Born and died in Venice. Considered one of the founders of the postwar avant-garde, alongside Stockhausen, Boulez, and Xenakis. He studied composition with Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bruno Maderna, and Hermann Scherchen and also graduated in law from Padua University. At first recognised mainly in Germany for the works he presented at the Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, he rose to international fame in 1956 with the premiere in Cologne of Il canto sospeso for solo voices, choir and orchestra. The work was performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1961.
His political views (he joined the Italian Communist Party in 1953) had a strong impact on many of his works (his musical settings included, among others, texts by Karl Marx, Lenin, and Che Guevara). He was a member of the Akademie der Künste of the German Democratic Republic. From 1960 he focused mainly on electroacoustic music at the Studio di Fonologia Musicale della RAI (founded by Berio and Maderna) in Milan. In 1980-85 he served as artistic director of the Experimental Studio of the Heinrich Strobel Foundation in Freiburg.
Luigi Nono made several visits to Poland. Two of his works have a Polish context: Diario polacco '58 and Quando stanno morendo (Diario polacco II). Thelatter, commissioned by the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1981, was composed under the impact of martial law imposed in Poland in December 1981. It was dedicated to Nono's "Polish friends and comrades, who - in exile, prisons, workplaces, and underground - persevere in resistance; who still hope against hope and who believe even if they are nonbelievers."
Selected works (from 1970): Y entonces comprendió for six female voices, mixed choir, tape and live electronics (1969-70), Voci destroying muros for soprano, female choir and orchestra (1970), Ein Gespenst geht um in der Welt for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra to a text by Karl Marx (1971), Como una ola de fuerza y luz for orchestra and tape (1971-72), Siamo la gioventú del Vietnam for unison choir (1973), Al gran sole carico d'amore, opera to a libretto by Yuri Lyubimov after Rimbaud, Brecht, Castro, Che Guevara, Dimitrov, Gorky, Gramsci, Lenin, Marx, and others (1972-74, rev. 1977), Für Paul Dessau for tape (1974), ...so erte onde serene... for piano and tape (1976), Con Luigi Dallapiccola for six percussionists and live electronics (1979), FragmenteStille, an Diotima for string quartet (1979-80), Io, frammento dal Prometeo for two sopranos, chamber choir, bass flute, contrabass clarinet and live electronics (1980-81), ¿Dónde estás, hermano for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano and alto (1982), Quando stanno morendo. Diario polacco II for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, flute and live electronics (1982), Guai ai gelidi mostri for two voices, flute, clarinet, tuba, viola, cello, double bass and live electronics (1983), Omaggio a György Kurtág for winds and live electronics (1983), A Carlo Scarpa, architetto, ai suoi in niti possibili for orchestra (1984), Prometeo, tragedia dell'ascolto for four instrumental groups, two sopranos, two contraltos, tenor, mixed choir, two actors and live electronics (1984), A Pierre, dell'azzurro silenzio, inquietum for contrabass flute, contrabass clarinet and live electronics (1985), Risonanze erranti for mezzo-soprano, flute, tuba, percussion and live electronics (1986), Caminantes ...Ayacucho for alto, flute, organ and orchestra (1986-87), Postpraeludium n. 1 per Donau for tuba and live electronics (1987), No hay caminos, hay que caminar... Andrej Tarkowskij for seven instrumental groups (1987), La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura. Madrigale a piú "Caminantes" con Gidon Kremer for violin, live electronics and tape (1988), "Hay que caminar" soñando for two violins (1989).