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Theatrical elements and their relationship with music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for clarinet Marczak, Katarzyna

Abstract

In 1975, Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote HARLEKIN, an extremely challenging stage composition for a “dancing clarinetist.” The composition is a 45-minute-long stage piece, which the performer must play entirely from memory, while moving, dancing and acting according to the composer’s very precise directions. When approaching HARLEKIN for the first time, a clarinetist is forced to decode the score and to face many questions on various interpretive levels. Throughout the work there is an interaction between the dimensions of music and movement, one in which the two complement one another and the leading role shifts between them. Thus it is necessary to work out the movements with the same care and precision that is routinely expected when playing a musical score. While these movements are carefully described and/or notated in the score, movement by its nature cannot be notated as precisely as music. This gives rise to the performer’s biggest task when preparing HARLEKIN: interpreting and creatively realizing physical movements while playing the clarinet. This document is directed to the performer who wants to challenge herself with this exceptional piece and who is seeking help in understanding and interpreting its highly unusual score. It aims to help a performer answer some technical questions regarding physical aspects of the work’s performance, and to provide suggestions for interpretation. The main question, to which answers are sought, is how sound and physical movement are correlated at various points in the score, as a basis for deciding the approach to movement that the performer should take. In addition to attempting to understand the score in accordance with the composer’s intentions, as expressed in writings and interviews, this document argues that the prospective performer should return to the commedia dell’arte tradition as a means of understanding the Harlequin character, even though the composer does not appear to have been interested in pursuing this approach in much depth. As well, the document argues in general for the performer’s interpretive freedom, as against the rather more restrictive position taken by Stockhausen.

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