Kloles - (2008)
Yiddish Folk Sayings
for medium voice and piano
i. In the Torah
אין דער תורה
אין דער תורה זײנען דא מער קללות װי ברכות׃
In the Torah there are more curses than blessings.
ii. May He Gamble with His Life
שפילן זאל ער
שפילן זאל ער מיטן לעבן אין געװינען זאל ער דעם טײט׃
Let him gamble with his life and thereby win death.
iii. A Great Business
א גרױס געשעפט
א גרױס געשעפט זאל ער האבן מיט סחורה׃
װאס ער האט זאל מען ניט װעלן אין װאס מען װיל זאל ער ניט האבן׃
May he have a great business with inventory,
and what he has may no man want, and what men want may he not have!
iv. Hang Yourself
הענג דיר אױף א צוקער שטריקל װעסטו האבן א זיסן טױט׃
Hang yourself with a rope made from sugar bags that you have a sweet death.
עסן זאלסטו געהאקטע לעבער מיט ציבעלעס,־
יויך מיט קנװדלעך,־
קארפ מיט כרױן,־
אײנגנעדעמפס מיט צימעס,־
טײ מיט ציטרין,־
און זאלסט זיך מיט יעדן ביס דערשטיקן !־
May you eat chopped liver with onions,
chicken with dumplings,
carp with horseradish,
braised meats with stewed vegetables,
tea with lemon,
every day --
and may you choke on every bite!
[ 7 pages, circa 5' 10" ]
These texts are drawn from a favorite book of mine, Words Like Arrows, a Treasury of Yiddish Folk Sayings, 1984, University of Toronto Press, edited by Shirley Kumove. How shall one set curses to music? With humor, drama and imagination, for after all such imaginative curses were no doubt uttered with the same humor, drama and imagination across generations.
This cycle of short songs begins with an exposition of sorts, gentle flights of conflicting triads blurred with the pedal paint a picture to underlie the opening observation. The first curse in the Torah belongs to the serpent, in Genesis 3, but many curses accompany blessings thereafter as Moses instructs a people forming their society in the midst of their wandering on the way to that land which God had "chosen."
The second is set as a secco dance, austere in its simple two part writing after the more lush introduction.
After the darker A minor, a sweet color in the major mode yet with many parallel sevenths wishes a strange kind of success on a large business -- one without satisfied customers.
To an aggressive, sharply rhythmic waltz, comes the wish that one might have a "sweet death" by hanging from rope made from sugar sacks.
What better curse than to imagine a fine menu -- cuisine fit for that special person upon which to choke! Against C major stands that "indigestible" tritone as a G flat major chord which runs throughout as the "pedal" tone in the upper voice as the simple shifting harmonies underneath cannot "swallow" it. One hopes this little cycle with make "good eating."
The score for Kloles is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.