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Laborintus II (2012 recording)

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Laborintus II
Laborintus II.jpg
Live album by Mike Patton and Ictus Ensemble
Released July 10, 2012
Recorded June 18, 2010
Length 32:09
Language Italian, English[1]
Label Ipecac Recordings (IPC-133)
Producer Mike Patton, Greg Werckman, Lieven Bertels, Jean-Luc Plouvier
Mike Patton chronology
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
(2011)The Solitude of Prime Numbers2011
Laborintus II

Laborintus II is a 2012 album by Belgian orchestra Ictus Ensemble, vocal group Nederlands Kamerkoor and American vocalist Mike Patton. It is a recording of the 1965 work of the same name by Italian composer Luciano Berio, which featured lyrics taken from fellow Italian Edoardo Sanguineti's 1956 poem Laborintus. The performance was recorded live at the 2010 Holland Festival.

Berio's composition employs elements of jazz and electronic music, and Sanguineti's libretto borrows ideas from the works of Dante Alighieri, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound as well as using his own original work. Berio named "memory, death and usury" as the work's main concerns, believing these themes to be present in Dante's work.[2]

Released on July 10, 2012, the album debuted at number 23 on the American Billboard Classic Albums chart. It has received mixed reviews from critics, most of whom highlighted its challenging and free-form composition.


Laborintus II is a recording of the 1965 composition of the same name by Luciano Berio, who wrote it for the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri's birth.[3] The libretto was provided by Edoardo Sanguineti,[2] who included elements of his 1956 poem Laborintus in it. AllMusic's Thom Jurek described the original poem as speaking of "the timelessness of love and mourning, while acting as a critique of the commoditization of all things".[4] In addition to Sanguineti's own poetry—itself based on themes found in Dante's Divina Commedia, Convivio and La Vita Nuova—the work uses excerpts from the Bible and the writings of poets T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Musically, Laborintus II incorporates elements of jazz and electronic music while sometimes evoking the style of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi.[3]

Berio described the main structure of Laborintus II as a "catalogue, in its medieval meaning" (exemplified by the Etymologies of Isodore of Seville), using Dante's themes of "memory, death and usury".[2] Members of the Dutch choir Nederlands Kamerkoor, which performed in the recording, have also cited usury as a key theme in the work, describing the composition as "an indictment against the practice".[nb 1][5] Of the form, Berio wrote: "Individual words and sentences are sometimes to be regarded as autonomous entities, and sometimes to be perceived as part of the sound structure as a whole."[2] The instrumentation of Laborintus II was written as an "extension" of the vocal material; its electronic section is likewise an extension of the instrumental music.[2] Berio used car tyres and a blow-up doll on stage in a performance of the work at the Holland Festival in 1973.[6]

The album was recorded live at the Holland Festival on June 18, 2010, in the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. The work was performed by Mike Patton and the Belgian Ictus Ensemble conducted by Georges-Elie Octors. Solos were performed by Ictus Ensemble clarinetist Dirk Descheemaeker, trumpeter Loïc Dumoulin, trombonist Michel Massot, double bass player Géry Cambier, and percussionists Michael Weilacher and Gerrit Nulens.[7] Nederlands Kamerkoor provided the choral accompaniments. The album marks only the third recording of the composition to have been released since it was first broadcast on French radio by Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française.[8] Patton has said of the work, "I can listen to Berio and Nono as easily as I can to Morricone but like all modern music of Italy, it is unfortunately marginalized ... Maybe because of the language barrier, maybe because it’s not easily understood. Berio, who was teaching in California when he wrote this piece, was listening to jazz, pop and folk music and incorporated all of it in his works without prejudice."[6]


A grey-haired man holding one hand to his face
A coloured engraving of a man in a red robe with a red-and-white hat, viewed in profile
Laborintus II features a libretto by Edoardo Sanguineti (left), based on the work of Dante Alighieri (right, portrait by Giotto).

Laborintus II combines orchestral, choral and spoken elements throughout its three parts.[9][10] Patton's spoken narration is delivered in Italian,[4] although taped samples feature Sanguineti speaking in English.[1] From a whisper to a shout, the words carry a variety of emotional tones as the work progresses. The choral parts respond to the narration both with unified chanting and with disjointed arguing, the latter serving to increase the tension.[4] They are accompanied by three female vocalists[9] whose voices range from soprano singing[10] to "cooing" and "howling".[4]

The music incorporates elements of jazz[3][9] and 20th-century avant-garde.[10] The instruments in the orchestra frequently interrupt both each other and the female voices,[9] and some sections of the composition seem as though they are improvised.[4] Laborintus II makes use of both traditional percussion instruments and electronic sounds, and their interplay serves to "erect musical and textural architectures, then disassemble them quickly".[4] Max Feldman has compared the style to that of Raymond Scott.[9]

The first part of the composition features the three female voices creating a "mournful" tone while the orchestra plays recurring musical passages.[11] The second part is a discordant crescendo,[11] as Patton's narration becomes increasingly shouted and the orchestral accompaniment more "hyperactive".[9] The third and final part returns to a calmer tone, focussing on drums and jazz woodwind instruments.[11]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 58[12]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllRovi 3.5/5 stars[4]
The A.V. Club B−[11]
Consequence of Sound 3/5 stars[13]
PopMatters 7/10 stars[9]
Spin 7/10 stars[14]
Sputnikmusic 3.5/5 stars[10]

Laborintus II was released on July 10, 2012, through Patton's record label Ipecac Recordings.[4] In the United States, the album debuted on the Billboard Classic Albums chart at number 23; it spent one week on the chart.[15]

The album received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Metacritic awarded it an average score of 58 out of 100, based on eight reviews.[12] Writing for The A.V. Club, Chris Mincher rated the album B−, calling it "challenging, uncompromising, and bordering on inaccessible".[11] Mincher felt that the album was abstract and difficult but contained "hidden payoffs" to reward repeated hearings. He called Patton's arrangements "haunting" and "wraithlike".[11] AllRovi's Thom Jurek rated the album 3.5 stars out of 5, describing the recording as "a very nearly dazzling endeavor that rewards patience mightily".[4] Jurek felt that, as an album, Laborintus II was difficult to grasp at first, by virtue of being a recording of theatrical music, but he praised the performance of Ictus Ensemble, writing of their "bracing freshness and mischievous glee".[4] Eli Kleman of Sputnikmusic rated it 3.5 out of 5, finding it "fascinating if not unwieldy".[10] He felt that Laborintus II was perhaps Patton's most ambitious album to date, but noted that the musician has previously produced similarly avant-garde records in the past. Kleman described the composition as "somber, beautiful, and ominous, but always affecting".[10]

Max Feldman of PopMatters awarded Laborintus II a rating of seven out of ten, finding Berio's composition "challenging" and "exhausting".[9] He noted the work's free jazz elements, comparing it to the 1970 Miles Davis album Bitches Brew. Feldman felt that the music "constantly emphasises its own unpredictability".[9] Consequence of Sound's Carson O'Shoney rated the album three stars out of five, calling it "unlike anything else you’ve ever heard".[13] O'Shoney felt that the music might need more than one hearing to appreciate it, adding that it "runs the gauntlet from quiet, jazzy atmospherics to brazen, unsettling primal noise".[13] A review for Q magazine described Laborintus II as "tedious", finding the album disorienting.[16] Spin's Christopher R. Weingarten rated it 7 out of 10, calling it an "orchestra/tape collision crisper".[14]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Edoardo Sanguineti; all music composed by Luciano Berio.

No. Title   Length
1. Untitled [nb 2] 11:38
2. Untitled   15:03
3. Untitled   5:28
Total length: 32:09


A man in a red suit standing in front of a microphone stand, with one arm raised
Patton (pictured) and Ictus Ensemble performed Laborintus II live in 2010.
  • Luciano Berio – composer
  • Edoardo Sanguineti – libretto
  • Georges-Elie Octors – conductor
  • Mike Patton – narrator
  • Nederlands Kamerkoor – choir
  • Annet Lans – voice
  • Margriet Stok – voice
  • Karin van der Poel – voice
  • Klaas Stok – chorus master
  • Michael Schmid – flute
  • Dirk Descheemaeker – clarinet
  • Carlos Galvez – clarinet
  • Dries Tack – clarinet
  • Samia Bousbaïne – harp
  • Jutta Troch – harp
  • Philippe Ranallo – trumpet
  • Michaël Tambour – trumpet
  • Loïc Dumoulin – trumpet
  • Alain Pirre – trombone
  • Michael Massot – trombone
  • Nicholas Villers – trombone
  • Geert De Bièvre – cello
  • Françoise Deppe – cello
  • Géry Cambier – double bass
  • Michael Weillacher – percussion and drums
  • Gerrit Nulens – percussion and drums


  1. ^ Original text—"Het libretto kan gelezen worden als een aanklacht tegen de praktijk van woekeraars".[5]
  2. ^ The three tracks are not titled on the album itself,[17] and have variously been given as "untitled"[4] or "Part 1", "Part 2" and "Part 3" respectively.[10]


  1. ^ a b Album notes, pp. 12–21.
  2. ^ a b c d e Berio, Luciano. "Laborintus II (author's note)". Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Posarelli, Umberto. "Laborintus II, for 3 voices, 8 actors, speaker, ensemble & tape". Allmusic. AllRovi. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Jurek, Thom. "Listen to Luciano Berio: Laborintus II by Ictus Ensemble – Album Reviews, Credits, Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Holland Festival: Laborintus II" (in Dutch). Nederlands Kamerkoor. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Roffman, Michael (May 2, 2012). "Mike Patton honors Luciano Berio with Laborintus II". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved August 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ Album notes, p. 1.
  8. ^ Album notes, p. 2.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Feldman, Max (July 2, 2012). "Mike Patton & Ictus Ensemble: Laborintus II". PopMatters. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Kleman, Eli (July 23, 2012). "Mike Patton and Luciano Berio Laborintus II (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Mincher, Chris (July 3, 2012). "Mike Patton: Laborintus II | Music | MusicalWork Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Luciano Berio: Laborintus II Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c O'Shoney, Carson (July 3, 2012). "Album Review: Mike Patton – Laborintus II". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Weingarten, Christopher R. (July 9, 2012). "Mike Patton, 'Laborintus II' (Ipecac)". Spin. Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Mike Patton – Chart history". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Critic Reviews for Luciano Berio: Laborintus II". Metacritic. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  17. ^ Album notes, pp. 1–22.


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