Laugh Perfumes is a twenty-two minute concerto for amplified violin and orchestra, and was premiered on October 26, 2006 by soloist Maja Cerar and the Radio-Television Orchestra of Slovenia, Evan Christ, conductor. The premiere performance was part of the Unicum Contemporary Music Festival, and was part of the 2006 American Music Days celebration. This concert was a subscription series concert that was broadcast on live national radio and subsequently shown twice on the Slovene national television network.
The work was commissioned by the 2006 Unicum Contemporary Music Festival especially for its theme “The stage—a place for new music.” Laugh Perfumes directly embodies this concept, as it transcends the traditional ideas of a violin concerto by incorporating visual and theatrical elements. The work has also been written expressly for violinist Maja Cerar, who has forged a unique path among contemporary virtuosi through the bold use of multimedia and theater in her performances.
The primary inspiration for Laugh Perfumes is the influential classic 1912 work Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg, a work for soprano and chamber ensemble which in its eccentric expressionist beauty draws from stock characters of the Commedia dell’Arte theater tradition. In Laugh Perfumes, the violin soloist becomes the focal point representing Pierrot figuratively. The orchestra represents Pierrot as well, embodying the wildly varying ranges of his thoughts and emotions through musical means of texture, dynamics, and rhythm. Meanwhile, Laugh Perfumes intensifies the bonds between soloist and orchestra through visual and dramatic elements. A large sculpture onstage represents the Moon, which is the object and the cause of Pierrot’s desire and demise, and special focused lights represent moonbeams.
The soloist interacts with the visual objects both musically and physically to portray Pierrot and his obsessions, including traversal of a ramp that leads back into the orchestra. Together, the image of the moon, the movement of the soloist, the lighting effects, and the music itself create an unpredictable path of vivid, sweet, and uncanny scenes from Pierrot Lunaire. These include visions of sensuality, intrigues, and nostalgia. The character of Pierrot is drawn as a well-meaning but psychologically unstable soul searching for meaning and comfort in a complex, sinister world, and the multiple “scenes” of the concerto follow Pierrot from his discovery of the Moon through to his final attempts to achieve complete union with it.