Anamnesis IV, Nebelland: Adagio (1995)

William Jordan

William Jordan (born 1951) was raised in the southern United States, and came to Canada to teach composition at the University of Calgary in 1978. He holds degrees in composition from the University of Georgia and the University of Pennsylvania, culminating with a Ph.D. in music theory from Florida State University. A naturalized Canadian citizen, Dr. Jordan has taught composition, theory, and musicology, and enjoys a significant role in the administration of the Fine Arts Faculty at the University of Calgary.


Level: High School

William Jordan based this composition on a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann. Jordan is compelled to link modernist music and poetry, suggesting the two have close ties.

This project has two parts.

Part I

First, use the internet or other library resources to search for information on:

  • modernist poetry
  • modernism in music
  • Ingeborg Bachman

Write a brief summary for modernism in music and literature, comparing and contrasting characteristics. Read a brief biographical summary of Bachmann’s life and music.

Part II

  1. Read Michael Hamburg’s translation of Nebelland below (aloud is the best way). What elements of the poem make it “modernist”?
  2. Listen to William Jordan’s composition. How does Jordan’s music, in his words, evoke images of “winter, water, fog, ice and betrayal” ?
  3. What image is the “jazz” element meant to evoke?

Nebelland (“Fog Ice”), Ingeborg Bachmann

translation by Michael Hamburg

In winter my loved one retires to live with the beasts of the forest. That I must be back before morning the vixen knows well, and she laughs. Now the low clouds quiver! And down on my upturned collar there falls a landslide of brittle ice.

In winter my loved one retires, a tree among trees, and invites the crows in their desolation into her beautiful boughs. She knows that as soon as night wind lifts her stiff, hoar-frost-embroidered evening gown, sends me home.

In winter my loved one retires, a fish among fishes, and dumb. Slave to the waters she ripples with her fins’ gentle motion within, I stand on the bank and look down till ice floes drive me away, her dipping and turning hidden.

And stricken again by the blood-cry of the bird that tautens his pinions over my head, I fall down on the open field: she is plucking the hens, and she throws me a whitened collar bone. This round my neck, off I go through the bitter down.

My loved one, I know, is unfaithful, and sometimes she stalks and she hovers on high-heeled shoes to the city, and deeply in bars with her straw will kiss the lips of the glasses, and finds words each and for all. But this language is alien to me.

It is fog heart I have seen. It is fog heart I have eaten.