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Today I want to look at his first movement from “Musica Ricercata,” a piece for solo piano which features a very unusual choice: The use of one single note for the vast majority of the composition. Listen below.
In the story, Lulu is loved by many, but manipulates her lovers, moving from one to the next. At the height of her adoration, her fortunes begin to fall: she’s chased by the police, imprisoned, forced into prostitution, and then eventually murdered. To drive this musical and thematic symmetry home, Berg specified that the actors that play her first three lovers are the same actors that play her last three clients when she is a prostitute. This dramatic palindrome dovetails with the musical palindrome: Berg’s marriage of disturbing musical formalism with dramatic technique highlights Wedekind’s unearthing of the violence within patriarchal sexuality.