Missing Words III (2017)
for Cello and Piano
Commissioned by Christopher and Parry Karp
Missing Words III” (2017) is the third in an ongoing series of compositions composed in homage to Ben Schott’s book, Schottenfreude (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group), a collection of newly created German words for the contemporary world. The German language has the capability to create new words through the combination of shorter ones and can express complex concepts in a single word for which there is no direct translation in other languages. Such words include Schadenfreude, Doppelgänger and Wanderlust, and these have been adopted into use in English. With his new book, Ben Schott proposes new words missing from the English language that we can choose to adopt into our own vocabulary.
In my work, I take four of Schott’s words, and their various conceptual associations, as points of creative departure for the imagined worlds in each movement. In some parts, the music responds playfully to the definition of a word, such as in “Mundphantom,” which evokes a thermometer and the phantom feeling of it under one’s tongue after it has been removed. In others, such as in “Rollschleppe,” my thinking about the trudge up a stationary escalator drew me to darker and more complex places emotionally and metaphorically, musing on struggle, humanity and the mechanized world. In all, the music stands on its own, and takes varied paths away from each starting point.
The first movement responds to the word Rollschleppe, which Schott directly translates as “Escalator-Schlep” and defines as “the exhausting trudge up a stationary escalator.” The second movement evokes Mundphantom (Mouth-Phantom), which Schott defines as “feeling that the thermometer is still under your tongue after it’s been removed.” The third movement builds upon the concept of Straußmanöver (Ostrich-Maneuver), which Schott calls “the short-term strategy of simply denying reality,” and the fourth movement evokes the writing of a Schubladenbrief, or as Schott calls, “the letter you write but never send.”
“Missing Words III” was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, Parry and Christopher Karp. It follows two previous works in the Missing Words series, which were composed for the Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble and the American Brass Quintet, respectively. (Note: the English translations used in the movement titles and the definitions used above are quoted directly from the text of Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude, 2013).
– Eric Nathan
Recording not yet available
Duration: 18 minutes