Thursday, 23 December 2010

Three Moons

Spacesuits from The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection

Pierrot Lunaire Op.21, by Anton Schoenberg

Pierrot Lunaire, or 'Moonstruck Pierrot’ is a melodrama composed 8 years prior to Schoenberg’s discovery of twelve-tone, but it already displays his obsession with numerology: The piece is his opus 21, contains 21 poems, and was begun on March 12, 1912. Other key numbers in the work are three and thirteen: each poem consists of thirteen lines (two four-line verses followed by a five-line verse), while the first line of each poem occurs three times (being repeated as lines seven and thirteen). Unsuprisingly, Schoenberg suffered from Triskaidekaphobia - a fear of the number 13 – which took him, depressed and anxious, to his bed on Friday 13th July, 1951. After one month the composer was dead.

Analysis of the Op.21 shows that it is a work of many paradoxes – ‘moonstruck’ is quite literally evoked in the dual roles of Pierrot as hero and fool, performing cabaret as high art and vice versa with song that is also speech. He is the classic ‘principal boy’ (a boy played by a woman) and the instrumentalists are simultaneously soloists and orchestra. A truely lunatic creation, and one that is as beautiful to listen to as it is to regard the moon.

Quiet Night, by Patricia Highsmith

“With her white toes turned up stiffly, Hattie clumped to the easy chair by the window where a bar of moonlight slanted, and sat down with the scissors and the Angora sweater in her lap. In the moonlight her face gleamed, toothless and demoniacal. She examined the sweater in the manner of a person who plays with piece of steak with a fork before deciding where to put his knife.”

The short story Quiet Night can be found in Nothing That Meets The Eye: The Uncollected Stories by Patricia Highsmith, published by Bloomsbury, 2005.


The above extracts are from the extended 'A Coelacanth Cultural List on the subject of The Moon' - compiled in December 2010 for Luminous Books.