Der Ohrenzeuge

Complete Work Title: 

Der Ohrenzeuge (The Earwitness) — character study after Elias Canetti


Performance Medium: 

solo bass flute


Duration: 

c.5:00


Dedication: 

to Helen Bledsoe


Date Composed: 

September 2000 - January 2001


Additional Information: 
  • Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).
  • This work is part of a collection of solo works based on character studies in Elias Canetti's book Der Ohrenzeuge (Earwitness).
  • Solo works from this collection may be programmed as a set, or in conjunction with the semi-improvisational, open-form works Canetti-menagerie (for five to eight instruments) or Conversations (for two to four instruments), which use these works as source material for improvisational interplay.

Performance History: 
  • 7 November 2020; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  • 28 October 2020; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)—live-streamed event due to COVID-19.

    Anne Dearth Maker, bass flute

  • 29 September 2018; Luther College Noble Recital Hall (Decorah, IA)
  • 26 September 2018; University of Northern Iowa, Graham Hall (Cedar Falls, IA)
  • 25 September 2018; The University of Iowa Center for New Music Recital Hall (Iowa City, IA
  • 23 September 2018; Simpson College, Lekberg Hall (Indianola, IA)
  • 21 September 2018; Drake University, Sheslow Auditorium (Des Moines, IA)
  • 20 September 2018; Grinnell College, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts (Grinnell, IA)
  • 2 April 2016; North Dakota Museum of Art (Grand Forks, ND
  • 10 March 2016; Faith Lutheran Church (Bismarck, ND) — Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra Rush Hour Concert
  • 18 May 2011; Lawrence University Conservatory of Music (Appleton, WI)
  • 25 April 2011; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  • 6 March 2011; Voices of Change Salon Concert (Dallas, TX)
  • 9 October 2009; Clarke University (Dubuque, IA) — Society of Composers, Inc. Region V Conference
  • 27 March 2009; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

    Lisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute

  • 6 April 2001; University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
  • 27 March 2001; University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  • 25 February 2001; Posthoornkerk (Amsterdam, Netherlands) — "The Great Virtuoso Slugfest" [premiere]

    Helen Bledsoe, bass flute


Program Notes: 

Der Ohrenzeuge ("The Earwitness") is the sixth 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 Earwitness “comes, halts, huddles unnoticed in a corner, peers into a book or display, hears whatever is to be heard, and moves away untouched and absent.” Accordingly, the work itself quotes fragments of nearly two dozen Twentieth-century works from the flute and bass flute repertoire.

Der Ohrenzeuge was composed between September 2000 and January 2001 for flutist Helen Bledsoe, who first performed the work on 25 February 2001 at the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).