Der Leichenschleicher

Complete Work Title: 

Der Leichenschleicher (The Corpse-skulker) — character study after Elias Canetti


Performance Medium: 

solo contrabass


Duration: 

c.5:00


Dedication: 

to Michael Hartt


Date Composed: 

June 1997


Additional Information: 

Included on the CD Equipoise — Music of Joseph Klein and William Kleinsasser (innova 611, 2005).


Performance History: 

Adam Goodwin, contrabass:
• 22 January 2011; University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA) — UCSD "Sonic Diasporas” Festival

Ted Partin, contrabass:
• 23 March 2001; University of Memphis (Memphis, TN) — “Imagine 2001” New Music Festival

Todd Markey, contrabass:
• 19 November 1999; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]


Program Notes: 

Der Leichenschleicher ("The Corpse-skulker") is the first in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon the vividly surreal characters in Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig Charaktere ("Earwitness: Fifty Characters"), written in 1974 by the Bulgarian-born British-Austrian novelist Elias Canetti (1905-1994). Canetti’s distinctive studies incorporate poetic imagery, singular insights, and unabashed wordplay to create fifty ironic paradigms of human behavior. Begun in 1997, there are fifteen works in this series to date, composed for contrabass, violin, contrabassoon, ocarina, glass harmonica, bass flute, alto saxophone, trumpet, percussion, bass saxophone, guitar, piccolo, organ, basset horn, and violoncello. In Canetti's depiction of this character, The Corpse-skulker "goes from bar to bar, looking for acquaintances.... The moment he spots one, he walks over solemnly, greets him, stops, remains silent, and then says in a lamenting, rather sing-song voice: 'Have you heard, N.N. has died'.... [H]e infects them with his funeral lusts and invites them so emphatically that some people come even though they would never have dreamt of it, but fearing his next announcement could be about them."

Der Leichenschleicher was composed in June of 1997 for contrabassist Michael Hartt. The work was first performed by Todd Markey on 22 November 1999 at the University of North Texas. It is included on the album Equipoise (innova 611, 2005).