Die Schadhafte (The Defective) — character study after Elias Canetti
for Madeleine Shapiro
Madeleine Shapiro, violoncello:
• 22 September 2016; University of Oklahoma (Norman OK)
• 19 September 2016; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]
Die Schadhafte ("The Defective") is the fifteenth 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 Defective keeps examining herself, on and on, and always comes across new defects. She nitpicks on her skin, locks herself up with it, and never tackles more than a tiny area at one time.... if she were done with her entire skin, she would be bound to collapse under the weight of her knowledge, she is kept upright by the realization that there is so much still to do." The musical gestures in Die Schadhafte are based entirely on the inherent rhythms and pitch inflections of the Canetti text in its English translation, resulting in a speech-like quality throughout the work.
Die Schadhafte was completed in September of 2015 and composed for 'cellist Madeleine Shapiro, who premiered the work on 19 September 2016 at the University of North Texas.