Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino (sha-REE-no) is considered one of the leaders of advanced or avant-garde music in Europe. His music uses isolated sonorities such as harmonics, other unusual methods of tone production, and additional sounds that can be made with instruments such as tapping and key clicking. In addition, it is characterized by artful and frequent use of silence as part of the compositional structure, as well as frequent introduction, in a questioning or confrontational way, of pre-existing music, including classical American popular song.
He was a very bright, inquisitive, and talented child; interested in painting and other visual arts, he had moved to creating abstract works by the time he was ten. However, at about that age he was strongly attracted to music and began teaching himself music in 1959. He was guided in this by Antonino Titone, but aside from some studies with Turi Belfiore in 1964, had no formal academic training as a child.
Three years after starting his course of music self-teaching, a composition of his was accepted for the 1962 Third Palermo New Music Week Festival. In 1968 his Quartetto II was played in Rome and his work Aka aka to was premiered in Palermo.
In 1969, he moved to Rome. There he entered the electronic music course taught by Franco Evangelisti at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. His music at this time was fairly much a torrent of unconventional instrumental sounds, as he was inspired by electronic music to seek the full sound potential of his instruments. However, through the decade of the '70s he tended to eliminate the profusion in favor of lean, isolated sounds separated by silences. He has said "there [is] one thing without which no delight in sound makes sense, and that is the intensity of silence."
His major compositional influence was Luigi Nono, the most radical composer among well-known Italian musical figures of the post-World War II generation. In 1976, Sciarrino left Rome for a teaching post in Milan, where he worked at the Conservatory until 1982. In that year his success as a composer allowed him to cut back on his teaching work and he moved to the remote Umbrian village of Città di Castello. Nevertheless, he continued to teach at Florence Conservatory, Palermo, and Bologna. In addition, from 1978 to 1980 he was the Artistic Director of the Bologna Opera Theater.
Laurent Feneyrou has characterized Sciarrino's music as evolving towards the borderland of sound, suggesting "vast uninhabited spaces, especially the ocean wastes, the confines of dream..."
One of the earliest pieces to show in a marked way his interest in sound versus silence is Un'immagine di Arpocrate for piano, orchestra, and chorus (1979). During the 1970s he produced a notable series of works for solo strings, including the 3 notturni brillanti for viola (1974 - 1975), and 6 capricci for violin (1975 - 1976).
But in 1977 he was impressed by the playing of flutist Roberto Fabbricciani and has written numerous works for him, exploring increasingly tiny nuances of expression possible with the instrument. On the other hand, his large series of piano music tends to get more aggressive in tone over time.
Sciarrino's music exploring American popular song began with Cailles en sarcophage (1979), Efebo con radio (1981), and Blue Dream (1980). High points of this stream of Sciarrino's music includes the Nove canzoni del XX secolo (1991) and the "one-act still-life" Vanitas (1981) for voice, cello, and piano, a huge treatment of Hoagy Carmichael's song "Stardust." He also has a series of stage works, such as Lohengrin (1984), that deconstruct well-known stories and myths.