Bauchweh - (2010)    

Erich Kurt Mühsam

for medium voice and piano


Die Därme wälzen sich im Kampfe;
es zuckt der Leib im Magenkrampfe:
die Welt ist schlecht, - die Welt ist schlecht.
Daß die der Herr im Zorn zerstampfe!
Daß sie verpuffe und verdampfe! -
So wär' es recht! - So wär' es recht!

Angst ist das Leben und Beschwerde;
der Mensch, er sitzt am Schmerzensherde
im Weltenbauch, - im Weltenbauch.
In qualzerrissener Gebärde
krümmt sich der Bauch der Welt, der Erde, -
und meiner auch. - Und meiner auch.

[ 3 pages, circa 3' 00" ]

Erich Kurt Mühsam


Stomach Pains


The bowels writhe about in battle;
The body twitches in stomach cramps:
The world is horrid, -- the world is horrid.
It is as if God trampled about in wrath!
That the world might fizzle and disappear! -
Oh would it be! -- Oh would it be!

Fear is our life and its infirmity;
Man, he sits in the center of pains
In the world's belly, - in the world's belly.
In torment-torn gestures
Does the world's belly double over, the earth, -
And mine too. -- And mine too!





The text is drawn from his early collection, Der Krater, among poems intense with political and theological import. The pains which the poet sees are personal and world-wide, such that the metaphor of visceral bodily pain suffices in both realms. Placing the poem in the upheaval of that time and place, Mühsam paints a harsh picture which he, of all poets of the time, earned a right to so do. The individual or an entire society doubled over by pain fluctuates between outbursts and rage, on the one hand, and a flagging energy on the other.


For this the setting sings both within the context of the 3/8 meter, at first filled with rapid-fire notes and then broadening into long sustained four-note chords, such that the chromaticism is twelve-tone complete across a short duration of time without the reference to any dodecaphonic system. As the phrase repeats, the opening intensity drains away.



The ends of both stanzas are accompanied by falling half steps, as the setting closes in a whisper of dissipated dissonance.




The score for Bauchweh 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.