Die Silbenreine

Complete Work Title: 

Die Silbenreine (The Syllable-pure Woman) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium: 

solo glass harmonica




to Thomas Bloch

Date Composed: 

November 1999 - April 2000

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: 
  • 26 July 2014; broadcast on "Cousin Mary,” KFJC-FM (San Francisco, CA)

    Thomas Bloch, glass harmonica

Program Notes: 

Die Silbenreine (The Syllable-pure Woman) is the fifth 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 Syllable-pure Woman "speaks so unshakably correct that others listen to her with open mouths. Perhaps they hope to swallow the words themselves and keep them for the right moment. Absurd thought! Words do not fit into every mouth, they bounce back from some like marbles."

Die Silbenreine was completed in April of 2000 and composed for Thomas Bloch. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).