Die Schadhafte

Complete Work Title: 

Die Schadhafte (The Defective) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo violoncello




for Madeleine Shapiro

Date Composed: 

May-September 2015

Performance Information: 

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.

Additional Information: 

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 12 December 2021; Arc Project Online Festival (York, UK)
  • 23 April 2019; Texas State University (San Marcos, TX)
  • 22 April 2019; Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX)
  • 11 April 2018; Moody Performance Hall (Dallas, TX)
  • 22 September 2016; University of Oklahoma (Norman OK)
  • 19 September 2016; University of North Texas (Denton, TX) [premiere]

    Madeleine Shapiro, violoncello

Program Notes: 

Die Schadhafte (The Defective) is the fifteenth 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, begun in 1997, was inspired by the vividly surreal depictions of Canetti’s characters, and comprises twenty-two solo works to date—composed for familiar instruments such as violin, guitar, piano, and trombone, as well as less common instruments such as ocarina, cimbalom, glass harmonica, and carillon.  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.