Vocal interpretations by Cathy Berberian
Introductory essay by Umberto Eco
Arco d'Alibert edizioni d'arte, Rome and Kiko Galleries, Houston, 1966.
In 1966 Cathy Berberian — described by Umberto Eco as ‘the greatest living contemporary music singer’ — was in search of new vocal stimuli for an experimental composition of hers. Eco suggests she should sing a series of comic-strip onomatopoeias and immediately thought of Eugenio Carmi because ‘it seemed clear that Carmi was the right person to visualize that material’. The encounter between the two artists was at once a stimulus for both and led to a deep friendship: ‘Cathy was an extraordinary artist, bursting with energy, and her character was closely reflected by her voice and gestures.’ Thus Carmi executed fourteen drawings: ’I shut myself up in my studio in Boccadasse and listened over and over again to the record of Cathy singing. In this way, in a month I was able to produce fourteen illustrations in which all the sung onomatopoeias were legible.’ Cathy Berberian successfully performed this work at the Bremen Festival and Eugenio Carmi displayed his drawings at the Galleria Arco d’Alibert in Rome. This gallery published a book entitled Stripsody containing Carmi’s drawings, a 45 rpm record of Cathy Berberian’s performance and an introduction by Umberto Eco, who also compiled a glossary for the book, giving a meaning to each onomatopoeia. An English edition of the book was published by the Kiko Gallery in Houston, which also produced a series of screen prints of Carmi’s drawings. These screen prints formed the stage sets for all of Cathy’s subsequent performances of Stripsody.