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Der Wasserhehler (The Water-harborer) — character study after Elias Canetti
to Helen Bledsoe
June - July 1997 (originally for Native American flute); revised and transcribed for ocarina September 2000
Helen Bledsoe, ocarina
Der Wasserhehler (The Water-harborer) is the third 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 Water-harborer "lives in fear that he is bound to die of thirst and so he collects water… He goes to his neighbor and asks for some water… [and] thereby spares his own faucet, which shares his sensitivity and closes before it is too late."
Der Wasserhehler was composed in July 1997 and revised in September 2000 for Helen Bledsoe, who first performed the work on 14 November 2000 in Sofia, Bulgaria. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).