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Der Leichenschleicher (The Corpse-skulker) — character study after Elias Canetti
to Michael Hartt
Sam Suggs, contrabass
Adam Goodwin, contrabass
Ted Partin, contrabass
Todd Markey, contrabass
recording (You Tube)
Recorded December 1999; Todd Markey, contrabass.
Der Leichenschleicher (The Corpse-skulker) is the first in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon 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. 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, trumpet, percussion, bass saxophone, piccolo, organ, basset horn, and violoncello, among others. 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 and is included on the album Equipoise (innova 611, 2005).