Geographical Fugue

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The Geographical Fugue or Fuge aus der Geographie is the most famous piece for spoken chorus by Ernst Toch. Toch was a prominent composer in 1920s Berlin, and singlehandedly invented the idiom of the "Spoken Chorus".

The piece was a sensation when it was first performed in June 1930 as the third movement of his suite Gesprochene Musik (Spoken Music), and remains Toch's most-performed work, although the composer himself dismissed it as an unimportant diversion.

Construction[edit]

It is written in strict fugal form, and consists of four voices, each enunciating various cities, countries and other geographical landmarks in true contrapuntal fashion. It ends with a climactic finale featuring a sustained trill on the "R" of the word "Ratibor!" ("Trinidad" in the English Language version), the first word of the subject. Voices enter in the order of: tenor, alto, soprano, bass.

The Text[edit]

Translation[edit]

Although written originally in German, it was later translated into English under the auspices of John Cage and Henry Cowell and received wide acclaim. The text (English translation) of all the parts consists of various permutations of the following words and lines:

Trinidad!
And the big Mississippi
and the town Honolulu
and the lake Titicaca,
the Popocatepetl is not in Canada,
rather in Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!
Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi
Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi
Yes, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet,
Nagasaki! Yokohama!
Nagasaki! Yokohama!

The place names are largely the same in German and English except for Ratibor (Trinidad) and Athen (in place of Tibet) which is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable in German. The German text is as follows;

Ratibor!
Und der Fluss Mississippi
und die Stadt Honolulu
und der See Titicaca;
Der Popocatepetl liegt nicht in Kanada,
sondern in Mexiko, Mexiko, Mexiko.
Kanada, Malaga, Rimini, Brindisi,
Kanada, Malaga, Rimini, Brindisi.
Ja! Athen, Athen, Athen, Athen,
Nagasaki, Yokohama,
Nagasaki, Yokohama,

See also[edit]

References[edit]