An internationally-renowned soprano is conducting new research at Kingston University’s School of Music. Dr Jane Manning, who has more than 40 years’ experience as a soloist, has been appointed as Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) fellow in creative and performing arts. Dr Manning will spend the next three years studying Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The collection of 21 short songs about a lovesick clown was written for the Berlin cabaret scene in 1912.
Since making her broadcast debut in 1965 with her rendition of Pierrot Lunaire, Dr Manning has performed the songs more than 150 times worldwide. She hopes her research will help unravel the mystery about how the works should be delivered – an issue that has long been the subject of controversy because the composer did not leave clear instructions. “Schoenberg used the term Sprechstimm, a kind of sung speech,” Dr Manning said. “The most conspicuous effect is the way the words are recited. Each syllable has a specific pitch and duration. During my research I hope to explore how the songs are best performed as well as produce the book I’ve always wanted to write on the subject.” Dr Manning also plans to make a new recording of Pierrot Lunaire with her ensemble, Jane’s Minstrels.
Senior lecturer Dr Tim Ewers, who is acting as Dr Manning’s mentor, is looking forward to supporting her research. “It’s a great opportunity from a personal point of view to work with someone of Dr Manning’s stature and a tremendous privilege for everyone at the School of Music. She is an international authority on this particular collection and brings with her a wealth of experience that will be of immense benefit to staff and students alike,” he said.
The research role provides Dr Manning with other opportunities to draw on her expertise. “I really enjoy working with up-and-coming musicians and I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge with students at Kingston,” she said.
Dr Manning, who was awarded an OBE in 1990, is married to composer, writer and broadcaster Anthony Payne who received an honorary degree from Kingston University in 2002.