Gesang der jungen Anarchisten - (2009)
Erich Kurt Mühsam
for medium voice and piano
Freiheit! mahnt es aus den Grüften,
die der Vorzeit Kämpfer decken.
Freiheit! lockt es aus den Lüften,
die der Zukunft Stürme wecken.
aus Ahnung Freiheit werde,
haltet, Künftige, euch bereit.
entweihte Erde -
helft ans Licht der neuen Zeit!
Freie Menschen sollen wohnen,
wo gequälte Sklaven schleichen,
Menschen, die aus allen Zonen
Gruß und Trunk einander reichen.
Gesetzen nicht gebunden,
ohne Herrn und ohne Staat -
frei nur kann die
Künftige, durch eure Tat!
Jugend, sammle deine Scharen,
kämpfend Zukunft zu erstreiten.
Leben will erfahren,
lasse sich vom Tod begleiten.
lechzt die Welt nach Glück und Licht.
Mahnend wehn die
Freiheit ist der Jugend Pflicht!
[ 6 pages, circa 4' 00" ]
Erich Kurt Mühsam (1878-1934) was born in Berlin, child of Jewish parents,
and raised in Lübeck. He had two sisters and a borther. The father,
Siegfried Seligman Mühsam, was a pharmacist and then from 1887 bis 1915 a
deputy in the Lübeck government. In 1896 Erich Mühsam developed sympathies
to the Social Democrats in the time of the Kaiser, writing for the
Lübecker Volksbote. He turned to a course in pharmacology in Lübeck, but
soon moved to Berlin (1901). There while working as pharmacist he also
worked as editor for an anarchist journal, Der arme Teufel.
followed was a period of travel to the south of Europe, and then settling
into Munich, where he founded anarchist organization. He was arrested, and
charged with political agitation. His life followed more writing and more
political agitation, with occasional internment in jails only to be followed
by more creativity and political work, especially for the release of
political prisoners. From WWI to WWII this was his pattern, until finally,
as his biography tells, he was murdered in 1934 by the National Socialists'
SS in the Oranienburg concentration camp, after having been arrested on the
night of the arson of the Reichstag - done by these very same National
Socialists. Mühsam's theme as judged by this fine text was less to support a
specific political plan as to stress freedom, freedom and freedom - that is
to say, freedom from tyrannical government
[ 1 ].
Freedom! It is urged from out of the graves,
That mark the fighters of
Freedom! It is enticed from the winds,
That future storms
That freedom will be predestined
children, ready for you.
Purify the desecrated earth -
Help to bring
to light the new age!
Free men shall live,
Where the forced slaves creep,
Men from all walks
who greet and toast each other richly.
Unburdened by rules,
Without lords and without state -
freedom only can heal the world.
Tomorrow's children, through your act!
Youth, gather into crowds.
Fighting to win your future.
fully live life,
Let him live with death.
Future ones! Through holy
Thirsted the world after happiness and light.
Think to the
Freedom is youth's duty!
The setting came to mind while reading the text alongside thoughts of the
so-called Partizaner Lid, Zog Nit Keynmol (Yiddish:
זאָג ניט קיין מאָל), which I had sung many times earlier in my life.
As that song of defiance is a solid 4/4 march, I thought this setting also
should be of that character. The darkness of Mühsam's life story also was in
my thoughts, so the dotted rhythms were mixed with the smaller intervals,
harmonic relationships of minor thirds for the chord progressions as found
in the first measures. This was spun out an opening gesture which drives the
setting forward, as the voice sings out a defiant "Freiheit!" It stands
defiant against those who would quash freedom -- a government growing
unlimited in its applications of power.
The opening gesture becomes transposed into a related tonal region as the
bridge material breaks the first two stanzas of the poem into a two-part
form, for the purposes of emphasizing the word, "freedom," several times.
This becomes the end of the first stanza, and the setting returns to sing
out a second stanza like the first.
The third stanza of the poem is a "charge" to the young to take up the cause
of freedom. For this the setting turns away from the march-like rhythms for
a section, marked "quasi recit." It is suggested that the performers find
some musical freedom in this making the charge for Mühsam as we contemplate
these words again in our -- or some future -- time.
The score for Gesang der jungen Anarchisten 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.
Gesang der jungen Anarchisten
[ 1 ] The word, freedom, is often
defined loosely. Dictionaries give many alternatives, couched in
terms of freedom "from" -- the preposition being all important
-- bondage, slavery, serfdom and the like, as well as freedom
"from" being constrained by government, freedom from burdensome
taxation, or that sort of freedom which allows the individual
choice between things. Taken together and mixed with other
dictionary definitions of freedom, this comes to a phrase which
is quite clear, "freedom from government." Of course, total
anarchy is the lack of government, and the practical individual
recognizes various forms of limited government as necessary to
the commonweal. Yet, this is the entry point on a well-proven
and historically documented slope from smaller to larger and
final to pervasive and all powerful government. This seems more
the rule, than the exception.
For this poets have consistently sided with freedom "from"
government. Some examples are worth noting herein: One of
America's quintessential home grown poets, Walt Whitman, wrote
plainly, "Once unquestioning obedience, / once fully enslaved, / no
nation, state, city of this earth, / ever afterward resumes its
liberty. / Resist! Resist!"
An equally American Ambrose Bierce set aside his sardonic humor for
this earnest observation on "Freedom," "She screams whenever
monarchs meet, / And parliaments as well, / To bind the chains about
her feet / And toll her knell."
Composer and iconoclast Charles E. Ives wrote, observing how easily
freedom can be diluted: "Prejudice and politics, and the
stand-patters came in strong, and yelled, 'slide back! Now you’re
safe, that’s the easy way!'"
Carl Sandburg, poet and scholar on the life of Abraham Lincoln,
observed about government, politicians and their ultimately thin
skins: "A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
/ as any human sinner carrying a load of germs, / traditions and
corpuscles handed down from / fathers and mothers away back."
Robert Service was even more plainly spoken, avowing: "To hell with
Government I say; / I'm sick of all the piddling pack."
While Erich Mühsam's biography shows him involved with the early
Social Democrats during life under the Kaiser, and then under the
inept and quickly failed Weimar Republic, only to be followed by the
Nazi Party and their National Socialism, I wager from this poet's
other work that allegiance to a political party was a temporary
thing, useful in a time to oppose a government, for he in fact
titled this poem specifically, "Song of the young Anarchists." This
lesson is well worth remembering, and I do so herein by setting
these fine words and cry for freedom to song.