Der Schönheitsmolch

Complete Work Title: 

Der Schönheitsmolch (The Beauty-newt) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo bass saxophone




for Andreas van Zoelen

Date Composed: 

January-February 2001; completed October 2008

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/Broadcast History: 
  • 23 March 2023; Archway Gallery—Texas New Music Ensemble program (Houston, TX).

    Masahito Sugihara, bass saxophone

  • 18 October 2020; Bowling Green State University—41st Annual Bowling Green New Music Festival (Bowling Green, OH).

    Lindsey Welp, bass saxophone

  • 6 October 2014; University of North Texas (Denton, TX).
  • 15 September 2014; University of North Texas (Denton, TX). [premiere]

    Eric Nestler, bass saxophone

  • 18 February 2014; broadcast on "The New Edge” with Ken Field, WMBR-FM (Cambridge, MA).

    Andreas van Zoelen, bass saxophone

Program Notes: 

Der Schönheitsmolch (The Beauty-newt) is the eleventh 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 Beauty-newt "is keen on all the beautiful things that have existed, do exist, or will exist in the world, and he finds them in palaces, museums, temples, churches, and caves… it would be ungentlemanly to describe his repulsive looks. Let it be said that he never had a nose. His pop eyes, his jughandle ears, his goiter, his black, rotten teeth, the pestilential stench he exudes from his mouth, his sometimes squeaky, sometimes croaking voice, his doughy hands… he never holds them out to anyone and unerringly finds his place in front of all beauties."

Der Schönheitsmolch was completed in October 2008 and composed for bass saxophone specialist Andreas van Zoelen. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).