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Ursula & David Bellugi

«My God, what prices!» Those were the words that Luciano had me declaim in the performance that he gave of Passaggio in Cambridge, MA.* It was the 1960's, and I was just getting my degree and working in the new field of psycholinguistics, together with my mentor, Edward Klima. We taught a class at MIT in new findings, and in the back row of the class, among the students, there was a quiet tousel-haired older man who came regularly and asked interesting questions. We talked together, and he introduced himself as Luciano Berio, the Italian composer. We became friends, and he came often to Sunday brunches at our tower in the midst of Central Square. On occasion, my two sons and I would go to visit him, in his place in Massachusetts and elsewhere. I still have one of his drawings -- a portrait by Luciano driving a little blue car, with my sons tossing huge earth balls back and forth in the air above the scene.

Luciano: he was always gentle, brilliant, incredibly creative, exciting and passionately interested in everything, all the arts, anything about language, linguistics, word plays, cognitive psychology, James Joyce, Paul Ekman and his myriad of facial expressions. Luciano was always passionate about interweaving language and linguistics and other forms of communication into his musical compositions. The friendship and lively conversations continued long after Luciano returned to Italy and we moved to The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

*When I told Luciano that I couldn’t attend all of the rehearsals because I had two young boys he said, «No problem, we’ll put them in the opera, too» and promptly gave them two lines, «Ein, Zwei, polizei. Komm komm» that they boldly declamed at the proper moment.

Ursula Bellugi


I didn’t know Luciano as a boy but I certainly knew the boy in Luciano. I remember the day and the drawing well! My mother took my brother and I to visit Luciano in Weehawken, New Jersey, circa 1966 when Luciano was teaching at the Juilliard School of Music. I was twelve years old and my brother, Rob, eight. I remember Luciano playing with the two of us for what seemed like hours. Together we stuffed a pair of his pants with rags and added shoes to make it look like there was a man hiding under his bed, he taught us how to bounce down the stairs on our rear ends, something that we did gleefully over and over again, hence the drawing. In retrospect, I’m sure that he was multitasking, willingly entering our children’s world for brief moments and giving us fun “boy” things to do so that it seemed like he was with us all day when in actual fact it was probably only for a few minutes at a time. A quarter of a century later, I was fortunate enough to witness this same, wonderful phenomenon as Luciano playfully engaged in the world of Dani and Yoni, when I spent a glorious week with them in Radicondoli preparing a concert that we all gave together. I only now make the connection that Dani and Yoni were at that time almost exactly the same age as my brother and I were in the Weehawken visit.

David Bellugi