In his novel Satyricon, only parts of which survive, the Roman senator Titus Petronius denounces the perverse depravity of the nouveau-riche upper classes in Rome at the time of Nero. With apparent naivety Petronius, who was known as “Arbiter” because he was Nero’s “judge of elegance”, depicts the political and social decadence of a society on the verge of ruination. In 1973, the year of his death, Bruno Maderna set this satirical documentation of a society in a state of collapse to music. The action centres around Trimalchio’s party. The former slave has massed enormous wealth which he ostentatiously flaunts at a banquet. Maderna set this part to music, using contemporary means of expression to reveal parallels with the 20th century. The work avoids all moralising comment, instead establishing cross-references to the present day by means of the musical collage technique employed. Maderna claimed self-mockingly that he himself had not written a single note of it. In a haphazard series of scenes that are only loosely connected but can be expanded by recorded musical inserts he paints a picture of a society that is doomed by its own decadence. In the total isolation that ensues only music has the power to comfort the torn souls.