PETER THOEGERSEN – Facebook: What’s On Your Mind?


I won’t reiterate what was highlighted in the review of our first encounter with Peter Thoegersen‘s music. Just in case, give it a read. In itself, the idea of a microtonal piano/voice song cycle with lyrics entirely based on the composer’s social posts is downright brilliant. We’re not talking about descriptions of afternoon gardening by a bored bourgeois: in fact, one of the exemplary sentences intoned by mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg (more on her later) is 

God damn cold today, thirty-five degrees and my penis has shrunken again“. 

If you had any intellectual ambitions before approaching this stuff, be aware of what you are getting into. On the other hand, does intellectualism belong to Facebook? Certainly not according to the canons of a man who, on the score, writes instructions such as 

The properties contained in 16tet include a perfectly tuned diminished 7th chord, and a mix of eighth tones and quartertones. THIS SCALE BEGINS ON E QUARTER SHARP, OR F QUARTER FLAT, WHICH ARE THE SAME TONE“.

Get the picture, Mozart fans?

And yet, a sizable chunk of this opus (cantos XII to XXII) is improvised. Lixenberg’s unscripted flights parallel Thoegersen’s typing of additional posts in real time, in a representation of (quoting from the liners) “the whimsical nature of instant world communications and unbridled bad taste”.

You may have “figured out” by now that the return of the father of polytempic polymicrotonality is an event to mark on the calendar of the fights against commonplace. In these 22 songs – partially inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire – there’s too much unusual information, acoustically speaking, to be analyzed superficially or discussed with friends while pretending to listen. Unless one wants to launch a peculiar brand of “wallpaper polymicrotonality”, and go berserk after mere minutes.

If a creative brain identifies naturalness in the monstrous mathematical intricacy of what is devised, an executive counterpart adequate to the task is evidently required. Enter the aforementioned Lixenberg, fearlessly tackling the dangers that lurk among the malignant microtones and odd meters typifying Thoegersen’s music. The products of her larynx are, at different times, stretchable, substantial, cuddling, ungraciously wicked, out-and-out punk. This cross-pollination of extreme human pliability and automated genius yields, quite inevitably, spectacular results; even a musically illiterate person could understand the values at play. There’s an almost swaggering attitude in Lixenberg’s interpretive manner, reflecting innumerable years of technical development and, above all, the total lack of mental restrictions of a singer whose curriculum lists a veritable who’s who of modern sonic art. 

There’s nothing left to do but sit down somewhere and start focusing on this scientifically surreal set, as Thoegersen’s compositional virtuosity intermingles with Lixenberg’s temperamental expressiveness in unique fashion. A combination of complex formulas, theatricality, bizarre couplings, ill-behaved partials and questions destined to remain unanswered, at least for those who have built a refined twelve-tone harmonic coffin for their hearing organization.

Plus, a final interrogative. I wonder when the name “Peter Thoegersen” will become serviceable for trendy quotes and cover stories by the “alternative” press. Hear me, O people of the establishment.

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