Vox humana? - Mauricio Kagel

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Born in Argentina, at the same time as my mother tongue, Spanish, I learned Ladino: the language of Spanish Jews since the Middle Ages, which differed very little from literary Spanish in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Only later, after the expulsion of Jews from Spain, Jewish themes became more present in this poetry, and not unlike Yiddish, words originating from other Mediterranean countries where Jews settled were “hispanised.” Since I had to learn Hebrew for my bar mitzvah, with my brothers we came up with a secret coded language, of which we were quite proud. It was a mixed tongue: we notated Spanish words in Hebrew script. For a long time, we corresponded in this language, only to learn years later that we had not invented anything original: in fact, we intuitively replicated the habit of many Sephardic erudites from Spanish times, and even the later era. Despite its rigid syntax and archaic expressions, Ladino is not a museum tongue. It retains a latent tension versus the Spanish language, which is continuously modified and modernised. This stems from the use of Ladino as a reservoir of epic poetry, which has been set in music ever since the sixteenth century. As long as a language remains in contact with folk music, it cannot grow old but needs to remain vivid and timeless. 

In the anthology of Judeo-Spanish songs, edited in 1973 by Isaac Levy (vol. 4), I found a poem from which I borrowed the first stanza: Madres amargadas Embittered mothers / Non sospirés mas Do not sigh / Non seran pedridas Will not be lost / Vuestras lagrimas Your tears. I have paraphrased these verses, which appear at the end of my cantata through a loudspeaker placed next to the conductor like a soloist. The narrator remains invisible during the performance and speaks to a microphone behind the stage. The sopranos and altos choose words freely from their own invented language or from a repertoire of Ladino words. 

Mauricio Kagel 

 

The text is in Ladino (a language originally used by Jews in medieval Spain and still heard today). 

Speaker
Madres. Non sospirex.
Madres. Non, non sospirex.
Non sospirex mas.
Madres. Madres amargadas
seran pedridas.
Vuestras lagrimas, madres
amargadas,
Non seran pedridas.
Madres. Vuestras lagrimas.
Madres pedridas. Non.
Non sospirex mas.
Madres!
Madres?
Madres?!
Madres...

Women’s choir
No! 

Speaker
Mothers. Do not sigh.
Mothers. No, do not sigh.
Do not sigh any longer.
Mothers. Embittered mothers
will be lost.
Your tears, embittered mothers,

Will not be lost.
Mothers. Your tears.
Lost mothers. No.
Do not sigh any longer.
Mothers!
Mothers?
Mothers?!
Mothers ...

Women’s choir
No!

This text is a paraphrase of the first stanza of Madres amargadas, an anonymous song text that appears in the anthology Chants judéo-espagnols, ed. Isaac Levy (Jerusalem, 1973). 

Madres amargadas
Non sospirex mas.
Non seran pedridas
Vuestras lagrimas.

Embittered mothers
Do not sigh.
Your tears
Will not be lost.

Choir
En cadenas non bivir la paz
humana
y llorar el coraçón en sangre,
coraçón.

Las cadenas, el muerir,
la vergüença mía,
La vergüença, la sangre tuya es
mi sangre.

Bivir dolores cadenas vergüença
con Dió,
corarón, amar y llorar y muerir.

Amar y llorar y muerir:
espantos, los dolores con Dió.

Con el coraçón y con tu alma,
alma de Dió, palomba mía.

Tus palavras en mis lavios, mis
palavras y la paz,
los árvoles humanos y mis lavios
sin amar.

Sangre mía sangre tuya, en el alma
y los lavios, con la voz humana.

Alma: con mi alma muerir
y sin alma bivir.

Vergüença, vergüença,
la vergüença vergüença,
palavra de espanto de espanto.

Gritar: la palavra vergüença es mi
espanto
con mi espanto gritar y llorar, mi
alma.

La vergüença non,
non con el gritar,
con el gritar de mi espanto ah!

La palavra con sangre sangre,
con el gritar de mi espanto
las cadenas, con cadenas, tus
cadenas...

La paz dió con Dió,
si dió tu Dió dió.

En cadenas non bivir la paz
humana
y llorar el coracçón en sangre,
coraçón.

Las cadenas, el muerir,
la vergüença mía,
La vergüença, la sangre tuya,
la palomba sin paz.

Llorar sin paz mi Dió,
bivir sin paz mi Dió.

Llorar, muerir, gritar y muerir,
gritar y bivir, gritar sin paz.

Ah! Dió: La vergüença!

Sin la voz, sin la voz mía,
mi voz, la voz bumana.

En: en tus lavios mi prizión
de voz humana, en la prizión,
con tu alma, amar sin voz,
sin tu sangre, sin oración, sin
vergüença.

Bivir sin paz, paz humana,
paz de prizión, en cadenas.

Espanto dió, dió con Dió,
Dió sin alma, en la vergüença dió,
Dió en tus lavios, la voz
humana?

Palavras: la prizión, gritar,
dolor y sangre, vergüença de llorar,
las cadenas, ah!

Es muerir de espanto, en mis lavios
el alma tuya, ay!
Sin tí, dolores, ah Dió!

La prizión, en cadenas, paz!
vergüença, almas en paz,
gritar, palomba mía, coraçón.

Muerir, muerir con espanto
y sin los árvoles, alma,
y sin tu voz.
De la sangre humana Dió,
llorar y gritar sin Dió,
y tus lavios sangre aman, Dió.

Cadenas, priziones, espantos,
alma, sangre, muero yo.
Non! Non?

Con cadenas non bivir la paz
humana
y llorar el coraçón en sangre.

Las cadenas, el muerir sin voz,
los árvoles humanos y mis lavios
muertos.

Sin amar coraçón: muerir,
sin amar coraçón, sin gritar con
mi voz
es muerir en prizión.

Árvoles son mis palombas del alma,
árvoles son palombas del alma,
son lavios en sangre, cadenas,
dolores.

Llorar es gritar: vergüença!
Vergüença sin alma, vergüença,
llorar es gritar sin muerir,
vergüença, vergüença sin alma,
vergüença!

Bivir, amar sin Dió,
sin alma, con sangre!

En cadenas non bivir la paz
humana de vergüença
y llorar el coraçón en sangre, sí.

Con el coraçón en tí, en mis
lavios,
es el grito mío, dolores muertos
en mi espanto.

Si los dolores míos lloran sangre,
mueren sangre con tu sangre,
con tu sangre de palomba
mis espantos gritan árvoles de
espanto ah!

Árvoles de espanto, árvoles
de gritos,
árvoles de sangre, árvoles
de coraçón.

Gritar es tu oración de espanto,
oración del alma, oración
de muerte,
oración con Dió.

En cadenas non bivir la paz
humana
y llorar el coraçón en sangre con
mi grito.

Con el coraçón en tí el grito mío,
si los dolores míos lloran sangre,
mueren sangre con mi sangre de
palomba,
yo te grito paz, con la paz, con
la paz,
con la paz en mí, paz en mi
vergüença,
con la paz y con la paz vergüença!

Dió mi Dió me dió Dió
mi Dió me dió dolores, espantos,
palavras humanas, con la vergüença.

Dió mi Dió me dió mi Dió,
en la vergüença mi Dió mi Dió
me dió
alma con sangre, alma con sangre,
con la sangre, con la sangre de mi Dió,
con la sangre de Dió, con la sangre,
la sangre de mi Dió, con la vergüença,
mi dió con vergüença, alma con Dió
vergüença dió, alma con Dió.

Oración: oraciones por la paz
y por la paz humana,
oraciones por la paz, oraciones
de paz
y por la paz humana, oraciones
por la paz y por la paz humana
y por la paz humana y por la paz
humana.

Oraciones de paz
o la sangre de mi Dió
por la paz humana,
la sangre de Dió,
y por la paz humana
la sangre de Dió.

Y llorar llorar,
y llorar y bivir.

Ay! ay! llorar
ay! y llorar y bivir.

En cadenas non bivir la
paz humana,
las cadenas, en cadenas non bivir
non,
las cadenas non bivir non.

Es mi vergüença, sangre, coraçón,
es gritar espanto y non bivir!
non bivir, ay!

Speaker
Madres. Non sospirex.
Madres. Non, non sospirex.
Non sospirex mas.
Madres. Madres amargadas seran
pedridas.
Vuestras lagrimas, madres
amargadas,
Non seran pedridas.
Madres. Vuestras lagrimas.
Madres pedridas. Non.
Non sospirex mas.
Madres!
Madres?
Madres?!
Madres...

Choir
Non!


Choir
Not live in shackles human
peace
and weep your heart in blood,
heart.

Shackles, death, my
shame,
shame, your blood is my
blood.

To live in pain shackles shame
with God,
heart, love and weep and die.

Love and weep and die:
dread, pain with God.

With heart and with your soul,
soul of God, my dove.

Your words on my lips, my words
and peace,
human trees and my lips without
love.

My blood your blood, in the soul
and on the lips, with human voice.

Soul: die with my soul
and live without soul.

Shame, shame,
shame shame,
word of dread dread.

Yell: the word shame is my
dread
with my dread yell and weep, my
soul.

Shame not,
not with yelling,
with the yelling of my dread, hah!

The word with blood blood,
with the yelling of my dread
shackles, with shackles, your
shackles...

Peace came with God,
if came your God came.

Not live in shackles human
peace
and weep your heart in blood,
heart.

Shackles, death, my
shame,
shame, your blood,
the dove with no peace.

Weep with no peace my God,
live with no peace my God.
Weep, die, yell and die,
yell and live, yell with no peace.

Oh God: the shame!

With no voice, without my voice,
my voice, human voice.

On: on your lips my prison
of the human voice, in prison,
with your soul, love with no voice,
without your blood, with no
prayer, no shame.

Live with no peace, human peace,
peace of prison, in shackles.

Dread came, came with God,
God with no soul, came with
shame,
God on your lips, human voice?

Words: prison, yell,
pain and blood, shame of crying,
shackles, hah!

It is to die of dread, on my lips
your soul, hah!
Without you, the pain, oh God!

Prison, in shackles, peace!
shame, souls in peace,
yell, my dove, heart.

Die, die with dread
and without trees, soul,
and without your voice.
God of the human blood,
weep and yell without God,
and your lips love blood, God.

Shackles, prisons, dread,
soul, blood, I die.
No! No?

Not live in shackles human
peace
and weep your heart in blood.

Shackles, die with no voice,
human trees and my dead
lips.

Heart with no love: die,
heart with no love, not yelling
with my voice
is to die in prison.

Trees are my doves of the soul,
trees are doves of the soul,
are lips in blood, shackles,
pain.
To weep is to yell: shame!
Shame with no soul, shame,
to weep is to yell without dying,
shame, shame with no soul,
shame!

To live, to love with no God,
with no soul, with blood!

Not live in shackles the human
peace of shame
and weep your heart in blood, yes.

With the heart in you, on my lips,
it is my yell, dead pain in my
dread.
If my pain weeps blood,
it dies blood with your blood,
with your dovish blood
my dread yells trees of dread,
hah!

Trees of dread, trees of
yell,
trees of blood, trees of
heart.

Yell is your prayer of dread,
prayer of the soul, prayer of
death,
prayer with God.

Not live in shackles human
peace
and weep your heart in blood
with my yell.

With the heart in you my yell,
if my pains weep blood,
they die blood with my dovish
blood,
I yell you peace, with peace, with
peace,
with peace in me, peace in my
shame,
with peace and with peace shame!

God my God gave me God
my God gave my pain, dread,
human words, with shame.

God my God gave me my God
gave me shame my God my God
soul with blood, soul with blood,
with blood, with the blood of my
God,
with the blood of God, with blood,
blood of my God, with shame,
gave me shame, soul with God
gave shame, soul with God.

Prayer: prayers for peace
and for human peace,
prayers for peace, peace
prayers
and for human peace, prayers
for peace and for human peace
and for human peace and for
human peace.

Peace prayers
or the blood of my God
for human peace,
blood of God,

and for human peace
blood of God.

And weep weep,
and weep and live.

Oh! oh! weep
oh! and weep and live.

Not live in shackles human
peace,
shackles, in shackles not live
no,
shackles not live no.

It is my shame, blood, heart,
it is to yell dread and not live!
not live, hah!

Speaker
Mothers. Do not sigh.
Mothers. No, do not sigh.
Do not sigh any longer.
Mothers. Embittered mothers
will be lost.
Your tears, embittered
mothers,
Will not be lost.
Mothers. Your tears.
Lost mothers. No.
Do not sigh any longer.
Mothers!
Mothers?
Mothers?!
Mothers...

Choir
No!

Translated from Ladino by
Wojciech Bońkowski