So, by now you’ve probably seen the posters and heard about this MANTRA / MARTEAU explosion we’re preparing on Wednesday, March 2nd — but what are these pieces all about? For the questioning, ever-curious avant-garde enthusiasts out there, fear not: Prof. Adam Roberts, on board with us at Callithumpian while on faculty at Istanbul Technical University, has written an enlightening set of program notes, from which select excerpts are shared below:
“Le Marteau consists of nine movements and sets three poems by the surrealist French poet René Char (1907-1988), “L’artisanat furieux”, “Bourreaux de solitude”, and “Bel édifice et les pressentiments”. While the contralto voice (and therefore sung text) is only present in the third, fifth, sixth, and ninth movements, each poem is used as a point of departure for multiple movements of the work, creating three unequal cycles. Le Marteau is striking in its percussion-heavy instrumentation, scored for contralto, alto flute, violin, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, and a variety of other percussion instruments… [creating] a spectrum of timbres from voice to percussion (i.e. breath, exemplified by voice and flute flow into solo lines played by flute and viola, which transform into plucked strings such as viola and guitar, which turn into resonating sounds played by the guitar and vibraphone, which finally, connect to struck instruments as in the vibraphone and xylorimba). Each movement of Le Marteau is orchestrated differently, creating a sense of rotation, and the voice is often used in an instrumental manner. Due to its angular lyricism, exotic sound, and delicate beauty, Le Marteau has become one of the most performed works of its time.
Completed sixteen years later, Stockhausen’s Mantra is a work scored for two ring-modulated pianos, with each player also being equipped with a set of chromatic crotales, a wood block, and one player being equipped with a short-wave radio. Nearly 70 minutes long, Mantra is comprised of thirteen distinct sections, each emphasizing a different texture, character, and sound. In fact, Mantra is the first of Stockhausen’s compositions to use what the composer calls a “formula”, a concept that replaces the notion of row, creating a new set of connotations around Stockhausen’s serialized materials (significantly, Stockhausen would compose with such “formulas” until the end of his life). Stockhausen’s formula is 13 notes long as it begins and ends with the note “A”, creating a sense of implied closure not previously found in serial structures. Each note of the formula also has an attached characteristic and each note is assigned a dynamic that is inversely proportional to its assigned duration. Each of the piece’s thirteen sections is dominated by one of the notes and its attached characteristics, creating a set of wild and distinctive musical experiences. Although it seems clear that the piece is highly structured, the most immediately striking aspect of the piece is its sound: the ring modulated pianos combined with percussive attacks create an otherworldly sonic space that is completely unique.” — Adam Roberts
The countdown begins! See you in Jordan Hall at 8pm on Wednesday, March 2nd for an experience extending to the stars and beyond.