“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pierrot Lunaire as Object-Oriented Music

I'm listening to one of the several versions of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire I have on iTunes. The sparseness of the instrumentation emphasizes each musical object starkly. The music has that menacing yet ridiculous, menacingly ridiculous quality of really good clowns. Menacing intimacy. It's like sitting in a very small theater, right up close to the performers. (There's something about Lucy Shelton's version that's razor sharp in this respect, by the way.)

What are we listening to when we listen to Expressionist music like this or look at Expressionist art? It's on the edge of beauty and the grotesque constantly. It's the most mysterious music I've ever heard in my life.

It's not really just conveying a human inner state, is it? In some sense that human state has been reduced to a menacing caricature, as in the paintings of Otto Dix. We're also hearing the clarinet as clown, the piano as high wire artist.

I think it might be object-oriented music. Music from the carnival of things.

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