BPM home | Volume 9 index | Article

Appendix 01: Musical analyses

Chiara Bertoglio

Psalm 23

The opening PS23-M-01 is also one of the clearest of the cycle: a slow and desolated monody proposed by tape. Ives’ The Unanswered Question is echoed by the following measures (2–8): long notes of the strings, and soloistic function of flute, similar to Ives’ trumpet. Another characteristic feature of Kancheli’s writing is the simultaneous proposal of partially coincident notes by different timbres: this happens, e.g., to alto flute and viola at b. 2–8 (especially b. 3). Dissonance, on the weak beat and marked with a diminuendo hairpin, creates a conflict between tension and distension. The descending reiterations of flute’s PS23-M-02 contribute to creating a depressive and resigned mood. This motif is always characterized by a feeling of “wellness”, provoked by its immediate association with ancestral experiences characterized by calm regularity (like heart pulsations or breath). This comforting feeling might constitute an efficacious musical rendering of the protecting Good Shepherd.

The soprano, entering at b. 9, adds a new stratum, partially using elements taken from bars 2–8 (in particular, it presents PS23-M-02 almost verbatim at b. 10, 12–13; but also b. 9 is related to this motif, and in b. 11 it is inverted, mirror-like). After an arduous ascension (b. 9–11), the reiteration of b. 12 in b. 13 provokes a comforting and ‘childish’ feeling. The third compositional block (after b. 1 and b. 2–13) is characterized by a masterly orchestration,1 by the appearance of PS23-M-03 (viola’s rhythm), and by conjunct motion or unison of all parts; after a long rest (b. 15) the first intervals bigger than a second are played by viola. Their combination with the flute’s long notes creates the first tonal pole of the piece (diminished seventh of {a}).

PS23-M-04 is proposed with alternate notes by alto flute and soprano; the tonal centre of b. 18–23 is {e}. Fragmentation of b. 18–20 is opposed to long and legato notes of b. 21–3 (cf. b. 9–13, PS23-M-02): this opposition is increased by the use of the same poetic text. B. 22–3 constitute the dynamic2 and melodic climax of this first section. From b. 24, this quiet mood is troubled by the almost imperceptible semiquavers of flute, introducing a double-speed pulsation; similarly, the viola presents a quick rhythm (connected with PS23-M-03 and anticipating its reappearance at b. 27). The new key of {e flat} is ambiguously introduced, being confirmed and consolidated by PS23-M-04 (b. 28). The synthesiser’s first appearance (Pan flute) prolongs the voice’s notes: it is the first use of a compositional device largely used in the following lines. It creates ambiguous situations, hesitating between pppp-clusters and triads at b. 29, 30 and 31.

The viola’s PS23-M-05 (b. 32, 34), sounding like a folk-tune, has something in common with b. 26 (augmentation) and with b. 30 (soprano part); a fragment from PS23-M-02 (flute, b. 33) re-establishes a calm pulsation.3 As concerns harmonic poles, b. 32–4 gravitate around {e}; b. 35–6 are in {c sharp}, while b. 36–7 ‘move’ (instead of modulating) to {c}. PS23-M-06 is presented by the synthesiser (effect of ‘prolongation’ or ‘persistence’), by alto flute (whole motif) and soprano (humming, i.e. instrumental use of voice) at b. 35. PS23-M-04 returns at b. 36–7, and its triadic structure contrasts with the conjunct motion of PS23-M-06; in the meantime, the flute proposes PS23-M-02, whose constant pitch contrasts in its turn with PS23-M-04 and PS23-M-06.

A secondary motif that appeared first at b. 26 is played by viola at b. 38 ({e}): it anticipates PS23-M-05a, which will play a leading role in the concluding section, and is linked with PS23-M-06. Similarly, a hidden variant of PS23-M-02 (b. 39) will be the motivic basis of the whole cycle.

Polarization on {d sharp} is a tonicization of the leading note:4 this creates a strong tension whose distension (b. 44,5 {e}) will be felt as greatly reassuring. The soprano, with synthesiser’s ‘persistence’, proposes again PS23-M-06 at b. 40; PS23-M-06a, a very important variant of PS23-M-06, is introduced at b. 42 after a canonic imitation by the alto flute (b. 41). PS23-M-06a comes directly from PS23-M-06, but also borrows important elements from other motifs: e.g., b. 43 is strictly connected with the variant of PS23-M-02 that is presented by soprano at b. 10 (“ist mein Hirte”). B. 43’s ‘questioning’ attitude6 and the viola’s trill cast doubts on the soprano’s text: the reassuring feeling of PS23-M-02 is shaken. The soprano again sings PS23-M-06 at b. 45; slurs and vocalization confer a sense of directionality. The slight changes intervening in this motif cannot be defined as true “variants”. They can better be considered as adaptations of PS23-M-06 to the different psychological and expressive situation. While the remaining instruments approach the limits of inaudibility, alto flute presents once more PS23-M-02, significantly augmented and mp.

Characterized by the typical Kancheli contrasts between extreme dynamics,7 a new block begins after the general pause; though hidden by the many clusters, a tonal centre of {c} can be identified. PS23-M-03 is presented by the ensemble at b. 49 and b. 51,8 while at b. 50 PS23-M-05 is played by Solo-viola. Both of these motifs can be traced back to the ‘Ur-motif’ PS23-M-02. At its second appearance, PS23-M-03 had been introduced by intensifying PS23-M-02’s pulsation (b. 24–5). Rhythmically, PS23-M-05 is a variant and augmentation of PS23-M-02, and melodically it is an inversion of PS23-M-02’s second measure. Clearly, differences among these three motifs are strong enough to justify their separate and independent consideration, but it is important to notice their latent common origin. Moreover, both PS23-M-02 and PS23-M-03 are linked to PS23-M-01 thanks to their ample recourse to appoggiaturas and mordents.

B. 52 is another example of Kancheli’s typical stratification. The alto flute repeats PS23-M-03 almost obsessively; the strings play an almost unrecognizable augmentation of PS23-M-05; the synthesiser’s motif can be identified as a variant of PS23-M-02, destined to be combined with the flute’s PS23-M-03, while the soprano presents a new motif, PS23-M-07. If PS23-M-07 cannot be strictly defined as a descendant of PS23-M-04, the common triadic structure of the two motifs nevertheless reveals their connection.9 The first appearance of PS23-M-04 is also echoed and recalled by the soprano’s short, separate and interrupted values (b. 52). B. 53, concluding the new motif M-07, can be traced to the string’s motif at b. 26, and results from a sum of PS23-M-02 with PS23-M-05’s rhythm. B. 53’s last notes will constitute an independent motif (PS23-M-05a), descending from PS23-M-05. A chiasmus is presented at b. 54–5 by alto flute and viola;10 as regards tonal centre, it has moved from {f} to its subdominant, {b flat}. The progressive disappearance and dissolution of the ostinato (PS23-M-03) might be seen as a victory of the Good Shepherd over Evil (cf. John 10: 11).

Psalm 23 has a latent ABA structure, whose centre is the stormy episode of b. 49–56; consequently, the block beginning at b. 57 can be interpreted as a ‘reprise’. In fact, not only the opening atmosphere is restored, but also the verbal text is resumed (“Der Herr ist mein Hirte”). This might support our interpretation of section ‘B’ as ‘the evil’, symbolized by the wolf, chased away by the Good Shepherd. A rhythmic variant of PS23-M-05 is played by viola at b. 57: its insistence on neighbouring notes sound as an anticipation of tape’s PS23-M-01. PS23-M-05, presented by alto flute, is put near to PS23-M-05a, presented independently by soprano for the first time: this highlights their similarity as well as their differences.

M-07 is proposed again by the soprano at b. 58; this motif’s binary structure (two triads on two quadruplets of quavers) is highlighted by a chiasmus at b. 58–61:

Musical example

Example 1

Announced by the viola (PS23-M-03’s neighbouring notes), the tape’s PS23-M-01 re-enters at b. 62, first at pp, and afterwards following the instruments’ dynamics and tensions. A Solo role is played by cello in b. 63,11 with PS23-M-06a, an important variant of PS23-M-06. The motif’s first bar is always unvaried, while the melodic trend is inverted at b. 63b and 63f:

Musical example

Example 2: PS23-M-06a and PS23-M-06b

B. 63a–b have a tension, followed by a ‘depressive’ distension at b. 63c–d, with ‘sighs’ at b. 63c. Like an echo of PS23-M-06a’s second bar, soprano presents PS23-M-05a at b. 63d, as underlined by the descending chromatic scale of alto flute (b. 63b). A single, great tension pervades and orientates b. 63e–h, meeting at the fffppp (!) between b. 63–4. B. 63h’s fff is the penultimate dynamic culmination of the piece.

The synthesiser proposes an {e} triad at b. 64, re-establishing a tonal pole; once more, the soprano shows indifference (or impotence) towards the tension involving the entire ensemble, and reasserts almost passively the motto “mein Hirte” (PS23-M-05a). In connection with the soprano’s PS23-M-05a, the viola’s motif can be identified as a substantial variant of PS23-M-06: consequently, PS23-M-05a can be considered as partially pertaining to the semantic field of PS23-M-06, characterized by suffering, instability and uncertainty.

Transitorily but significantly, an {E} triad appears at b. 66, throwing a ray of hope on the surrounding desolation; in correspondence to the four consonant sixths of b. 66–7, the soprano proposes a variant (augmentation and melodic variation) of PS23-M-05a. A fragment of PS23-M-02 is proposed by the synthesiser at b. 68: the calming and reassuring value of PS23-M-02 is accentuated by the evocative bells’ sound.12 Their repeated E flat creates a section in {e flat}.

The soprano’s chromatic melody (b. 69–70) echoes PS23-M-02’s reinterpretation proposed by the soprano at its first appearance. Rhythmically, this fragment can be understood in function of b. 30 and of its derivations. An interval of a sixth between b. 70 and 71 underlines M-07’s representation; its variants reveal its role as a link between motifs at b. 23, 30, 31 and M-07 itself. B. 72 ({d}) has a juxtaposition of fragments from PS23-M-04 and PS23-M-07 (cf. b. 28 and 30), revealing Kancheli’s flexible concept of motivic/thematic material. The viola plays an ascending version of PS23-M-04 (b. 73-74), and the soprano’s b. 74–5 can be included in the motivic class of b. 22–3. PS23-M-07’s binary nature is underlined by its fragmented presentation by viola and cello (b. 75–6).

The tape’s PS23-M-01 (b. 77) creates a complete stasis: the strings maintain a pedal of E, extremely long, representing the final recovery of the ‘main key’. The soprano (b. 79ff) sings a different Psalm (9: 16), whose slightly sententious text is associated with glissandi, typical of popular music, resulting in the character of an old proverb or lamentation. PS23-M-06 sung by soprano at b. 81 as at b. 42–4 creates a bridge between the two passages (“Finsternis” and “Heiden”). Analogously, the soprano proposes PS23-M-05a between b. 85 and 86, combined with viola as at b. 64–5: consequently the strong parallelism between b. 63–5 and 81–5 is underlined. Similarly, the tension of PS23-M-06a is highlighted by its almost continuous association with a crescendo (cf. cello, b. 63e–h).

A rhythmic variant of PS23-M-05a is proposed by the soprano at b. 90; in the concluding section (b. 91–2, free rhythm), similar melodic fragments proposed by soprano and tape realize a doubling of the voice. The soprano sings in German (Psalm 130: 213), while the tape proposes the same text in Latin:14 the result is a kind of depersonalization of the voice, becoming paradigmatic of mankind’s aspirations. The soprano sings the words “die sie gegraben” on PS23-M-05a, while the tape’s “Domine” is an augmented fragment of PS23-M-06a. Afterwards, this motif is proposed in quick succession by tape (“exaudi”) and by soprano (“Herr, höre meine Stimme!”, b. 91). The flute’s extremely slow trill highlights, once more, the role played by neighbouring notes in this piece, while the motivic material (b. 92) undergoes a progressive and unavoidable rarefaction. A Picardy third {E} brings an unexpected light to the piece’s ending (cf. b. 66), in correspondence with the soprano’s last invocation (“Herr, höre meine Stimme!”, b. 92) on PS23-M-02, trustful and reassuring as always.


The opening motif EI-M-0115 is proposed – as usual – with isolated notes played by different instruments.

Musical example

Example 3: EI-M-01

B. 3–4 are a reiteration of the preceding ones, with the phenomenon of persistence,16 and also b. 5–6 are built on EI-M-01. At b. 3–4, EI-M-01 has a vertical structure (overlapping intervals); at b. 5, EI-M-01 is presented first by viola (diminution and transposition – a tone lower), and then by soprano (diminution; a fourth higher than viola). EI-M-01 appears a fifth time at b. 6, again in quavers and a semitone higher than last time. EI-M-02 is presented by soprano, alto flute and synthesiser at b. 7; this motif is much less relevant than EI-M-01, and its second part is repeated an octave lower in the following measure. EI-M-02 is much more ‘flowing’ than the preceding motif: intervals of a second have a particularly easy intonation, in comparison with the preceding fourths and thirds; conjunct motion characterizes its melodic features, in comparison with the pseudo-harmony of fourths and thirds; and vocalization contributes to its directionality. B. 10 is also numerically the centre of this short piece, and it contains a combination of the piece’s three motifs. In fact, the tone between the double bass’s F sharp and the cello’s G sharp pertains to EI-M-02’s atmosphere; the bigger intervals between cello and viola (G sharp–D–B) remind us of EI-M-01 (in the following pieces the interval of sixth will be almost a motif of its own); and the extremely slow ‘trill’ F–E–F–E (violin flageolet tone and soprano), taken from the last notes of EI-M-02, constitutes EI-M-03. EI-M-01 returns at b. 11, but in an only-ascending version.

A combination of EI-M-01 with EI-M-03 constitutes b. 13, and b. 14 is built on EI-M-03; articulation and durations of motifs are established by Kancheli in strict connection with the poem’s elements. The violin’s melody (b. 16) is a clear derivation from EI-M-03 (corresponding to the textual assonances: unendlich, vernichtet, ichten, Licht), but this bar’s most striking feature is the {E} triad.17 B. 16’s perfect clarity is modified at b. 18: the soprano sings an appoggiatura (F–E, cf. EI-M-03) instead of a third (C–A, cf. EI-M-01), and the strings’ harmonies are more tormented and dissonant. Salvation (Rettung) presupposes Evil, i.e. something to be saved from; while light does not need darkness (on the contrary, darkness can be defined as lack of light).

Zähle die Mandeln

In Zähle die Mandeln, the almond’s bitterness becomes a paradigm of its semantic multiplicity: the Anti-word’s bitterness, the bitterness of poetic creation, the bitterness of violence and death: it is present even in the second stanza, hidden by the symbol of the eye. This poem’s atmosphere is much more confidential and less philosophical than in the others of Kancheli’s cycle: it is almost a transfigured love-song, distant, faded, but not deprived of a certain autumnal tenderness. As in Einmal, here also the initial abstraction gives way to a personalization: “Count the almonds / Count what was bitter and kept you awake / Count me in”. Not only an abstract and aloof letting of almonds flow between fingers, but a symbology of Time itself. Also the theme of counting is extremely important and rich of symbology in Celan’s poetry. For instance, compare the rhythmical and endless counting of these almonds with the endless spinning of the three Parcae (Norns) (cf. verse 5 of this poem: “Ich spann jenen heimlichen Faden …”).

The “mich” introduced in 1st stanza’s 3rd verse becomes a protagonist at the beginning of 2nd stanza,18 even in the continuous reference to the Celanian alterity represented by the “du”.19 Once more, Celan seems to privilege secrecy and hiddenness for the most important facts.20 The poem’s second part focuses on the theme of identity: “you entered fully in your own name”, a painful but solid acquisition of self-awareness, self-consciousness and personality. The following two verses concentrate on another fundamental aspect of Celan’s poetry, i.e. the silence. All verses of this stanza begin with verbs of action and movement,21 and “du” acquires a centrality similar to that of “ich” in the preceding stanza. A metaphor of death, desolation and sadness appear at the end of this stanza: the hug of “what is dead”, and the “going in the evening” evoke a dramatic ineluctability with no return. The last two verses, creating a strong cyclicity with the first two ones, have nevertheless almost “sententious and sentimental terms”, according to Jungheinrich; the love-song style becomes evident, and the elegiac contemplation seems to decide willingly on more common clichés.

ZM-M-01 is present from the very beginning (b. 3) after the two bars of introduction;22 it is presented again in its complete form (ascending and descending scale) by soprano, while flute inserts ZM-M-02 (the almonds’ counting) at b. 11–14, getting the idea from soprano’s rhythm and articulation (b. 8–10). The poem’s third imperative (“zähle”) receives a more personal connotation at b. 15 (“zähl’mich dazu”), underlined by the presence of triads instead of the usual scales and clusters. The soprano’s non-melodic and declamatory module (b. 18) contains, in embryo, the elements originating in b. 20–23, thanks to the insertion of a semitone shifting into ZM-M-02.

From b. 20 onwards, the soprano’s declamation becomes an important sum of the motifs’ fragments: in detail, ZM-M-02’s repeated notes and the descending/ascending scale of ZM-M-01. B. 23 will not become an independent motif, but will be reprised quite significantly in the following lines. The strings keep a {b flat} triad, with a cluster of ‘persisting’ notes at b. 22; EI-M-03 is quoted verbatim at b. 25 and constitutes a variant (ZM-M-03a) of ZM-M-03, presented by the tape at b. 26. As we have said before, ZM-M-03 consists essentially of a (sometimes double or triple) neighbour note movement. It is particularly suitable for transcribing in full the ancient ornamentation forms (trills, simple or inverted mordents etc.). For example, b. 26 is the transposition (1 tone higher) of b. 25; together with b. 29, they constitute a great movement of neighbouring notes (C [B] / D [C] / C [B]). The viola plays ZM-M-02 at b. 28; at b. 30, tape proposes for the second time ZM-M-03, becoming (as at b. 26) a significant variant of PS23-M-01 (owing to its polyphonic instead of monodic structure). At b. 31–2 the soprano sings a variant of ZM-M-01, i.e. a scale built on “sighs”; once more, synthesiser has the phenomenon of “persistence” (b. 32). At b. 33 the soprano sings an augmentation of ZM-M-03a (cf. b. 25); the strings play ZM-M-01, broken to form a cluster, while at the following measure the tape begins once more ZM-M-03. From b. 26 onwards, there is an intervention of tape every four measures; b. 34 constitutes the beginning of a 4-bar period as well, opposed to the block starting at b. 38.

The soprano’s melody at b. 35 is a complex combination of motifs (in fact, there are ZM-M-02’s repeated notes, and, as suggested by the viola, an incomplete ZM-M-03; compare the soprano’s notes with PS23-M-05a), while b. 36 introduces a new and interesting motif, proposed by all instruments.23 ZM-M-04 is built on a series of fifths, and it is consequently an inversion of EI-M-01. It can be interpreted as a series of two broken chords ({c sharp} and {A}), with appoggiatura of D sharp on E.24 An interval of a sixth is present in the motif’s second part (C sharp–A–D–E): it will become very important in the following pieces; the same will happen to the interval of a ninth (C sharp–D sharp). Motivic similarity between the conclusion of ZM-M-04 and ZM-M-03 (mirror-like inversion) is highlighted by flute (b. 37). An interesting figuration (combination of ZM-M-01 and ZM-M-03; a scale with many neighbouring notes and embellishments) is presented by the soprano at b. 38–41. Orange lines highlight notes constituting ZM-M-01; further down embellishments are schematized (superior and inferior mordents); under the pentagram simple (blue) and “composite” (violet) neighbouring notes (NN) are highlighted:

Musical example

Example 4: Zähle die Mandeln, b. 38

Musical example

Example 5: Zähle die Mandeln, b. 40–41

The accompaniment highlights the connection of this melody with ZM-M-01: the bass-flute plays a descending scale in quavers, while the violin opposes it with harmonics (ascending scale).25 A combination of motifs is present also at b. 42 (after two notes of ZM-M-01, the soprano deviates to the repeated notes of ZM-M-02), while b. 43 is a variant of b. 23 and of ZM-M-01. soprano’s first presentation of ZM-M-04 is very important as well: soprano sings intervals bigger than a second for the first time in this piece. Once more, at b. 45, viola plays ZM-M-02, continuing its interminable metaphysical counting. B. 47’s melisma (with a hidden I–IV in {c}), is a variant of ZM-M-03, recalling the idea of a spiral made of neighbouring notes:

Musical example

Example 6: Zähle die Mandeln, b. 47

B. 48ff is another combination of repeated notes (ZM-M-02) and scale (ZM-M-01): the prevailing presence of ZM-M-01 is highlighted by the “persistence” suggested by strings.26 The soprano’s movement at b. 48 is an almost perfect inversion of cello’s melody (b. 36–7). The soprano’s scale (ZM-M-01) is prolonged by strings (b. 52), while the viola’s slow embellishments combine ZM-M-01 and ZM-M-03, and the double bass plays ZM-M-02 (last appearance of the “almond counting”).

B. 54–6 are a kind of despoliation of b. 48–52; soprano first proposes a scale (unison with strings), and afterwards continues in staccato and syllabizing (evocation of ZM-M-02’s articulation). ZM-M-04’s dissonant components (2nd–9th) are put aside in its last appearance, letting the perfect chord of {d} freely resound.


After an introductory measure (PS-M-01), aiming to express continuity with the preceding piece (quoting its principal motif, the repeated notes associated with “almond counting” – EI-M-02), flute presents Psalm’s peculiar motif (PS-M-02). It is composed by some characteristic elements, that can be traced to as many Ur-motifs of this cycle: a semitone appoggiatura (cf. neighbouring notes: appoggiatura might be considered as an incomplete movement of neighbouring notes); repeated notes; dactylic rhythm and its inversion; descending scale (in PS-M-02 constituted by F sharp–E, G–F sharp). It is similarly interesting to notice the likeliness of PS-M-02 with PS23-M-05: maybe an allusion to the similar title, exasperated by the opposite meaning? PS-M-02 is repeated by violin at b. 3 and 4: at b. 4 the second quadruplet is lowered by a tone. viola and cello’s accompaniment is based on fifths (cello F–C; viola G); in connection with violin’s A-flat, this structure becomes analogous to ZM-M-04:

Musical example

Example 7: Comparison between Psalm’s b. 4 and ZM-M-04

The soprano enters at b. 5–6, with a combination of different motifs: PS-M-03 (descending scale); PS-M-02’s typical quadruplet, and PS-M-04’s turns:

Musical example

Example 8: Psalm, b. 5–6

At b. 6, as if it had remained in Zähle die Mandeln, flute reiterates PS-M-01; on this bar’s last crotchet, viola plays a fragment of PS-M-02.27 On a cluster by the strings (b. 8–9), appearing as a ‘pollution’ of {f sharp}’s triad, the soprano sings two “turns” (PS-M-04), with interpolated sighs. PS-M-05’s first entrance is at b. 10; in the meantime the synthesiser has clusters of repeated notes (PS-M-01). The soprano’s ‘melodic’ movement (b. 11) might be interpreted as a turn (PS-M-04), embellishing the A–F interval (inversion of a sixth: PS-M-05). This ‘melodic’ bar corresponds to Celan’s sarcastically desperate invocation. At b. 12, the soprano presents PS-M-02, going up to a D (interval of sixth, PS-M-05), which highlights the proclamation of this nihilistic credo. For Kancheli, in our opinion, a similar declaration cannot be pronounced light-heartedly: this ascending interval of a sixth is almost an irrepressible shout, a painful breathlessness. The synthesiser continues its reiteration of PS-M-01 (cf. b. 14): the numerous low notes might suggest the concept of earth, of materiality impeaching a flight to transcendence.

Between b. 13 and 14 soprano presents a descending scale (PS-M-03) concluded by a turn (PS-M-04)28 and by an interval of a sixth (PS-M-05); thanks to a cluster played by the strings (b. 14) the synthesiser has the opportunity to abandon low notes and displace PS-M-01 to a high pitch. A large interval of a ninth is sung by soprano at b. 15 (PS-M-06): E flat constitutes a ‘reciting tone’ both here and at b. 16.

B. 16 has an evident structure. The soprano slowly ascends (inversion of PS-M-03) from G to E flat;29 the strings echo the soprano (or vice-versa, b. 16f–g), creating melodic-rhythmic reminiscences of PS-M-02, and quotations of PS-M-01’s articulation.

Musical example

Example 9: Psalm, b. 16

After a violent fff we find a ppp (as often happens in Kancheli’s music); its character of sweet resignation is accentuated by the consonant triad of {b} proposed by synthesiser, alto flute and soprano. The soprano sings a deformation of the ‘turn’ (PS-M-04) whose rhythm reminds us of PS-M-02. Similarly, the strings’ chromaticism (b. 20) echoes PS-M-04 (turn) in the style of PS-M-02. And analogously the soprano proposes (first part of b. 21) a deformation of the turn on the basis of PS-M-02’s rhythmic and motivic material. In the last crotchet of this bar, the soprano and strings propose an ascending scale of clusters. The resulting cacophony may underline the sarcastic value of Celan’s adjective (seelenhell, ‘as pure as the soul’); or, on the contrary, it could be the expression of an ascetic tendency.

The word Faden (‘thread’), present also in Zähle die Mandeln, is connected to the preceding piece through a motivic resemblance. PS-M-02 remains the basis for b. 21–3 (also in the violin, very explicitly). At b. 23 the soprano sings once more PS-M-05. At b. 24, soprano and synthesiser present first the repeated notes (PS-M-01), and then an inverted ‘turn’ (PS-M-04), returning at b. 29. PS-M-01’s monotonous and uniform pulsation is present also in the synthesiser (b. 25); nevertheless, the material undergoes a great internal evolution.30 PS-M-01 is presented by bass flute at b. 26: its timbre and articulation highlight the reference to Psalm 23’s opening notes (b. 2). At b. 27, the soprano presents an appoggiatura (neighbouring note’s Ur-motif, with the bass flute’s A), while an inverted turn (PS-M-04) is presented once more at b. 29. The soprano’s last two notes are separated by a sixth (A–F, PS-M-05), while the synthesiser plays PS-M-01 once more.


Exil begins with EX-M-01 played by alto flute and double bass; at b. 4 the alto flute remains alone on a triad by the strings and presents EX-M-02. As regards accompaniment, after b. 4 we find the fourths played by cello and double bass (C sharp–F sharp–B); at b. 5, while the viola plays a slow ‘turn’ (EX-M-05) and the double bass has an ascending chromatic scale (B–B sharp–C sharp–D), violin and cello play an extremely slow ‘trill’ (E flat–D–E flat–D) recalling EI-M-03 and ZM-M-03. The new block beginning at b. 7–12 is entirely built on EX-M-01, presented by the soprano at b. 7 and immediately followed by EX-M-02. In the meantime, flute and cello play the usual repeated notes. The strings’ accompaniment to the soprano (b. 12) is very singular, almost dance-like and naïf. The double bass has a more complete version of the accompaniment in comparison to the violin, and highlights the derivation of this accompaniment from a retrograde version of EX-M-01:

Musical example

Example 10: Exil, b. 12 and EX-M-01

The synthesiser’s and soprano’s scale reveals its derivation from EX-M-02; it has a noticeable tension, falling down to ppp after having reached mf (b. 15, cf. b. 12). At b. 17–18, after having pronounced four syllables on EX-M-04, the soprano begins a descending scale (EX-M-02): this scale will be continued by strings and alto flute. The “dancing tune” of b. 12 and 15 reappears at b. 19–20; bass, highlighted by alto flute, is taken from the first four notes of EX-M-01. EX-M-03 is presented for the first time at b. 21 and 22. At b. 24–7 soprano, violin and viola (flageolets) present a figuration corresponding to inversion of EX-M-01 (D–B flat–C–B flat), while double bass has EX-M-02 (first in an almost complete descending version, then in an incomplete ascending version).

A typical Kanchelian explosion of musical violence happens at b. 28–9: while viola and double bass play the repeated notes (EX-M-04; fff, col legno), the violin proposes an allusion to Psalm’s b. 16. During the strings’ rest, a C played pppp by alto flute originates a new proposal of EX-M-01 (Tempo I). The soprano is completely unmelodic at b. 30 (repeated notes, EX-M-04); the sung notes (C–D–C, b. 31–4) are a typical example of neighbouring notes (conclusion of EX-M-03). The accompaniment (b. 31ff) is decidedly consonant (triads of {a} and {F}). An extremely delicate cluster by the strings introduces the musical and textual echo proposed by the soprano (“ihn begraben”).

At b. 35 and 37 the violin plays a movement of neighbouring notes (E–F–E) echoing the soprano’s similar movement (b. 31–3), while the viola, cello and double bass accompany with the ‘dancing tune’; they highlight also an inverted beginning of EX-M-01 (D–G–C–G). The soprano’s and violin’s motif (b. 39–40) results from a sum of elements of the principal motifs (the first interval [fourth, E–A]) is taken from EX-M-01; the neighbouring note [B–C–B] and the descending scale [C–B–A–G–F] constitute a fragment of EX-M-02). At b. 41 violin echoes soprano’s last two notes (appoggiatura, EX-M-05).

Musical example

Example 11: Exil, b. 39–40, soprano and violin

At b. 42–4 the violin introduces a new element. Apparently it is only a variant of the ‘dancing tune’ (b. 12, taken from EX-M-01); in reality, its particular articulation (spiccato) will be the pivot for this piece’s final bars. B. 45–6 (EX-M-03) are practically identical to b. 21–3. B. 48 has the motif of b. 39–40 (EX-M-01 + EX-M-02), while b. 49–50 are a ‘degeneration’ of EX-M-03. The double bass presents the beginning of EX-M-01 in an only-descending version (B flat–E flat–A flat).

Contrasting with Sahl’s text, Kancheli concludes this piece with a change of atmosphere, through insertion of a choral in high notes. The violin and viola play the variant of EX-M-01 that had appeared at b. 24–7 (on similar words: “es ist schon spät”), while the cello (b. 52–4) presents EX-M-02 (cf. again b. 24–7). The flute’s ascending scale (to C: EX-M-02) leads it to a last meeting with soprano (b. 54), while the violin and viola propose the repeated notes fading in the distance (cf. b. 42–4).

Appendix 02: Exil’s motivic table

Musical example

To see a larger version of this table, please click here.


1 Unison of double bass (pizzicato sul tasto) and alto flute, opposing the viola playing “sul ponticello”. cf. also b. 21ff, with unison between soprano and double bass’s flageolet. cf. b. 25ff: viola’s percussive col legno demisemiquavers and flute’s slaps. Back

2 A mp after a series of p, pp, ppp. Back

3 Cf. the “battements du coeur de Jésus”, in the ‘Première Communion de la Vierge’ from Vingt régards sur l’Enfant Jésus by Olivier Messiaen. Back

4 D sharp in fact is the leading note of the preceding {e}. Back

5 At b. 44, D sharp retrieves its role of leading note: the E corresponding to the words “dein Stekken” is consequently felt as a recovered safety, as an achieved goal. Nevertheless, a total confidence will not be re-established, after the appearance of this first doubt. Back

6 Instead of a trustful affirmation (“du bist bei mir”) it sounds more like a doubtful question (“bist du bei mir?”). Back

7 Kancheli indicates a ppp for b. 45, followed by a pause; then a fff played by all instruments, a ppp, a fff and a ppp. Back

8 It had been played only once in its entirety. Back

9 Cf. this motif with the ancient Christmas song Veni Emmanuel. Back

10 The flute reiterates PS23-M-03 at b. 54, while viola presents M-07, alternating with soprano in a kind of Klangfarbenmelodie; roles are inverted in the following measure. Back

11 In correspondence to the dotted bar lines, b. 63 has been divided into fragments indicated by letters a–h. Back

12 Cf. also b. 87. This particular timbre is often used by Kancheli throughout his works. Back

13 This Psalm is the well-known De Profundis: this deep abyss of suffering is a parallel to the “dark valley” of Psalm 23. Back

14 The use of Latin, the language of the Catholic church, may have a series of meanings: first, an autobiographical reference (Kancheli’s mother was Catholic); second, a “liturgical” value; third, a sense of “universality” (Katholikos in fact means universal). Back

15 This motif is constituted by a series of fourths and thirds. In particular, the numerous and important fourths constitute a relevant difference with Psalm 23, whose motifs had almost no intervals bigger than a third. The juxtaposition of many fourths echoes Schönberg, and Scriabin’s mystic chord.

The ascending fourths produce an effect of “open string”, of “tuning”, of “improvisation”, and have a destabilizing function; on the contrary, the descending thirds are reassuring and stabilizing, but they sound slightly “depressive” in comparison with the fourth’s tension power. At the end of the motif, soprano’s timid entry might underline the pre-existence of Universe – pre-existent even to the “once” (Einmal) itself. Back

16 Cf. Psalm 23. Back

17 Especially after the general pause at b. 15! The effect of “enlightening” (Licht) is really powerful, similarly to what happened with this same triad at b. 66 and at the end of Psalm 23. Cf. Haydn’s “Und es werde Licht” in The Creation: for the Austrian composer, creation of Light is a divine triumph on darkness, while for Kancheli it is transfigured by the physical and temporal distance of Celan’s Man from the light. Haydn’s listeners experience the creation in real time, while Kancheli lets us “remember” creation, as if we were present at the time of that “once” (Einmal). Back

18 “Ich suchte… ich spann”… Back

19 “du’s aufschulgst … dich ansah’… du dachtest”. Back

20 In Einmal, God’s “washing of the world” was ungesehn, unseen; similarly, also here the eyes’ opening happens in the presence of nobody (niemand dich ansah). Back

21 Tratest, schrittest, schwangen, stiess, legte, ginget. Back

22 Flageolet of bass-flute; at b. 5 this pedal of flageolets is “passed” to cello and double bass, playing a g instead of the flute’s g sharp. Strings should move bows circularly, from sul tasto to sul ponticello, very slowly. Back

23 Except synthesiser. Each one of the strings plays a single note of this motif, while bass-flute enters in canon, after a quaver, and plays it integrally. Back

24 In the first case, supertonic on mediant, in the second case, raised IV on V. Back

25 Celan’s text refers to an “entering in one’s self”. This spiral-like movement is probably a musical symbol for the progressive approach to the “centre” of one’s self. Similarly, at b. 44, the word “Schweigen” (silence) is sung on “void” intervals (fifths; ZM-M-04). Another enveloping spiral constitutes the musical correspondence to the words “legte das Tote den Arm auch um dich”, with significant fermatas (interventions of ZM-M-02) on notes constituting a fifth-interval (A–E). Back

26 Violin: F sharp–G–A-B flat–C–D–E. Back

27 A textual problem arises at this point. Between b. 7 and b. 8 (on two different page sides), Belaieff’s original score has a small G-clef in synthesiser’s part. This indication is hard to understand, since the following line (b. 8) begins with an F-clef as usual, and synthesiser’s first entrance (b. 10) is in a particularly low zone of the keyboard. Is it a simple misprint, or maybe Kancheli had imagined a “persistence” of soprano’s notes (b. 8) realized by synthesiser? Back

28 This can be seen as a reference to b. 5; in this case, though, we have different pitch (a fourth higher, or even a fifth, if viola’s A is the starting note of the scale), intensity (pp vs mp) and maybe even expressivity. Back

29 The gap (diminished fourth) between B and E flat is filled in by strings. Back

30 Big crescendo, pppff, with dissonant clusters and low notes, and ppp subito at b. 25, with high notes and a perfect triad of {A}. Back

© Chiara Bertoglio, 2008

How to cite this article

BPM home | Volume 9 index