The Difficulties of Sprechstimme in “Pierrot Lunaire”: Achieving a Desirable Performance and Translation
Aaron Graham

Translating text has long been a key element in musical performance practice throughout history. This is a process that not only calls for an individual who is versed in the source language and target language, but who is also knowledgeable of the target audience and overall tone and emotion that is desired of the work. In this paper I will discuss these issues, specifically examining Arnold Schoenberg‟s “Pierrot Lunaire”. This work is unique in that the part of the vocalist is written in Sprechstimme (German for “speech-voice”), a cross between singing and speaking. The use of Sprechstimme brings about a dilemma when one attempts a desirable translation, as well as a great challenge in perfecting a proper performance technique. Is the process of translation similar as when dealing with more traditionally notated art songs, song cycles, and operatic works? What additional considerations should come into play in order to achieve a desirable translation of the fantastical imagery of the poems? This pivotal work of the 20th century could stand to lose a great deal if not given a translation that conveys the emotion that Schoenberg had in mind.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijmpa.v6n2a5