Die Moral - (2008)
for medium or low voice and piano
Im dunkeln Erdteil Afrika
Starb eine Ziehharmonika.
Sie wurde mit Musik begraben.
Am Grabe saßen zwanzig Raben.
Der Rabe Num'ro einundzwanzig
Fuhr mit dem Segelschiff nach Danzig
Und gründete dort etwas später
Ein Heim für kinderlose Väter.
Und die Moral von der Geschickt? --
Die weiß ich leider selber nicht.
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 50" ]
In the darkest land in Africa
an accordion died.
It wanted to be buried with music.
On the grave sat twenty ravens.
Raven Number Twenty-One
took a sailing ship to Danzig
Where a little later it founded
A home for childless fathers.
And the moral to this story? --
That I simply cannot tell you.
The nonsense humor of Ringelnatz is quite on a par with much of the work of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear in the English tradition, though less known outside of Germany. Of course, as he readily confesses, such nonsense has no moral to tell. I comment darkly that this feature is shared by modern politics today, filled with words but often given enough time to play out it ends quite as does this text.
The structure to the setting is utterly simple, with a "harmonica" like gesture appearing rather gingerly between long spans of opposing direction half step movement in the top and bottom voices. Why a harmonica? Because among the beggars on the streets of Berlin today are some who play an accordion so poorly that they can barely get out this simple gesture, all the while expecting charitable feelings towards their musical efforts; that's why. Or if this does not sufficiently explain it, then I refer to the last line of the text itself.
The last span of falling half step chords in the treble voices of the accompaniment also reflect that one immutable fact; last evening my bride was practicing the score to Carmen. Or not. The ending corrects itself after an attempt to "land" on the tonic and missing by a half step.
The score for Die Moral is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.