QUIRINUS' LOVING KISS
for vocal ensemble and instruments 2000/2001
Years ago, after a concert in Hong Kong, I startedwriting down monosyllabic German words. It struck me that this accumulation of short, meaningful words - pronounced with appropriate nasal delivery and a bit of sing-song - sounded strangely Chinese:"Buzz off'!", "Leaveme!", "Look out!","Not now!.", "Take care!.". For Chinese ears, such expressions of command would be incomprehensible; on the other hand, for others who had mastered German,the scanned rhythms might clearly set the stage for an imitated language. Could this idea be turned into the basis of a vocal composition?
After that, with no great hopes, I began looking for literary texts or poems already based on the principle of monosyllables. That lasted quite a while. However: a heroically painstaking solution was in the offing. It consisted of extracting all the one-syllable words from a dictionary - since time immemorial the ultimate serial source of knowledge. To avoid endless collecting time, I took the precaution of selecting a pocket lexicon. The term lexicon includes the word lex, derived from Greek and denoting the smallest, indivisible parts of the vocabulary. That's what was involved here. Despite my precautionary measures, this tedious exercise yielded an ABC of over 1660 words! With this resource, a writer could presumably write a completely new 'nouveau roman'.
One day, as the manuscript was well under way, I received a private edition from my friend Ernst Brücher. It was a collection of the poems that had accompanied him throughout his life. This anthology for personal use might be comparable to a self-produced compact disc made by a music lover, stringing together just those parts of pieces that touched his heart. And what do I see? "The Change of Human Affairs", "XLI. Liebeskuss" by Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689).
The poem was mainly written in single-syllable words, but really had nothing to do with my original idea of setting texts in a sort of phonetic pidgin-German.
So that one can understand my excitement when I first read this extraordinary sonnet, here it is:
THE XLIth LOVING KISS
The Change of Human Affairs
From night, haze, fight, frost, wind, sea, heat,
South, East, West, North, sun, fire and scourge,
Comes day, glint, blood, snow, peace, land, flash,
Warmth, heat, lust, cold, light, blaze and need.
From grief, pang, shame, fear, war, Oh, cross,
Strife, scorn, pain, gall, fraud, scold and sneer
Will oft come joy, charm, fame, trust, win, help, use,
Peace, wage, fun, rest, luck, and balm.
The moon, beam, smoke, buck, fish, gold, pearl, tree,
Flame, stork, frog, lamb, ox and goods,
Loves shine, straw, fog, mount, flood, gloio, foam,
Fruit, ash, roof, pond, field, and bread.
All shade, man, pains, care, art, play, ship,
Mouth, prince, rage, care, greed, trust and God
Seeks goal, sleep, prize, praise, grace, strife, port, kiss,
Throne, death, shroud, gold, honour, thanksgiving.
What's known as good, strong, hard, right, long,
big, white, one, yes, air, fire, high and far,
Avoids what's bad, weak, light, bent, broad,
small, three, no, earth, flood, low and near.
And grit, love, smarts, wit, mind, soul, friend, lust,
Charm, fame, peace, fun and praise must part,
Where fear, hate, tricks, wine, flesh, foe,
Woe, shame, fear, strife, pain, and scorn now rule.
All things change, and all things love,
and all seem to hate something:
Whoever thinks about such things
must grasp all human wisdom.
DER XLI. LIEBESKUSS
Der Wechsel menschlicher Sachen
Auf Nacht, Dunst, Schlacht, Frost, Wind, See, Hitz,
Süd, Ost, West, Nord, Sonn, Feuer und Plagen
Folgt Tag, Glanz, Blut, Schnee, Still, Land, Blitz,
Wärm, Hitz, Lust, Kalt, Licht, Brand und Not.
Auf Leid, Pein, Schmach, Angst, Krieg, Ach, Kreuz,
Streit, Hohn, Schmerz, Qual, Tück, Schimpf als Spott
Will Freud, Zier, Ehr, Trost, Sieg, Rat, Nutz, Fried,
Lohn, Scherz, Ruh, Glück, Glimpf stets tragen.
Der Mond, Glunst, Rauch, Gems, Fisch, Gold, Perl, Baum,
Flamm, Storch, Frosch, Lamm, Ochs und Magen
Liebt Schein, Stroh, Dampf, Berg, Flut, Glut, Schaum,
Frucht, Asch, Dach, Teich, Feld, Wies und Brot.
Der Schütz, Mensch, Fleiß, Müh, Kunst, Spiel, Schiff,
Mund, Prinz, Räch, Sorg, Geiz, Treu und Gott
Sucht's Ziel, Schlaf, Preis, Lob, Gunst, Zank, Port, Kuss,
Thron, Mord, Sarg, Geld, Hold, Danksagen.
Was gut, stark, schwer, recht, lang, groß, weiß, eins,
ja, Luft, Feuer, hoch, weit genennt,
Pflegt bös, schwach, leicht, krumm, breit, klein,
schwarz, drei, nein, Erd, Flut, tief, nah zu meiden.
Auch Mut, lieb, klug, Witz, Geist, Seel, Freund, Lust,
Zier, Ruhm, Fried, Scherz, Lob muß scheiden,
Wo Furcht, Haß, Trug, Wein, Fleisch, Leib, Feind,
Weh, Schmach, Angst, Streit, Schmerz, Hohn schon rennt.
Alles wechselt, alles liebet,
alles scheinet was zu hassen:
Wer nur diesem nach wird denken,
muß der Menschen Weisheit fassen.
More about the CD: HERE