→ Lyrics

Marx's Ghosts

Music for baritone and ensemble

ca. 11 Min. 15 Sec.
composed in 2018

Ensemble: baritone, bass flute in C, oboe, basset horn, bassoon, horn in  F, small trumpet in Bb,
double bass trombone, piano, percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, double  bass

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In the year of the 200th birthday of Karl Marx and thirty years after  the end of “really existing socialism“, Marx's ideas, with undiminished power of attraction for some and with renewed horror for others, haunt  the world.
The hauntings, the ghosts and fetishes (the goods, the money, the market, etc.), which Marx analyzes in his “Kapital“, are increasing in times of neoliberal focus of regulation by the “free market“ and the systematic concealment of the social relationships by means of the virtualization of time and space; worldwide inequality and injustice rise to the limitless.

Jacques Derrida, in his 1993 lectures published in the volume “Marx'  Gespenster“ (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 2004) and cited here, immediately turned to the question of justice and warned: What threatens to happen, is the attempt to play Marx off against Marxism in order to (…) neutralize or at least quell the political imperative. (…) This latest stereotype would be (…) destined to deeply depoliticize the Marxist reference by (…) silencing the revolt in it [assuming the return (le retour), provided that the revolt does not come back, which first inspired rebellion, outrage, exaltation, revolutionary momentum]. One would be prepared to accept the return of Marx or the return to Marx on the condition that we pass over in silence not only that which dictates decoding but also the required action of changing the decoding into a transformation, the “changing of the world“. (p. 52)

The composition Marx's Ghosts transforms some figures of Marx's ghosts, as Derrida analyzes them, into musical structures. In the first three parts of the piece, these are increasingly fractured structures of growth, of lostness, of penetrating urgency and of clinging on. In short pieces, fragments of a series of revolutionary songs of the last five centuries - songs from the peasant wars, the French Revolution and the  revolutionary movements of the 19th and 20th centuries - are mixed into  these structures. These quotes superimpose the musical structures, condense and end each a section with an alienated motif of Hanns Eisler's “Solidarity Song“.
In the last section, in which the baritone sings the text from the novel  “The Seventh Cross“ by → Anna Seghers:, the structure changes fundamentally and is now based exclusively on the vocal melody. Again, motifs from the “Solidarity Song“ reappear in the end. This section thus shifts the view of the state of our world and its ghosts to the people whose  accomplishments are not recognized, marginalized and rendered superfluous.
The systematic oversight of these people is not only a sign of the still existing class society. It also demonstrates the repressed sense of guilt of our affluent society, which does not acknowledge where its wealth comes from and what inhumane conditions condemn much of humanity  to ensure that wealth.
Again Derrida: What cynicism of good conscience, what maniacal denial  causes someone to write - if not to believe - that “everything that stood in the way of the mutual recognition of human dignity always and everywhere, has been refuted and buried by history“? (The quote is from Allan Bloom. Derrida quotes here after Michel Surya, “La puissance, les riches et la charité“, in: Lignes, “Logiques du capitalisme“, no. 18, January 1993, p. 30)


The last sparkle in the oven burned up. We sense what kind of nights we  are facing now. The wet autumn cold penetrates through the blankets,  through our shirts, through our skin. We all feel how deep and terrible the external powers can reach into people right down to their very core.
But we also feel that there is something at the core which remains unassailable and invulnerable.

→ Anna Seghers:: The Seventh Cross (Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 2015, p. 431)
(in the original: simple past)