Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Pierrot Connection?

As just about every source tells us, Arnold Schoenberg conceived of Pierrot Lunaire as a cycle of “three times seven melodramas,” each based on the German translation  of a poem by Albert Giraud.  Furthermore, in addition to their common orientation around the Pierrot figure, each poem adheres to the common, highly rigid, structural form of the rondeau.  We may also accept the claim made on the Tarantino Music Humanities site, on a page dedicated to Pierrot Lunaire, that Giraud’s decision to follow such a rigid archaic structure was a product of the influence of French symbolist poets, such as Stéphane Mallarmé.

However, one consequence of my immersion in the writings of Jacques Derrida has been the discovery that the very idea of composing a grotesque collection of poems about Pierrot may also be attributed to Mallarmé.  One of the two sources for Derrida’s “The Double Session” is a rather impenetrable vignette (I am not sure I can think of anything else to call those two paragraphs) that Mallarmé entitled “Mimique.”  This obscure meditation on mime theatre appears to have been inspired by a mimed soliloquy entitled Pierrot Murderer of his Wife.  Since Giraud’s Pierrot goes through a criminal stage in which he commits murder and then faces execution, is it possible that his venture into this dark side of Pierrot’s character was inspired by Mallarmé, if not by the source that inspired Mallarmé himself?

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