Monday, December 19, 2011

Prof Mark Thamert Presents at Denver Conference

Summary of the Presentation Given at the November 2011 American Association of Teachers of German National Conference in Denver:

         Grooveshark, Goethe, Good Poems, Good Music
     The greatest of German poems have always enjoyed a rich history of interpretations, or Rezeptionsgeschichte.  Some of the m,ost provocative poems have garnered hundreds of interpretations from their first date of publication to the present. Each of these interpretations reveals something of the intellectual interests of the age and literary milieu in which it was written.
     What are often overlooked are the astonishing musical interpretations of these poems. Goethe's "Erlkönig," for example, elicited over 150 different musical settings since its first publication, a good many of them now available for listening on the web.
     When teaching upper-division German seminars, I ask students to work through a particular poem thoroughly, by comparing it to poems with a similar theme, by memorizing and performing parts or the entire poem, and then by listening to contrasting musical renditions of the poem. For example, on the theme of Geister we will work through classic poems like Goethe's "Erlkönig," "Der Zauberlehrling," and "Der Totentanz." Herder's "Erlkönigs Tochter" provides a fascinating foil for Goethe's "Erlkönig." We explore the theme of Geister further by working through Heine's "Mein Wagen rollet langsam," and "Die Lorelei" along with Brentano's "Lore Lay." Also included are Eichendorff's "Waldgespräch" and Droste-Hülshoff's "Der Knabe im Moor."
     There are about twenty other themes which provide for productive comparisons and assignments. Let me give you an example of three of them:
  • Eichendorff, "Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen"
  • Goethe, "Wanderers Nachtlied I," "Wanderers Nachtlied II"
  • Eichendorff, "Im Abendrot," "Wiegenlied," "Mondnacht," "Zwielicht"
  • Goethe, "An den Mond"
  • Goethe, "Mailied"
  • Heine, "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai"
  • Mörike, "Frühling," "Im Frühling"
  • Rilke, "Vorfrühling"
  • Uhland, "Der Frühlingsglaube"
     What follows are YouTube and Vimeo clips of Goethe's "Erlkönig" as well as Heine's "Die Lorelei."  There are also dozens of performances one can listen to on the web site called Grooveshark, at no charge.  A teacher or student can also go to Apple's iTunes store to download the very finest performances for 99 cents per track.  In the poetry courses I teach, I assign willing students the task of composing their own version of the poems we cover and putting those on YouTube or Vimeo.  Here are some sample clips of "Erlkönig" and "Die Lorelei." 

Erlkönig (Schubert): Anne Sofie von Otter singing Schubert’s Erlkönig. (3:56)önig - Franz Schubert: Male Vocalist with paintings of the Erlkönig legend in video. (4:03);
Beethoven - WoO.131 ‘completed’ version of Erkönig;   Rammstein feat. Thordred –Erlkönig: modern rock version with spoken poem; Dalai Lama - Rammstein Lyrics and English Translation: Rammstein’s Modern interpretation;
Der Erkönig : animated reading of Erlkönig;
Der Erlkönig : Animated interpretation of Erkönig by a German Animated Film schoolönig – elfking : Black-white animation with English subtitles ; Erlkonig: Portuguese film school product, staged, modern thought to poem.

Richard Tauber Sings die Lorelei 1939: Silcher version Sutherland - Die Loreley (Ich weiss nicht) 1960 live recital: Liszt version; Die Lorelei - Erich Kunz – 1939: a capella version from Erich Kunz with lyrics on screen; "Die Lorelei" von Heinrich Heine (Poetry reading): includes English subtitles – Scorpions : Modern rock rendition of the legend of Lorelei by Scorpions in English; Pogues – Lorelei: Light rock version of legend of Lorelei in English

     Conclusion.  Teaching great German poetry becomes an even richer experience when students and teacher can compare and contrast brilliant musical performances of the greatest German poems. Students learn about Rezeptionsgeschichte by exploring questions like, "Why is this 20th century rendition so different from the version written in 1820?  What was happening in Europe during these times?  If you were to compose a song using this poem, how would your music differ from the music we have listened to?" 

   For a full list of 250 German poems I have grouped by theme for this course, please contact me at .