Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


Weltflucht - (2010)    

Else Lasker-Schüler

for medium voice and piano

für Karl Bellenberg

Ich will in das Grenzenlose
        Zu mir zurück,
Schon blüht die Herbstzeitlose
        Meiner Seele,
Vielleicht -- ists schon zu spät zurück!
O, ich sterbe unter Euch!
Da Ihr mich erstickt mit Euch.
Fäden möchte ich um mich ziehen --
Wirrwarr endend!
Euch verwirrend,
        Um zu entfliehn

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 50" ]

Else Lasker-Schüler


The poem is found in the 1920 Die gesammelten Gedichte, and it is noted that the text was dedicated to Lasker-Schüler's ex-husband, Georg Lewin but known by his pseudonym of Herwarth Walden, which came from the Berliner's fascination with Thoreau's Walden. Walden had moved in an avant-garde circle in Berlin into which the poet immersed herself in part through him, and he had helped found Der Sturm, a literary journal. Walden was a minor composer in his era, as well, which explains the dedication, "Herwarth Walden, dem Tondichter des Liedes." The mention of meadow saffron refers to an autumn blooming plant which is poisonous, and in myth was the favorite bloom of Medea who poisoned lovers. Lasker-Schüler asks, whether one reads the text as a public, political or private statement, whether it is too late to "turn back" and to one's own individuality.


A student of musicology and German literature at the University in Köln, Karl Bellenberg, wrote me about my earlier settings of Lasker-Schüler's texts, and this brought to mind her collected works in my library which I took down to further read. For this, I dedicate the setting to him for sparking this short composition and further musing on how many artists reach out for individuality, the essential antithesis to that which they would "flee" in the poet's choice of verb, which is the polar opposite of individuality.



Withdrawal from the world

I would flee into the immensity
Of myself,
Already the meadow saffron blooms
In my soul,
Perhaps - it's too late to turn back!
O, I die with you!
Since I was choked with you.
I wanted threads to encircle me -
Ending confusion!
Tangled in you,
In order to escape
Into myself!


The setting opens with opposing polytonal gestures moving in two-measure phrases, D flat winding about E flat to resolve into C major seven spelled as an E minor beneath a C major triad. The second motive burst in, an E flat minor against C major, combing to cross several octaves before the vocal line announces "ich." As a setting about individuality reaching out to itself, the strong rise of an octave enforces the phrase, "ich will."



The confusion of varying tonal regions gives way to a rising gesture, as the final direction of "individuality" is trumpeted, and then repeated above the two opening motives of the song setting.




The score for Weltflucht 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.