The title Lachen Verlernt (Laughing Unlearnt) is a quotation from the ninth movement of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Gebet an Pierrot (Prayer to Pierrot). The narrator declares that she has unlearnt the skill of laughing and begs Pierrot, the "Horse-doctor to the soul", to give it back to her.
I felt that this is a very moving metaphor of a performer: a serious clown trying to help the audience to connect with emotions they have lost, or believe they have lost.
Lachen Verlernt is essentially a Chaconne, which in this case means that there is a harmonic progression that repeats itself several times. The harmony remains the same throughout the whole piece; only the surface, the top layer of the music changes.
Lachen Verlernt starts with a lyrical, expressive melody (the same melody has an important role in my orchestral work 'Insomnia', which I was writing at the same time, in the summer of 2002). Gradually the music becomes faster and more frenzied until it develops an almost frantic character, as if the imaginary narrator had reached a state of utter despair.
A very short Coda closes this mini-drama peacefully.
I wrote Lachen Verlernt for Cho-Liang Lin, to whom it is also dedicated. Lachen Verlernt was commissioned by the La Jolla Chamber Music Society's SummerFest with the generous support of Joan & Irwin Jacobs.
A Film by Tal Rosner
Music by Esa-Pekka Salonen
A visual interpretation of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s solo violin concerto, performed by Jennifer Koh. Commissioned by Jennifer Koh, Cedille Records and Oberlin Conservatory, UK-USA 2009.
Tal Rosner – Director’s Notes:
When approaching Lachen Verlernt
I was struck by its sense of depth and visual perspective. Laughter forgotten and then re-learnt, like a voice echoing in the distance, getting closer and louder, demanding its place in our perception. The more we learn it, the more we see, discovering the detailed information imprinted in its circuit.
Using images of power cables, reminiscent of the violin’s strings, I play with compositions, stretching and expanding, together with the instrument. But, inside, a different world – turbulent and chaotic – electric currents and making their way to our homes, secretly carrying charged magnetic energy. This leads to images of a city-scape at night, all blurred and shaken. The lines become alive, trembling in the dark, pulsating to the rhythm and the speed.
Examing the space between the two, the distant and the close-up, the structured and the wild, is at the core of this video piece.
Click on the images below to watch a demo from the film
Running time: 9 min 45 sec
The film will be provided on a DigiBETA (PAL) tape.
1. DigiBETA (PAL) player.
2. Video out to a projector (as bright as possible).
3. Audio out to violinist/in-ear-monitor (preferably wireless).
4. Screen in the ratio of 16:9 (hung from the ceiling, if possible)
5. Stand light for violinist.
B&W Films Ltd
53 Greek Street
Tel: +44 (0) 207 287 4223