Das Lied Ohne Eigenschaften

Sometimes The Idea comes to you forcefully, and does not relent until you start to pay attention to it. Here is a story of one such event:

,,Eigenschaften” is a German word meaning “characteristics”, “features”, or “qualities”. It is part of the vocabulary set I am learning. Not long after I had learned it, I saw a YouTube post titled “Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften” (“The Man Without Characteristics”), which is simply a woman’s voice repeating the phrase. I thought this was interesting, so I made a recording of it; this recording found its way into a recent Listening Experience performance in London.

I rather liked the idea that the phrase connotes; I often feel anonymous, featureless, without characteristics. This doesn’t bother me. The smaller and less distinct I am, the larger and more interesting my world becomes. I was happy to leave this little discovery behind while moving onto the next thing I need to work on.

Then came The Idea again, this time more forcefully. While reading this evening an article about the decline of empires, I came across a reference to a book by Robert Musil titled… wait for it… here it comes… “The Man Without Qualities” (,,Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften”). The book is long, unfinished, and I haven’t read it. However, the Wikipedia article provides enough of a basic explanation. One phrase in the article that caught my attention was “…search of a sense of life and reality but fails to find it.”.

Suddenly it occurred to me that phrase describes the listening experiences project: A search for form and expression, but a search that often yields anything but these two things.

The Song Without Characteristics.

Das Lied Ohne Eigenschaften. A fitting idea for these times.