PierrotProjectRIAM Head of Composition, Kevin O’Connell, discusses this exciting new collaborative project which sees a re-imagining of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. 

Alluna Ensemble and Pedro Lopez 

Singers and Composers of the RIAM

Workshops: 5th & 6th May, 10 am – 5 pm

Performance: 7th May, 1 pm

RIAM Organ Room

Admission free – All welcome

What more can be said about Pierrot Lunaire? Little perhaps, if we confine ourselves to words. But composers from Berg to Britten to Boulez to Maxwell Davies to Roger Marsh have gone on responding to it in notes.

The RIAM’s Pierrot Project (May 5-7, Organ Room) will carry on this already long tradition. Unlike the other time-bomb of its era, The Rite of Spring, Pierrot has gone on sounding strange. We have assimilated it without ever completely absorbing it. The thrice-seven poems of Albert Giraud retain their lunar, and often lunatic, oddity. Schoenberg’s innovatory sprechstimme technique (actually a borrowing from German cabaret) suits the guttural German translation more than it would have done the original French, and adds to the nightmarish aura. The RIAM student composers who have each recomposed one of the songs have taken this process a step further by setting the poems in English (with the exception of one student whose first language is German).

I deliberately did not ask the students to ape Schoenberg’s expressionist mannerisms, though some settings reflect familiarity with his vocal and instrumental manner. To add a further frisson, each of the RIAM singers who has undertaken to learn one of the new songs will tackle the corresponding Schoenberg one also.

Listeners at the concluding recital (May 7, 1 pm) will get to ride a Dublin-Vienna tandem. The journey should be an intriguing one.

Kevin O’Connell

Head of Composition

Royal Irish Academy of Music