Le Marteau sans maître is a nine-part cycle, composed for contralto and six instrumentalists. Each of the parts is scored differently; four are for voice and changing instruments, while five are purely instrumental. On the one hand, the five instrumental pieces are organised in a prelude and postlude to the first vocal piece and, on the other, in three commentaries on the third vocal piece.
However, cohesive vocal and instrumental parts do not follow one another directly; they are woven throughout the entire piece like a web. The words of the second poem appear in two musical versions (Nos. V and IX). Comparison of the two versions makes the difference in handling the singing voice very clear: one the one hand, cantabile-melismatic, then syllabic voice leading combined with the melodic instruments alto flute, guitar, viola and, on the other, Sprechgesang with predominantly percussion accompaniment and wordless, quasi instrumental singing.
Der Hammer ohne Meister
Das rasende Handwerk
Schönes Gebäude und die Vorahnungen
Henker der Einsamkeit
Le Marteau sans maître
Bel édifice et les pressentiments
Bourreaux de solitude
Le pas s’est éloigné le marcheur s’est tu
©1934 Editions José Corti, Paris
The Hammer Unmastered
Find building and premonitions
Hangmen of solitude
Translation: Paul Griffiths