A Performance by MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle musik
In his musical work Pierrot Lunaire, Arnold Schönberg tells us the story of the arguably most famous character of the Commedia dell’Arte, the “White Clown” Pierrot. There is no consistent concept of Pierrot’s personality, but he is often portrayed as languid, melancholy, taciturn, and always brokenhearted. He dreams of a better future in the arms of his beloved Columbine, whom he is trying to woo with gifts – yet by the time he finally shows up at her doorstep with his present, the object of his love has already left with another man, Harlequin.
The theme has been emulated numerous times in cultural and art history across various cultures (among others, by Toulouse-Lautrec, Watteau, and Picasso), in literature and film, as well as in music. Schönberg wrote his melodrama in 1912 on behalf of diseuse Albertine Zehme based on Otto Erich Hartleben’s liberal German translation of Albert Giraud’s 1884 cycle of French poems by the same title. For the instrumental arrangement, Schönberg went beyond his original concept of a piano piece and instead composed for a chamber ensemble with five performers, including one narrator and playing a total of eight instruments.
The response to the work’s Berlin premiere in October of 1912 was mixed. It was a challenging piece. Those who sought comforting tunes were appalled; others were thrilled and responded with ravish applause. Pierrot Lunaire rang in a new age in music history.
What’s special about this work (and thus Schönberg‘s historic creation of a new musical genre) is its atonality: an acoustic rupture with any type of conventional harmony and the dissolution of tonal associations. In addition, atonality brought forth the twelve-tone technique that was to become one of Schönberg’s hallmarks. Each partiture composed with this technique is based on a tone row that contains each note of the twelve-pitch tempered pitch class once. Since each of the notes can be the starting point of a row, there are twelve rows, each of which can manifest itself in four different ways for a total of 48 possible forms of rows. The idea of the composition determines the row in the same way that the row determines the composition.
The work is considered a milestone of Modernity, as “one of the most representative works of the 20th century” (according to music scientist H. H. Stuckenschmidt). The piece is the “solar plexus and the very spirit of early 20th-century music”. With its blend of traditional forms and techniques and the almost completely novel approach to arranging notes, Pierrot Lunaire opened a window to the next century.
More than a century later, the work will be performed in Hanoi – a new performative take on an old masterpiece to welcome a new year full of concerts and musical variety.
About MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle musik
MAM.manufaktur für aktuelle musik was founded by International Ensemble Modern Academy scholarship holders in 2010, in response to a common passion for new forms of expression and performance in the music of today. The musicians see themselves as a liberal and internationally positioned collective, one that extends the idea of an ensemble through interdisciplinary engagement, bringing to life new sounds and sound concepts.
MAM works with composers such as Mark Andre, Georges Aperghis, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Robin Hoffmann, Neele Hülcker, Jagoda Szmytka and Simon Steen-Andersen, and maintains a performance schedule at festivals such as Eclat in Stuttgart, the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music, AchtBrücken Festival and New Talents Biennale in Cologne, Mixtur Festival in Barcelona, Klangwerkstatt Berlin, pgnm Festival Bremen, klub katarakt festival Hamburg, Schönes Wochenende at Tonhalle Düsseldorf and ZKM Karlsruhe.
In 2012 the MAM musicians recorded Mauricio Kagel’s Exotica for DVD (Ensemble Modern Media) and in 2015, a CD of new works by Ying Wang for Wergo. In addition to the cultivation of contemporary repertoire, the musicians are committed to the upkeep and extension of alternative and/or experimental playing techniques at the nexus of performance, improvisation and the interpretation of composed music. MAM is a place of experimentation, boundary crossing and improbable confluences.