The Body, the Grotesque and Carnival in the Music of Pavel Haas

6 June 2016

Research by PhD student Martin Čurda proposes a new interpretative framework for approaching the work of Czech composer Pavel Haas.

In a paper published in the current volume of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Martin explores ‘From the Monkey Mountains’, a string quartet written by Haas in 1925, shortly after completing his studies with Leoš Janáček. The piece is commonly regarded as a turning point in the young composer’s career, one with singled him out within the group of Janáček’s students.

The paper relates Haas’ quartet to ‘Poetism’, a notion which dominated Czech avant-garde discourse in the 1920s, as well as the related notions of the body, the grotesque and carnival. In doing so, it illuminates the aesthetic and cultural context of Haas’ music from the period, which has received little attention in previous scholarship.

Martin said: “It has been previously claimed that this quartet demonstrates Haas’ alignment with ‘Western’ musical avant-garde, however, his avant-garde affiliations remain largely unexplored, as does the influence of Janáček. My work uses music analysis, semiotics and discourse analysis to show how Haas reconciled compositional techniques inspired by Janáček with the ideas underpinning the contemporary Czech avant-garde movement, Poetism.”

‘From the Monkey Mountains’: The Body, the Grotesque and Carnival in the Music of Pavel Haas, by Martin Čurda, is published in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association.