Mietvertrag [ 1 ] - (2007)
for medium voice and piano
The apartment they're leasing
on the fifth floor is the one where
the windows on long summer nights. Piecing
the shards of my dignity, I recheck the price: still crass.
signing the contract, the biro blots 
black and I look up with my cheeks mottled
pink going on grey. The blood
in my brain has congealed to a clot
which keeps my practiced suave lines
Looking wolfishly pleased at the parchment he's
between meaty hands, he shows me the brass
taps in the
sizeable bathroom, its marbled
floor is freezing
but it reeks of
As I watch for the ghosts, his words are garbled.
Used by permission of the author
[ 3 pages, circa 2' 30" ]
The poem was written as a part of the "University of Cologne / Universität
zu Köln" Creative Writing Homepage, though I came to know the poem through
Lynn and Bill Melton, meeting Olivia at her parents' home in Hauset, East
Belgium. My wife, Marilyn, had known Olivia as a young child, and years
later here way I meeting her as a young adult, college student and author.
Serendipities can surprise, the world being a fine puzzle.
This song setting utilizes the range of a tenth, most of the tessitura lying
in the mid voice. The plan of the work was to employ a dissonant chord
succession, functioning in place of the normal, common-tone tonic and
dominant. In this setting, the C major triad over an A flat major triad
becomes the tonic substitute, and the G flat major in first inversion
over a C major triad functions as the secondary relationship. Indeed the
ending of the song setting leads to a cadence on C major. It is this unusual
harmonic background which is intended to portray the haunting.
The opening is therefore the substitute, faux-dominant, as the vocal line
begins in C, with a major third in the bottom octave and a minor third in
the octave above and at the end of the first phrase. The long lined
accompaniment with a prolonged sostenuto is meant to linger oddly and
The ending of the poem's text is not the end of the setting, as the mention
of the "poltergeists"
 is reprised, with its thoughts of "long summer
nights." From the setting's harmonic succession as shown above, a more
complex parade of polytonal minor chords builds to a small climax, and
thence the tonality -- the faux tonic -- does not change, lingering for the
final thirteen measures.
The score for Mietvertrag 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.
[ 1 ] "Mietvertrag" is the German word for rental contract.
[ 2 ] "Biro" is a British/Australian English-language nickname for a
ballpoint pen. The word comes from the inventor of the modern
ballpoint pen, László József Bíró (1899-1985). Although the word is
a registered trademark, it has become a normal part of European
Bíró was born in Budapest, Hungary. In 1938, while
working as a journalist, he noticed that newspaper ink dried
quickly, and was therefore quickly smudge-free. Working with his
brother, a chemist, they developed a ball tip for pens that was free
to turn in a socket, then roll to deposit ink on paper. Bíró
patented the invention in Paris in 1938, because he was already
migrating, after fleeing the anti-Jewish laws in Hungary. The
brothers moved to Argentina in 1943 and filed another patent,
forming Biro Pens of Argentina. The new design was licensed by the
British, who produced ballpoint pens for Royal Air Force, these pens
functioning better at high altitude.
In 1950 Marcel Bich bought from
Bíró the patent for the pen, which soon became the main product of
his Bic company.
[ 3 ] A poltergeist, from the German verb
poltern meaning "to crash or thump about," and Geist
meaning "ghost" or "spirit."
Whether one believes in the
supernatural or not, there are echoes to places, resonances of times
past and of events which were painted upon the canvases of such
backgrounds. That one might believe in such beings is a matter for
belief, not argument, for in belief there can be no proof, just as
is proven true for the opposite.
In proof such as science and common
experiences provide, there is no need for belief. Therefore in large
part this text is about a belief, as counterpoint to the mundane act
of making a contractual agreement -- the rental contract.