Breathe” (1994) by Carrie de Swaan will be shown, as well as unpublished archive materials of various performances. A concert, in co-operation with the Muziekgebouw, will close the program on April 28.

If you want to be kept updated on the Conference’s schedule, please visit the official website at


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