The tribal world of contemporary music has often been splintered by stylistic factionalism and personality cults. The Schoenberg Institute, however, has a project that is bringing together diverse composers, and now-- mirabile dictu-- is sharing the fruits of that project with Monday Evening Concerts at the County Museum of Art.
According to Leonard Stein, director of the institute, there were two reasons why the second of his prized Pierrot Project programs will be offered Monday at the museum. First, it complements the museum's current "German Expressionism, 1915 to 1925: The Second Generation" exhibition--which will be open to the audience before the concert--and second, the beginning of American Music Week was a natural time for programs, raising the specter of divisive competition for listeners.
"It's always a problem," Stein says of fracturing the contemporary music audience. "There's a loyal following, but it's not a large one, and it seems foolish to split it."
Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the institute commissioned a group of 16 composers to set the 29 poems of Albert Giraud's "Pierrot Lunaire" that Schoenberg did \o7 not \f7 use in his own seminal, Expressionist settings of Giraud's poetry (in the German translations of Otto Hartleben). Last February, the institute presented the first concert installment of this Pierrot Project on its home turf at USC.
Stein is proudest of how the project has stimulated the composers involved, opening up 29 new works. The only specific constraint was that the composers write for the same forces that Schoenberg employed, a sort of modern broken consort--five instruments (plus doublings) and voice.
"What is quite interesting," Stein says, "is to see how the composers react to the original."
Paul Cooper, a 62-year-old composer and USC alum, reacted quite equably to the music. "I didn't change my vocabulary," he says. Of the three settings he made, "the first has a kind of subliminal Schoenberg quote; the rest is all mine."
The texts, however, proved more troublesome for Cooper, who has composed a great deal of vocal music, much of it to texts by his wife, Christa Cooper (who has done new English translations for the Pierrot Project program booklets).
"I would admit that they are very different," Cooper says with a laugh. "The imagery goes by very quickly and is often contradictory, and that poses some musical problems."
The other composers who will have Pierrot pieces premiered Monday are Leslie Bassett, Donald Harris, John Harbison, Miriam Gideon, Stephen Mosko, Roger Reynolds and Milton Babbitt.
The performance by the New York New Music Ensemble and soprano Christine Schadeberg will be repeated Thursday at Bridges Hall of Music, Pomona College.
Babbitt will be the center of attention today at the museum. The third annual SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music, a consortium of six college studios) Festival begins at 2 p.m. with a free offering of electronic pieces in the Times Mirror Central Court, and continues with Babbitt's lecture, "A Composer of a Certain Age."
The festival concludes this evening with a program of electro-acoustic music.
WAR AND PEACE: The Seattle Opera is planning a new production of Prokofiev's "War and Peace," scheduled to run July 22-Aug. 4, 1990, coinciding with the Goodwill Games, the Soviet Union's Olympic alternative. The production will yoke a Soviet conductor with an American director and designer, and a multinational cast.