Scrapes, mallets hit right note for composer Lachenmann

Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:52am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The music of pioneering modernist German composer Helmut Lachenmann will be showcased in London this weekend, allowing listeners to hear violin bows scraping sideways on strings, percussionists using scrub brushes and pianists hitting strings with mallets.

Lachenmann, 74, who will attend the weekend at London's Southbank Center , said he felt compelled to create new musical sounds from established instruments, in what he calls "musique concrete instrumentale," to help music from the corruption of classical culture by the Nazis during World War Two.

The son of a Protestant priest, Lachenmann found his niche after drifting into the world centered on the avant garde music camp at Darmstadt, Germany, set up in 1946 to rediscover modern music after the war and dictatorship.

He was inspired by modern music composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, and Pierre Boulez, who deconstructed music from past concerns with melody, harmony and rhythm to focus instead on loudness, pitch, duration and 12-tone composing.

The audience reaction was violent, sometimes leading to walkouts from concert halls, and also to a return, by some composers, to music that restored melody and familiar rhythms.

But Lachenmann thinks listeners, if they open their ears, would hear plenty of beauty in his compositions.

He spoke to Reuters during rehearsals this week:

Q: Why do you go to such extremes with the orchestra, getting a cellist to make sounds from the bow only or a pianist flick his fingers over the tops of the keys rather than strike them?   Continued...