Casper Hauser Songs
ENS.22 | 2.10.08-3.27.08; 8.8.13-8.12.13 | 32’
Baritone, 2 Bass Clarinets, Bassoon, 2 Violas, Cello, Bass
Midi Rendition of “The Dark Lament of His Mouth”
Midi Rendition of “Solitude”
Midi Rendition of “Whiteness”
Midi Rendition of “On the Albino Farm…”
Midi Rendition of “First Light”
Midi Rendition of “Der Erlkönig”
Midi Rendition of “To My Body”
Midi Rendition of “That the Night Please Us”
Midi Rendition of “Ich will ein Reiter werden”
Casper Hauser Songs
Poems by Neil Azevedo from “Ocean”
- The Dark Lament of his Mouth
- On the Albino Farm…
- First Light
- Der Erlkönig
- To My Body
- That the Night Please Us
- Ich will ein Reiter werden
When I was young I was fascinated by historical mysteries: the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, the money pit, and Kasper Hauser, the famous teenager who appeared in Nuremberg in the early eighteenth century claiming to have been held alone in a darkened room for most of his life. Rumors abounded about this strange child, thought by some an abandoned prince and others a liar. Today it is largely accepted that most of his strange behavior and story were invented by the man himself, but his legend has inspired many works of art, most notably Werner Herzog’s weird and wonderful film The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, whose German title is even better.
I was in the late Strand Annex one day poking through the dollar bin and discovered a little volume called Ocean by a poet otherwise unknown to me, Neil Azevedo. There was a blurb from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on the cover – possibly a good thing, possibly not – and when I opened the volume I found it featured a sequence of Casper Hauser Songs, whose elliptical poetry immediately seized my imagination and cried out for musical setting. To match the darkness of the world depicted I set the poems for baritone and an amplified ensemble dominated by bass instruments: baritone sax, tuba, cello, bass, and heavily distorted electric guitar. The nine songs explicitly reflect the influence of popular music and minimalism as well as the early nineteenth-century German lieder contemporary with the Casper Hauser saga.
However, while I always thought it one of my stronger works, Casper Hauser Songs never seemed quite right, but I wasn’t sure why. Half a decade later in summer 2013 I realized that the original dark, rock-influenced instrumentation was the problem. Although the melodic and harmonic character of the songs may (deliberately) resemble popular forms, this work remains 100% classical music, and as such it made sense to recast them for a more acoustic ensemble. Accordingly, I replaced the baritone sax with bass clarinet, tuba with bassoon, and electric guitar with two violas. I then added a second bass clarinet to enrich the harmonies and allow for the continuous textures I’d entrusted to circular breathing in the original baritone sax part. As I worked on the new arrangement I found myself extensively rewriting the piece, so while the songs retain their original shapes, the material has been reshuffled among the instruments and virtually recomposed from the bottom up.
Casper Hauser Songs includes nine songs and lasts a little longer than half-an-hour.