M.M. (2021) – Pete Harden
libretto by Pauline Peyrade
for film & live ensemble of 2 sopranos, Cl/B Cl, alto sax, Tbn, Acc, E Guit, Vc, Db
Pete Harden – composer, video & audio montage
Pauline Peyrade – libretto & narrator
Joey Marijs, conductor
Keren Motseri, soprano
Anna Trombetta, mezzo-soprano
David Kweksilber, clarinet: Daan van Koppen, saxophone: Yiannis Bontis, trombone: Wiek Hijmans, electric guitar: Wilco Oomkes, accordeon: Sebastiaan van Halsema, cello: Eva Euwe, double bass
Amsterdam Film Crew
video, The X
makeup, Carmen de Fretes
recording engineer, PME tècnica Koen Keevel
Reims Film Crew
video, light & audio recording, Pete Harden
makeup, costumes & voice, Pauline Peyrade
an Asko|Schönberg production in collaboration with Pete Harden
film created for Words & Music Festival
The nine short scenes of M.M. combine live with pre-recorded elements: audio, text and film. M.M. explores how we create different layers of reality and perception, different characters in our own one story, through make-up and clothes, in photos, lighting and location, on film, and with alcohol and pharmaceuticals. It describes, through the lens of Marilyn Monroe, how we can get lost in that tangle of characters. The interplay between the pre-filmed and the live elements toy with time and timelessness, memory, quotation and place, as well as with how we craft and create our own character in life.
Those layers are opened up in Movement Two, which quotes a scene from the 1954 film There’s No Business Like Show Business. Marilyn Monroe plays an actress. In the scene, her character is filming a scene for the film-within-the-film. Presented here with the narrator replacing Marilyn’s character, in a contemporary setting, it becomes a memory of a film-within-a-film-within-the-film-within-M.M. The narrator is suddenly multiple characters, from different times and realities (fictional and real), all built on and relying on each other.
Marilyn Monroe was so famous in her own lifetime that her initials were sufficient to identify her in newspaper headlines. And thus M.M. begins with a series of plays on words delving into the French reading of the English letters. ‘M.M.’ becomes ‘aime aime’ (‘love love’). Later, a recurring theme of the famous white Hollywood letters, becomes ‘H’ ‘O’ ‘L’, ’hache’ ‘oh!’ ‘elle’ or ‘axe’ ‘oh!’ ‘she’.
M.M. is a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. While absent explicitly in name and image from the work, it remains a tribute to the actress, to the woman and to the characters she invented, and to the fascination she still inspires.
The work was written for the TOTEM project, which brought Pete Harden and Pauline Peyrade together in La Chartreuse (Centre national des écritures du spectacle) in Villeneuve lez Avignon, France. The concept for the work arose collaboratively.
A fully live version of the work was premiered in Avignon on 3 August 2021, by the asko|Schönberg ensemble, with Pauline Peyrade narrating.
A film version of the work, filmed in Amsterdam and Reims, with audio and video montage by Pete Harden, was premiered in the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, during the asko|Schönberg’s Words and Music festival, 3 September 2022.
The integral version, with live ensemble and pre-recorded film was premiered on 13 April 2023 in the Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam), during the Minimal Music Festival, also by the asko|Schönberg ensemble.