Überall - (2010)
for medium voice and piano
Überall ist Wunderland
Überall ist Leben
Bei meiner Tante im Strumpfenband
wie irgendwo daneben.
Überall ist Dunkelheit
Kinder werden Väter.
Fünf Minuten später
stirbt sich was für einige Zeit.
Überall ist Ewigkeit.
Wenn Du einen Schneck behauchst
Schrumpft er ins Gehäuse,
Wenn Du ihn in Kognak tauchst,
Sieht er weiße Mäuse.
[ 4 pages, circa 2' 55" ]
The text comes from 1933 and Ringelnatz died a year later; therefore the text is in the public domain according to German copyright law, but not in the United States for approximately another ten years.
Everywhere is a wonderland.
Everywhere shows there is life.
In Auntie's elastic garter band
As in the wider world, it's rife.
Darkness is everywhere.
Children sire more young.
Five minutes later, life has sung;
What lived, dies, even if unfair,
In some eternity's everywhere.
If you breathe on the little snail's head,
It shrinks back that shrinking head.
If you drench it with Cognac, I've read,
It hallucinates white mice instead.
Rhymed paraphrase by the composer.
This odd text couples utter seriousness with nonsense, for indeed that is often how life appears. The poet had made his career with quixotic humor, and this is no exception. Wonderland is conflated with darkness, and something as inane as Auntie's garters with eternity. For this I chose to oppose two tonalities, E flat minor and A minor. The setting is in fact rooted on E flat, but the minor key signature simply would have added more accidentals to an already chromatic setting. An A-A-B-A form and some notated syncopations carry forth the oddity of the text itself.
The B section drops to D minor for the images of the snail, before a return to the tonal center, E flat minor and a reprise of some of the first lines to emphasize the more universal breadth of the text overall.
The score for Überall 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.