Keep Going: The Text of the Third Movement of Berio's Sinfonia

[Editorial note: Here is a more flowing transcription of the third movement; the transcription of the entire work, in a more academic manner can be found in this posting. The spirit of this transcription is to try to capture a little of what the piece sounds like. I've filled in the blanks, so to speak, in honor of a wonderful performance I heard from the BSO, lead by David Robertson. Those who are interested in every word in the score, complete with punctuation and every last "Keep going!" should consult the other transcription. That one is complete with everything you can't hear, no matter how many times you listen or how many different recordings you own.]

A couple of days ago, someone came to my Carnival of Music post searching for words from the third movement of Berio's Sinfonia. I sympathized with this person; I had searched very hard in vain for its text, unable to find it on the internet. I got it the only way I could: when I visited my college, I stopped by the music library with my laptop and copied the whole thing out of the score.

As a public service, here is my copy. It should be noted that there are many overlaps and repetitions, not all of which are reflected below. I don't claim this to be definitive; if you have any questions, check the score.

I'll also note that there is one error in the score that I'm silently correcting.



This represents at least a thousand words I was not counting on. I may well be glad of them But seeing Daphne and Chloé written in red, counting the seconds while nothing has happened but the obsession with the with the chromatic and the chromatic again

I am in the air, the walls, everything yields, opens, ebbs, flows like the play of waves--

Yes, I feel the moment has come for us to look back, if we can and take our bearings if we are to go on. Yes, I feel the moment has come for me to look back. I must not forget this, I have not forgotten it. But I must have said it before, since I say it now. They think I am alive, not in a womb, either... Well, so there is an audience it’s a fantastic public performance -- and the curtain comes down for the ninth time. You never noticed you were waiting. You were waiting alone, that is the show. Keep going.

I shall say my old lessons now, if I can remember it then I shall have lived they think I am alive, not in a womb, either, even that takes time.

it is as if we were rooted, that’s bonds if you like – the earth would have to quake. it isn’t the earth, one doesn’t know what it is-- But you all know that they will bring me to the surface one day or another and there will be a brief dialogue in the dunes-- maybe a kind of competition on the stage, with just eight female dancers and words falling. you don’t know where, where now -- under the sun -- who now? But now I shall say my old lessons if I can remember it. I most not forget this. But I must have said it before, since I say it now.

I am listening. Well, I prefer, that, I must say I prefer that, oh you know, oh you, oh I suppose the audience, well well, so there is an audience, it’s a public show, you buy your seat and you wait, perhaps it’s free, a free show, you take your seat and you wait for it to begin, or perhaps it’s compulsory, a compulsory show...

you wait for the compulsory show to begin, it takes time, you hear a voice, perhaps it is a recitation, that is the show, someone reciting, selected passages, old favourites, or someone improvising, you can barely hear him, that’s the show, you can’t leave, you are afraid to leave, you make the best of it, you try to be reasonable, you came too early, here we’d need latin, it’s only the beginning, it hasn’t begun, he’ll appear any moment, he’ll begin any moment

He is only preluding, clearing his throat, alone in his dressing room, or it’s the stage-manager giving his instructions, his last recommendations before the curtain rises-- that is the show -- that’s the show waiting for the show, to the sound of a murmur, you try to be reasonable, perhaps it is not a voice at all, perhaps it’s the air, ascending, descending, flowing, eddying, seeking exit, finding none, and the spectators, where are they, you didn’t notice, in the anguish of waiting, never noticed you were waiting alone, that is the show, for the fools, in the palace, waiting -- the brightest star -- waiting alone that is the show waiting alone in the restless air, for it to begin, while every now and then a familiar passacaglia ] filters through the other noises waiting, for something to begin, for there to be something else but you, for the power to rise, the courage to leave, picking your way through the crossed colors, seeking the cause, losing it again, seeking no longer. We shall overcome the incessant noised, for as Henri says, if this noise would stop there’d be nothing more to say. You try and be reasonable, perhaps you are blind, probably deaf, the show is over, all is over, but where then is the hand, the helping hand, or merely charitable, or the hired hand, it’s a long time coming, to take yours and draw you away, that is the show, free, gratis, and for nothing, waiting alone, blind, deaf, you don’t know where, you don’t know for what, for a hand to come and draw you away, somewhere else, where perhaps it’s worse. It’s a real pleasure upon my word it is to be unable to drown under such conditions in a lake full of colors far from my walls

I am here so little, I see it, I feel it round me it enfolds me, it covers me, if only this voice would stop, for a second, it would seem long to me, a second of silence I would listen, I’d know if it was going to start again or if it was stilled for ever what would I know it with, I’d know. And I’d keep on listening I’d know if it was going to start again it’s late now, and he is still talking incessantly, any old thing, repetition after repetition, talking unceasingly, in yourself, outside yourself

It’s late now, he shall never hear again the lowing cattle, the rush of the stream. In a chamber, dimensions unknown, I do not move and never shall again on long road or short. But the fact is I trouble no one. But I did. And after each group disintegration, the name of Majakowsky hangs in the clean air.

And when they ask, why all this, it is not easy to find an answer. For when we find ourselves, face to face, now, here, and they remind us all this can’t stop the wars, can’t make the old younger or lower the price of bread -- say it again, louder! -- it can’t stop the wars, can’t make the old younger or lower the price of bread, can’t erase solitude or dull the tread outside the door, we can only nod, yes, it’s true, but no need to remind, to point, for it is all with us, always, except, perhaps at certain moments, here among these rows of balconies, in a crowd or out of it, perhaps waiting to enter, watching. And tomorrow we’ll read that Stravinsky's Firebird made tulips grow in my garden and altered the flow of the ocean currents. We must believe it’s true. There must be something else. Otherwise it would be quite hopeless. But it is quite hopeless. Unquestioning. But it can’t go on. It, say it, not knowing what. It’s getting late. Where now? When now? I have a present for you. Keep going, page after page. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on. But wait. He is barely moving, now, almost still. Should I make my introductions?

But now it’s done, it’s over, we’ve had our chance. There was even, for a second, hope of resurrection, or almost, Mein junges Leben hat ein End. We must collect our thoughts, for the unexpected is always upon us, in our rooms, in the street, at the door, on a stage. Thank you, Mr. David Robertson


Anonymous said...

I just want to say that you are my hero for doing that. I attempted to copy out by hand all the words from the score, but failed miserably as I tried to figure out which voice would get precedence over the others...I wound up with a horrific space poem that lasted about three minutes into the piece.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, my eyes were getting buggered up squinting at the score.

Anonymous said...

great work. I used the academic version, but it's thanks to you.
I'm doing a presentationon 'conscioussness / self awareness in berio's sinfonia', and the text is an integral part!

Thomas said...

What an excellent contribution! Thank you for taking the time to do this.