ward de jonghe

Te – for voice, percussion and tape

duration: ca 5’

instrumentation: 2 performers, tam-tam, tape

written in 2023 as a part of the Wunderhorn song cycle, with support of Sabam

first performance: 2023-02-05 by Goggles at Cultuurcentrum Vredeberg, Lier

view score

©Jonas Beerts


programme note: 

The painful side of life is the topic of the lyrics in Mahler’s Das irdische Leben (The Earthly Life). The confrontation with Nietzsche’s text Das Problem der Wartenden provides a broader view on the story of the child begging his mother for bread. It becomes a metaphor for our powerlessness in the face of the drudgery of earthly existence, represented as a cycle from sowing grain to baking bread.

The child is the symbolic victim of this narrow-minded world: the milling and threshing is not fast enough. It dies before it has had a chance to develop its talents and capabilities. Nietzsche suggests that the world is full of waiting people, people with potential, who will die before achieving anything substantial.

A ceaseless, gnawing scratch on the tam-tam is the vocalisation of earthly drudgery, and the dark tellurium (derived from the Latin tellus, earth) symbolises this in the title. The text about sowing, harvesting and threshing the grain is repeated again and again, and haunts through the loudspeakers. 

Only the confrontation with death triggers awareness and Nietzsche’s encouraging thought, that instead of waiting for someone else to bake the bread, for an external coincidence to liberate the waiting ones, to take matters into their own hands, to still sing before one can no longer hear the scratching, even if only a single phrase.