Missing Words VI (2020) - For flute, clarinet, violin, cello
for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, violoncello
Commissioned by Hub New Music and the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players
Missing Words VI (2021) is part of a larger series of works, Missing Words (I-VI), composed in homage to the newly-created German words presented in Ben Schott’s book, Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group). These Seinfeld-ian words illuminate everyday experiences for which English has no synonyms. The words are therefore “missing” from English, and Schott has proposed German words we can adopt into English as we have adopted Doppelgänger, Schadenfreude and Wanderlust. I love the wit, humor, pathos and intimacy of these words, and use the situations they evoke as points of departure for the music. The series as a whole speaks to the complexity of life and human experience, and how all the little bits of the everyday “present” can help us find deeper meaning in our own.
Some thoughts on each movement below (Schott’s definitions in quotes):
I., III., V. Witzbeharrsamkeit (Joke-Insistence) I-III: “Unashamedly repeating a bon mot until it is properly heard by everyone present.” The lively chatter of parties. The piccolo futilely proclaims something (they believe is) clever (about Beethoven, during his anniversary year). The bass clarinet and violin try again later.
II. Betttrug (Bed-Deception): “The fleeting sense of disorientation on waking in a strange bed.” Basking in the glorious first moments of waking in a new place. The first time since lockdown. Light streams through the window. Wishing it would last forever.
IV. Dielennystagmus (Hallway-Nystagmus): “Repeatedly catching and avoiding people’s gazes when, say, approaching them down a long corridor.” A game – catching and averting. Life filled with only gazes.
VI. Erebusterror (Errebus-Terror): “Dread at the first indications of a fatal disease.” A thread of dignity amidst what’s looming.
VII. Rolleirückblende (Rollei-Flashback): “The flood of memory released when looking at old photos.” Thinking back – but remaining here.
[The movement titles of Missing Words, and their translations and definitions, quote text from Schottenfreude by Ben Schott. Copyright © 2013 by Ben Schott. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.]
– Eric Nathan