Berio, born in Oneglia, near Imperia, Italy, was one of the most active of post World War II avant-garde composers, conductors, and teachers. He studied composition and piano with his father and classics in local schools. His piano studies were terminated at age 19 by an accident to his right hand. After WW II he moved to Milan and attended composition classes at the Conservatory. In 1950 he married the American singer Cathy Berberian and in 1951 he obtained a Koussevitzky scholarship that enabled him to attend Luigi Dallapiccola's classes at Tanglewood. His encounter with Dallapiccola brought about a spiritual and technical transformation that enabled him to resolve the ambiguities he showed in some of his early music, and to reach beyond the concept of classical 12-tone serialism. The whole American musical scene was a revelation to this young composer from a small Italian village. He became very interested in electronic music, and he made many contributions to that medium. In 1954, in Basle, he met Bruno Maderna, Henri Pousseur, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and his first visit to Darmstadt exposed him to the main exponents and problems of the post-Webern avant-garde school. He directed the Studio de Fonologia in Milan from 1955 to 1961, when he resigned because of bureaucratic problems and the inconvenience of being tied to a permanent post there. From 1960 to 1963 he taught at the Tanglewood, Dartington, and Darmstadt music festivals, and in 1963 he moved to the USA to teach at Mills College, Oakland, CA. He taught at Juilliard from 1965 to 1971, and in 1972 he returned to Italy. In 1976 he became artistic director of the Accademia Filarmonica Romana. After his divorce from Cathy Berberian in 1965, Berio married the psychologist Susan Oyama, and in 1977 he married the musicologist Talia Pecker. He died in 2003.
- Ted Wilks