Karl Kraus and Mascha Kaléko and My Settings
Now that we have authoritarians taking over the GOP, every American should know who Karl Krauss is.
I discovered Karl Kraus through Ernst Krenek -- one of the handful of master composers who came to the US and found us not at all ready for them, whose American-born students did their best, most worthy music a few years after some critics shut down the project of assimilating the work of European refugees (read: assimilating 20th C. European music) and the homegrown offshoots of that important body of work.
While I am ambivalent about these critics and the battle they waged and won, I concede that American modernists had it coming. A quick note on that HERE.
Krenek mentioned Adalbert Stifter and Karl Kraus in the same sentence in his book. I think the book is called Exploring Music, Essays by Ernst Krenek
I was immediately enthralled by Stifter. The writings of Karl Kraus did not speak to me before 2016. Only after the rise of fascism in the US did I understand Karl Kraus. His tone of voice was so shrill. Now, in the US, if you are not shrill, you are the problem.
What they have in common, Kraus & Stifter, is a reverence for the small. We had parallel strains of the cult of the small here in the US--James, Pierce, Dewey. Kraus waged a good honest war on grandiosity-at-the-service-of-demagoguery. And so now Kraus speaks to us here in the US as the elements coalesced and we were demagogued. And it's dragging on and on. When will it end?
I read somewhere that in Hollywood, many homes had a picture of Karl Kraus hanging in their vestibule. Those were the Hollywood people who were revolted by McCarthy.
a rough reading of some excerpts of my settings --
Mascha Kaléko's poem, "Zeitgemässe Ansprache" should remind us of Karl Kraus. She makes many of the same points in a most endearing manner. I have to thank Austrian poet Katharina Ferner for introducing me to Kaléko's work. Thanks also to Andreas Nolte for his excellent translations, found HERE on Amazon.
Karl Kraus informed my understanding of Kaléko's Zeitgemässe Ansprache. I opened with grandeur -- low register, loud, leaning on hubristic harmonies [ F#, C#, E#, G#] -- trying to evoke demogogic bluster so that I could try to transform it, undo it. Kaléko's tone of voice changes as the poem progresses. She begins with a harsh tone of voice and ends tenderly. I wanted to try to find a musical expression of the change of her tone of voice, calling, at the end, for humility and quiet.
To get my setting of "Der kleine Unterschied" one must watch Wim Wenders' film, Paris Texas. This setting is a counterpoint of bourgeoiusies. The piano is of the European bourgeois, the electric guitar is the instrument of the postwar American bourgeois. There will be a Kaléko Sonata for piano and e-guitar.
I hope to record these songs in the studio as soon as possible. Guitar is too loud here and there. Fighting the piano in Wuorinen's Sonata for Guitar and Piano conditioned me to revel in blowing the piano away with the amplification of the e-guitar. I overcompensated.
Der kleine Unterschied
Es sprach zum Mister Goodwill
Ein Deutscher Emigrant:
"Gewiß, es bleibt dasselbe,
sag ich nun *land* statt Land,
sag ich für Heimat *homeland*
und *poem* für Gedicht.
Gewiß, ich bin sehr happy:
Doch glücklich bin ich nicht.
The little difference
(translation by Andreas Nolte)
Thus spoke to Mister Goodwill
A German emigrant:
"Certainly, it remains the same
I now say *land* instead of country,
I say for Heimat homeland
and *poem* for poem.
Certainly, I am very glücklich:
But I'm not happy.
Wie kommt es nur, daß wir noch lachen,
Daß uns noch freuen Brot und Wein,
Daß wir die Nchte nicht durchwachen,
Verflogt von tausend Hilfeschrein.
Habt Ihr die Zeitung nicht gelesen,
Saht ihr des Grauens Abbild nicht?
Wer Kann, als wäre nichts gewesen,
In Frieden nachgehn seiner Pflicht?
Klopft nicht der Schrecken an das Fenster,
Rast nicht der Wahnsinn durch die Welt,
Siehst du nicht stündlich die Gespenster
Vom blutigroten Trümmerfeld --?
Des Tags, im wohldurchheizten Raume:
Ein frierend Kind aus Hungerland,
Des Nachts, im atemlosen Traume:
Ein Antlitz, das du einst gekannt.
Wie kommt es nur, daß du am Morgen
Dies alles abtust wie ein Kleid
Und wieder trägst die kleinen Sorgen,
Die kleinen Freuden, tagbereit.
Die Klugen lächeln leicht ironisch:
Ça c'est la vie. Des Lebens Sinn.
Denn ihre Sorge heißt, lakonsich:
Wo gehn wir heute abend hin?
Und nur der Toren Herz wird weise:
Sieh, auch der große Mensch ist klein.
Ihr lauten Lärmer, leise, leise.
Und laßt uns sehr bescheiden sein.
(translation by Andreas Nolte)
How come that we are laughing yet,
That bread and wine still bring us cheer,
That we're not up all night in bed,
Chased by the thousand screams we hear.
Have you not read the paper yet,
Not seen the horror's images?
Who can, with no sign of upset,
Go on to live in peacefulness?
Does not the terror knock on windows,
Does not sheer madness rage the world,
Don't you see hourly and up-close
From blook-red ruins ghosts unfurled?
By day, in wamr and cozy places:
A freezing child from Hungerland,
At night, in breathless dreaming phases:
A face that you once knew first-hand.
How come that you, when morning breaks,
Can strip ala this just like a dress
And wear again these little headaches,
The little joys, with readiness.
The smart ones' grin's a bit ironic:
Ça c'est la vie. Our life's intent.
For their big worry's quite laconic:
Which club tonight should we attend?
And just the fools' hearts turn to prudence:
That even great men are small, see.
You noisy gib-mouths, silence, silence.
And let us show some modesty.
How come we're still a
that we still rejoice bread and wine,
That we don't wake up through the nights
Vanished from a thousand help shrines.
Didn't you read the newspaper?
Didn't you see the image of horror?
who can, as if nothing had happened,
Do your duty in peace?
Doesn't terror knock at the window,
Doesn't madness rush through the world,
Don't you see the ghosts every hour?
From the bloody red rubble field --?
During the day, in a well-heated room:
A freezing child from Hungerland,
At night, in a breathless dream:
A face you once knew.
How come you in the morning
Put it all off like a dress
And again you carry the little worries,
The little pleasures, ready for the day.
The wise smile slightly ironically:
Ca c'est la vie. The meaning of life.
Because their concern is laconically:
Where are we going tonight?
And only the heart of a fool becomes wise:
Behold, even the great man is small.
You loud noise, quiet, quiet.
And let's be very humble.