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Die Geruchschmale (The Narrow-smeller) — character study after Elias Canetti
for Elliot Figg
Die Geruchschmale (The Narrow-smeller) is the twentieth in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon characters from 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. This collection of works, begun in 1997, was inspired by the vividly surreal depictions of Canetti's characters and includes works for contrabass, violin, bass flute, ocarina, contrabassoon, glass harmonica, alto saxophone, trumpet, percussion, bass saxophone, guitar, piccolo, organ, basset horn, and violoncello, among others. In Canetti's depiction of this character, the narrow-smeller "shrinks away from smells and avoids them. [She] is regarded as noble because she avoids any touch. She fears vehement sentences that might pierce through, she addresses people softly.... Unfortunately, she is attractive and gets pursued with roses, she can save herself from them only with quick faints.... while she dreams about distilled water, her admirers put their foul-reeking heads together and try to figure out to which flower scents they could convert her." Der Gertuchschmale is conceived as a deconstructed chaconne, whose subject is based on a fragment from Maurice Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911). The work incorporates a 23-tone microtonal scale, which is the result of tuning each manual to a different key in just intonation.
Die Geruchschmale was completed in September 2022 and composed for harpsichordist Elliot Figg.