Songs Uncategorized

The Poet and the Pendulum

Lyric analysis by Annika Hausen

Image from the “Dark Passion Play” booklet, by Nightwish, depicting a scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842)


“The Poet and the Pendulum” is a song of the 2007 album “Dark Passion Play” by the Finnish band Nightwish, founded in 1996 and on-going opus of the musical genius that is Tuomas Holopainen. Tuomas Holopainen is the main composer and songwriter for the band and also of the song we are setting out to have a look at.

Before we begin, a few things are to be said. First, Tuomas Holopainen’s lyrics will often reflect on his own life and experiences. While with some writers we can separate the narrator, or lyrical subject, from its origin, we will find this hard with Nightwish. The lyrics will be much better understood should we keep Holopainen in the back of our minds. Secondly, there is a special place reserved in all of Nightwish’s works for the Ocean. Holopainen has lyrically described himself as an “Ocean Soul” over the years. The Ocean is a place for emotion, for peace, a deeper almost supernatural source of his creativity. It is where his heart and soul lie. We will see this reflected as well in the following song. And a final note must be made to “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe (1842). The inspiration will not only come from the name of this short story, but we will find lyrical similarities between the experience of the narrator in Poe’s short story and the lyrical subject in the song. Poe is incidentally in the list of favourite authors of Holopainen, and has a place among J.R.R Tolkien, Shakespeare and Whitman in the list of Nightwish’s literature references.

1. White Lands of Empathica
The Song begins with a sound that can only be described as ethereal together with a ticking cadence, that lead into the words:

“The End
The Songwriter’s dead
The Blade fell upon him
Taking him to the white lands 
Of Empathica
Of Innocence

Funny a song should begin with the words “The End”, especially if that song is also placed first on the entire album; thus making the entire album beginning with “The End”. Why is made clear in the second phrase that alludes to the songwriters death. The songwriter is no other than Tuomas Holopainen, as we have made clear in our introduction. The “Blade” describes the reason for his death, conjuring the image of a beheading. And he is taken to the “White Lands of Emapthica”. These lands are part of “End-World” taken from Stephen King’s book “The Dark Tower”. “End-World” as a term itself can also be seen as another allusion to death. In addition, in death we will find innocence. Not just because of the line “of innocence” but also through the presence of the colour white, standing for something angelic and pure. It may seem like a last word, a last wish for the dead to reach the other world of innocence. We also hear a ticking noise, that would indicate time running out and a soaring, high and soft feminine vocal, like an angels call. It’s eerily peaceful. However, this innocence is not given to him, as we will find out musically in the next movement.

2. Home

This part is introduced with heavy 4/4 beats and accompanying guitar and full blazing orchestra and choir. There is no rest described in the music and ultimately, no peace in this death we were introduced to in the previous part. We start the lyrics with:

“The dreamer and the wine
Poet without a rhyme
A widowed writer torn apart by chains of hell”

Right here we have a first description of our lyrical I: the dreamer, the poet. These are the words Tuomas Holopainen often uses in his songs to describe the lyrical I, or himself in effect. However, he is not a “widowed writer”. It actually introduces the next person we will to take into account in these lyrics, and is the inspiration behind the title: Edgar Allan Poe. There is a comparison created between the two in these first lines that will continue throughout the song. Poe also has taken his own life and feelings into his writings, something both he and Holopainen have in common. Edgar Allan Poe was widowed and the year that “The Pit and the Pendulum” was written  (1842) coincides with his wife’s diagnosis of tuberculosis and in a way her “death sentence”. And this impending terror of death, is centre to “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and could going further could be the chains of hell Holopainen writes about here. In the end both are torn people, suffering the terror of death. Holopainen’s death however seems to come because he is “Without a rhyme”, so maybe it’s more of lyrical death.

 “One last perfect verse
Is still the same old song
Oh Christ how I hate what I have become
Take me Home”

The second part of the first verse continues to indicate a lyrical End – the last perfect verse. But it is joined by a sense of despise, of disappointment in the lyrical life. The lyrical I desires to be taken Home, typically a safe place, a place of comfort. We could also interpret this Home to be related to the before mentioned “white lands of Empathica and Innocence”. In the end just being a home away from impending terror and death, where you can lie in innocence.

Musically the sense of desperation, death and even pain is heightened above of all. Most parts are sung softly, while the words “torn” “hate” and the final phrase “Take me Home” are sung with more energy, soaring, even close to yelling. The first verse depicts a man who has no poem, no songs left to write which equal to his death. He despises that he has come to this point, feels pain about his situation and desires to be taken home to a safe space, free from the pain and death.

With this in mind we come now to the main chorus of the song:

“Getaway, runaway, fly away
Lead me astray to dreamer’s hideaway
I cannot cry ’cause the shoulder cries more
I cannot die, I, a whore for the cold world
Forgive me
I have but two faces
One for the world
One for God
Save me
I cannot cry ’cause the shoulder cries more
I cannot die, I, a whore for the cold world”

There is a lot that reveals itself in this chore, but we will start with the desire of “getting away, flying away” in the song. It refers directly to the desire to be home, to flee from the lyrical I’s current situation. The mentioned “Dreamer’s hideaway” could also reference that home he is longing for. During these first 3 minutes of the song we have already seen 3 names for this desired place of the writer: The Lands of Empathica and Innocence, Home and the Dreamer’s hideaway. They all represent the same aspect – being free from pain and terror, a place where he is innocent and at peace. And most likely he will only get there through Death. However, we see then that he cannot get there.

Firstly, he “cannot cry ’cause the shoulder cries more”. The “shoulder crying” can be understood as people who use him as a shoulder to cry on. Taking this back to Holopainen’s life, this can refer to his fans. Nightwish has many fans and people generally use music as their escape and their own safe haven, which can support this theory. The people, the fans, that cry on his shoulder and look to him for support do not allow him to search for support himself. He follows up by saying “He cannot die”. He cannot leave to find his peace, because the people on his shoulder need him. That again makes him feel like “a whore for the cold world”. The simile to being a whore lets us see that he feels used, serving other people’s pleasures, but possibly not his own. The world is being described as cold, maybe even cruel, for he does have a wish to find peace, to die, but he may not because of the people that need him, letting him feel simply used.

In the second part of the chorus we dive deeper into this sentiment. The lyrical I describes himself as having two faces. One he shows the world and another for God. This statement is followed up by the words “Save me”. There truly is a face he shows the world, his fans, that is strong and holding them up, while only God knows he himself is not strong and desires to be saved and reach peace in death.

We press on with the second verse: 

“My home was there ‘n then
Those meadows of heaven
Adventure-filled days
One with every smiling face”

This is a look to the past; back then Home were the “adventure-filled days” we can interpret as the band’s career in touring and seeing the world. Back then he felt “one with every smiling face”, the smiling faces another reference to the fans, to which he felt differently before. Now he feels a whore to them and home has become a longing for peace. 

“Please, no more words
Thoughts from a severed head
No more praise
Tell me once my heart goes right”

The sentiment of desiring peace and being away from his fans, gets a new depth. “No more praise” seems to show a certain self-doubt or even disgust. The lyrical I no longer wants to hear what he did well, adding a sense of own shame and guilt to the mix from which he would desire peace. The severed head might stem again from Poe’s poem, where the Pendulum is just about to behead the lyrical I in the story. What we can get from this second part of the second verse is above all that new sensation; guilt. We can now understand that he desires for peace and a return to innocence in death, he has negative feelings towards his career, which was previously a positive experience. Now it is no longer the right way to him. And bearing praise, even though he has turned on a wrong path, is a great source of pain and above all guilt. There is a new dimension to this desire and struggle for the lyrical death; an escape from pain and from guilt.

Part II ends with the chorus, repeated just as before. At the very end the phrase “Whore for a cold world” is repeated 3 times. Musically this phrase ends on a descending yell, like a drop into desperation, a drop into pain. Curiously, whenever Holopainen’s lyrics focus on death and the search of peace, the vocal melody rises, like an uplifting thought, whereas when he mentions the inability to die, the vocals drop. On the 3-time repetition, the melody stays stagnantly up and drastically down – indicating a change and introducing the next part of the song.

3. The Pacific

Musically this part is toned down, slow and deep. It is introduced by a Cello and Oboe in a mourning, languishing melody. The vocal melody soars above this simple orchestration. The lyrics are as follows:

“Sparkle my scenery
With turquoise waterfall
With beauty underneath
The Ever Free”

The poet returns to the water, a common element in Nightwish’ lyrics. One of it’s usual meanings is depicted in this song as well; “Ever Free”. Water here means freedom and beauty, finally the peace he is searching for. The Ocean in particular can give this to him, the “Ocean Soul”. It’s a nice touch that the Water that seems to give him the peace and freedom he longs for is called the “Pacific”, which also means peaceful.

“Tuck me in beneath the blue
Beneath the pain, beneath the rain
Goodnight kiss for a child in time
Swaying blade my lullaby”

Here we confirm that the Ocean is a place of peace – he asks to be tucked in, put to sleep under the blue waters – and beneath the pain. A free and peaceful situation for most people. We also a return to the innocence so desired before by being “tucked in”; usually only children are tucked in. Adding this up, the Ocean is another name for the safe place, the home, the peace he longs for. And somewhere finally it is his Death; the swaying blade of Poe’s Pendulum that will behead him and bring him underneath the waves to his home and land of innocence.

“On the shore we sat and hoped
Under the same pale moon
Whose guiding light chose you
Chose you all”

These lyrics, and final sung part of The Pacific movement, can be interpreted as a last thought, a last half-conscious dream, like when we fall into deep sleep. On the shore, in the alive and real world, where he is a whore for the cold world, “we sat and hoped”. This could refer to him and all those involved in Nightwish. Those, with whom he had previously felt “one”, as seen before. The moon for its part acts as an entity, almost a deity. If we add into that, that the moon creates the tidal forces on Earth, it surely becomes an entity that governs over the Ocean, the lyrical I’s home and the others that have joined. It’s almost a thank you or appreciation of those that have been with him in this life.

However musically we shall see what this deity will actually do with him. Tension builds by brass winds playing over the previously calm melody. The sound is more distorted and deeper. It seems we are drowning into the Ocean. And we are introduced with a fearful whispering child’s voice: 

“I’m afraid, I’m so afraid
Being raped again, and again, and again
I know I will die alone
But loved
You live long enough to hear the sound of guns
long enough to find yourself screaming every night
long enough to see your friends betray you
For years I’ve been strapped unto this altar
Now I only have three minutes and counting
I just wish the tide would catch me first 
and give me a death I always longed for.”

We find ourselves 7 minutes into the song, when we get this clearer notion of the lyrical I’s actual thoughts. The fear of being raped, in other words “being a whore for the cold world” pushes him to this death wish. He believes he will die alone – but loved by the many fans and people he has been a shoulder to cry on for. And we also get a closer indicator for what torments the lyrical I to bring him to this desire for death – “screaming every night, long enough to see your friends betray you”. It seems like things in his life have gone awry, with betrayal mixed into nightmares, joining with what we previously have seen of pain and guilt. It is definitely a very complex and also evolving emotional journey the song takes us through, giving birth to these different depths and parts in the song. although currently we are still underneath the Pacific Ocean, finding peace in death, drowning under the waves. Here of course, he is innocent, so most of the pain comes from the betrayal he has lived. But can he really free from guilt? As an answer and end to the third part, we hear a whooshing and slashing of a large blade, a Pendulum falling, indicating death and the the final step towards peace, safety and innocence. But remember, that musically, it is all but a peaceful moment. Death in the end, as in Poe, is full of terror.

4. Dark Passion Play

Part number four starts musically very heavy, dynamic and fast paced. With the full force of guitars, bass, drums and orchestration the next lyrics are not sung by the female vocalist, but the raw scream of bassist Marco Hietala. 

“2nd robber to the right of Christ
Cut in half – infanticide
The world will rejoice today
As the crows feast on the rotting poet”

Let’s start picking the first line apart. The “second robber to the right of Christ” refers to Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus Christ, who in Da Vinci’s Last Supper is sat second to the right of Christ. The second line refers to the legend of Solomon, who, when two mothers fought over a child, recommended they share and cut it in half, knowing that the real mother would never allow this. These legends from the Bible refer to two deaths, that are meant to explain his guilt and sadness. While there is discrepancy, most agree that Judas hung himself in guilt, representing the guilt. He feels cut in half, like that child, but without a mother to protect him and prevent this death. It is a lonely death that he goes through. There is no shoulder for him to cry on and no one to protect him.. In the last line we return to the Poe-simile with the crows, birds of death that devour the Poet.

“Everyone must bury their own
No pack to bury the heart of stone
Now he’s home in hell, serves him well
Slain by the bell, tolling for his farewell”

Here we find another reference to loneliness, there is no “pack”, no family to bury this dead poet. Instead of in the white lands of Empathica, he finds himself in Hell. We can sense a certain self-deprecation, giving the torture he goes through more depth, when he describes his situation as “serves him well”. He believes he deserves Hell. We also continue with Christian symbology in this part, with the bell tolling for him. Church bells toll when a person has died – and so they do for him. But they have also slain him, their tolling being the ultimate confirmation of death; of this hellish death. After this trip to hell, the female voice returns, delivered by Anette Olson. 

“The morning dawned upon his altar
Remains of the dark passion play
Performed by his friends without shame
Spitting on his grave as they came”

It is now the day after, the Poet has died and is in hell. And in the land of the living, they are not missing him, but “spitting on his grave”. The “dark passion play” is another Christian reference. The Passion Play is the story of Jesus Christ’ last days, but in this context it is dark and twisted. Instead of like Jesus dying for humanity’s sin, here the Poet dies in guilt, shame, and alone, very much unlike Christ.

We return to the main chorus of the song:

“Getaway, runaway, fly away
Lead me astray to dreamer’s hideaway
I cannot cry ’cause the shoulder cries more
I cannot die, I, a whore for the cold world”

Deep down in hell, the lyrical I is still alive and we confirm again, even in hell, no, he cannot die. The guilt is still there and the people that need him are still there. He is still a whore being called back, unable to die. He cannot reach his home of innocence. This last remnant of life is followed by the following spoken word:

“Today, in the year of our Lord 2005
Tuomas was called from the cares of the world
He stopped crying at the end of each beautiful day
The music he wrote had too long been without silence
He was found naked and dead,
With a smile in his face, a pen and
1000 pages of erased text”

This text has the function of a Eulogy. It cites the year of death, 2005, as well as a reflection on the life of the deceased. The death is presented as “deserved” in a way, by saying the “music […] had too long been without silence.”. He has been to loud without taking a step back. But he does wear a smile on his face – we do know that there is a desire for death in the lyrical I. Then again we have spent the entire last minutes in a living hell, musically very heavy and describing the torture of the sinner. While his smiled when dying – death itself did not give the relief he was looking for. If not by the lyrics, you can definitely notice the lack of peace in the music. It’s heavy, dramatic, and has several strong beats of the entire band, choir and orchestra playing underneath the voice reading the Eulogy. There tortured sensation grows, as the Eulogy ends and the song turns more into distressed noises with blade-swinging noises and sounds of thunder. The fourth part ends with one last swing of the Pendulum and the only words that anyone could think when desiring peace and freedom from guilt so desperately but receives only Hell: 

“Save Me”

V.  Mother and Father

This is not the End. There are a few seconds of silence, in which we could doubt if that end in Hell was to be the destiny of our lyrical I, with whom we have travelled through the last 10 minutes. The silence is broken by the soft sound of an Oboe solo, a symbol for mourning, a nostalgic sort of pain. It is mixed in to similar orchestration of the third part “Pacific”, where we had a glimpse of the peace that was desired. Now with the Oboe on top, we are might be presented with a way to gain peace. The pain is never gone, but finding peace within it, the acceptance of what has happened can lead us to a mourning, nostalgic peace. It is not the innocent, protected peace that was desired, but it is peace after being in hell. The next lines are sung very softly.

“Be still, my son
You’re home
Oh when did you become so cold?
The blade will keep on descending
All you need is to feel my love”

As the title of this last part indicates, the lyrics come from the parents addressing the lyrical I. We do for a fact know, that this is a more or less direct quote of Tuomas Holopainen’s mother. The most important phrase here is her telling him “You’re home”. Throughout the entire song we have the word “Home” prevalent. A desire for that nostalgic, protected, innocent and peaceful place. While he did not find it in Death – maybe he can find it with those that love him. “All [he] need[s] is to feel […] love”. The mother figure also acknowledges that the pain will not end, guilt will not end, as the music has already shown us. But there is a way to heal from it, accept and move on from it. It is comparable to the often quoted 5 steps of grief. We can go from depression (a death wish) through absolute Hell to reach acceptance. And Time and Love will heal the wounds of the pendulum.

“Search for beauty, find your shore
Try to save them all, bleed no more
You have such oceans within
In the end
I will always love you”

In this last verse, there another reference to the previous part, “the Pacific”. Instead of being at the shore previously shared with Nightwish and all the fans, the Mother calls the lyrical I to find its own shore, its own world if you will. By finding new shores, and beauty he can distance himself from the past pain and regain new sense. And she reminds him of his capability, of his creative capabilities by saying that there is not just the one Ocean in him, the one he was currently drowning in. It is a call to a fresh and new start. That what has died, is dead. But with Time and Love there are new shores to be found, new hopes to feel. And to gather the courage to embark on this new journey, to accept and heal one’s pain, we hear the line many of us wish to hear and need. “In the end, I will always love you.” Knowing that there is a loving, unconditional support out there for you, a home, a peace, a place free from guilt and of shame – that is key to find healing and happiness. It is not in Death.

Finally, the last words of the song that ring in the End of the songs are spoken:

“The Beginning”

It’s curious to have the last words be of a song be “the beginning”, but I think it is clear why. It’s the Phoenix reborn from the ashes, it’s the quest for new shores that begins with the first step. And the rest of the Album begins here. Curiously, Nightwish did find a new sound and a new singer for this record. The Album Dark Passion Play stands out for many people in the discography of the band due to a change in style and female vocalist. While heavily critiqued by long-time fans, it seems clear that this was a change needed by Tuomas Holopainen and opened the band up to new fans, new shores.


The song “The Poet and the Pendulum” is a 13 Minute journey through the mind and turmoil of Tuomas Holopainen after the year 2005. It was in that year the band parted with their long-time singer Tarja Turunen and had a personal falling out with her. The pain of the separation was big on both sides, and shown in this song. There is guilt for what happened, there is the responsibility that the band and Holopainen had to show towards the fans,. It was the End of an Era for them, and reason for Holopainen being lost as described in these lyrics. We can only of course to a certain degree suppose how much of this are truly Holopainen’s feelings, wishes and pains – but we do know that the lyrics of Nightwish have been up to then very personal. Other songs on the album also digest this separation and falling out of the members with Turunen. 

However personal and “real” these thoughts are, I feel like this song definitely takes us not only on a journey with Holopainen but also into ourselves. The music underlines the emotional gravity of the song extremely well. And I believe a lot of people can actually relate to a sense of guilt and being overwhelmed that all they desired for is the safety of home and innocence. While being personal, the song can still ring true to it’s listener. That is a quality Nighwish possesses in many, many more songs. The emotional journey is one we can all share and very few bands know how to put that journey into song and especially into sound as well as Nightwish does. 

The band remains through all it’s shores and Oceans, one of my main favourites and I hold special place for the band in my musical heart. I hope you have enjoyed reading my analysis and share some of my thoughts. If you do have any comments, please feel free to let me know. And remember the beauty of interpretation is that it is subjective; we can all see and feel different things in the same song and continue to love it endlessly.


Deutschland – Rammstein

In depth analysis of Rammstein’s first single in 10 years. Extract from my Master’s Degree Thesis.

As first part of the analysis, I would like to go deeper into the music of Deutschland. The instrumentation is that of a typical Rammstein song. 2 guitars, bass guitar, synthesizer, drums and Till Lindemann’s trademark vocals with harsh consonants.

The song begins with the synthesizer playing what we would call the main melody. It’s a distorted sound, played in a dark timbre. There seems to be some frequency masking of the notes, the melody rises and falls with one steady note being played in between, making it sound as if there was a steady note over which the rest plays. It’s a very electronic sound, very fast, which could be best described to resemble flashing lights in a club.

Then the first guitar riff breaks in, played by both guitars and the bass. The drums beat in the same rhythm as the guitar riffs are strung, interjecting with hi hat beats as the riff’s sounds out. Back to the guitars that play in 2 different registers, before the guitar begins to imitate the synthesizer’s main melody and progressively the drums enter, first in double rhythm on the Tom-toms, later becoming louder, and the attack clearer. Before the verse, the entire ensemble plays together, in what we would usually describe as “heavy” music. All but the drums fall silent when Till Lindemann begins to sing, giving a far greater prominence to the voice and the German lyrics. Also, another voice repeats certain parts, or new parts of the previous lyrics, as if a voice from the background. So far the song has kept up with a dark theme, heavily distorted guitars and steady, “heavy” drums and Till Lindemann’s is typically raspy and with strong consonants. This breaks up in the pre-chorus. Here a filtered, highly reverberated piano sound can be heard. The sound is far away but present above the dark timbric quality. It plays but a few single notes, that also appear in the synthesizer’s melody, but much slower. It gives the song an almost nostalgic feel. The piano seems a call from another room, another place, and the melody itself gives a sad feeling and so creates this nostalgia. During the chorus the word “Deutschland” is repeatedly screamed by a choir, made up of the rest of the band. It feels aggressive apart from determined. The guitar plays only in occasional riff while the voice is present, the felt speed of the song is created by the synthesizer’s wave movement and the steady drums. Before the verse begins, the guitars gain more presence, playing again the synthesizer’s melody.

The idea of the piano in the background and the second voice keeps going during the second verse. The guitar changes to a faster, power-chord riff during the next pre-chorus, which has a rhyme with the word “über”. Just before the chorus itself, and the last time this melodic word “über” is repeated, it is all we hear, as the band stays silent. It makes the next chorus’ attack become stronger, even though being almost the same as the first, but highlighting the new lyrics and new vocal melody. The bridge has just the synthesizer and some droning ambient sounds, in a similar timbre, but also the piano. Here it sounds more like bells even. It has a very final and very gloomy effect. The chorus of male voices continues crying out. Till Lindemann’s voice breaks this part, returning to the rhyme with “über” accompanied only by the drums bass drum and hi-hat. 

And in the last chorus there are some rather wailing vocals added, repeating the same melody as the piano before did. The song ends abruptly, with just the piano remaining, playing its simple notes. Overall, it is a song that expresses strength, but also a darkness and certain nostalgia. It doesn’t lead with a positive feeling, or empowerment in the strength, but acknowledges the dark side of power, given to us by the menacing male chorus, wailing voice and dark timbre of piano and ostinating synthesizers. 

Together with the lyrics the musical elements become more obvious as to their function. The first phrase we heard sung, accompanied by an almost-silence is: 

Du (du hast, du hast, du hast, du hast) 

Hast viel geweint (geweint, geweint, geweint, geweint)

You (You have…) Have cried a lot (cried…)

The first sentiment is sadness, but also a look to the past, thanks to past tense. It’s a sad past, as we’re talking of tears. If we tie this in with the title, it might be an allusion to Germany’s sad past, one riddled with wars and negativity.

Dein Atem kalt (so kalt, so kalt, so kalt, so kalt) 

Das Herz in Flammen (so heiß, so heiß, so heiß, so heiß)

Your breath cold (so cold…) the heart in flames (so hot…)

As the verse progresses, the lyrics allude to cold breath. In common German language, a cold breath means cruelty, often used in criminal writing, or feeling someone’s cold breath down your neck. It is always a characteristic of a cruel, cold-blooded person. This would mean, if we believe they are talking about Germany, it would mean that she, the country, is cruel and cold. History would show that this could be true statement. The heart in flames stands in contrast to this. Usually in German culture a heart in flames is always a passionate lover. This would mean that while Germany is cruel, there is also passionate love. Again history would give truth to this contrast, as Germany has received much “love” and had a prominent nationalist movement. However, she did receive love, maybe for being as cruel as her nationalist movement was.

Deutschland, mein Herz in Flammen. Will dich lieben und verdammen. Deutschland, dein Atem kalt. So jung, und doch so alt. Deutschland!

Germany, my heart in flames, want to love you and condemn you, Germany, your breath cold. So young and yet so old. Germany!

Again, a contrast between the flaming heart, the passionate love, and the cold breath, the cruelty of the nation is made. However, this time in the heart of the lyrical I. It’s highlighted again in the phrase “want to love you and condemn you”. There is a duality between loving Germany, while hating it. The reason for that is not yet clear.

Überheblich, überlegen, Übernehmen, übergeben, Überraschen, überfallen. Deutschland, Deutschland über allen

Pretentious, outclass, take over, hand over, surprise, assault, Germany, Germany, above all

These phrases bear significant importance to the message of the song. For one, it is remarkably musical, and so ties in with the musical messages we explained before, especially as its last words are marked with silence. The repetition of the word “über” makes the listener pay attention to this part. There is an evolution inside these words. First, they use the word Pretentious, then “outclassing”, maybe believing that Germany is as pretentious to believe they are outclassing others. The words “übernehmen, übergeben” have 2 meanings. One is reflected in the translation. It would mean that Germany in its pretentious belief of being better, they take over and have things handed to them. Here we can find maybe another reference to Germany’s history, and the wars where they occupied countries. But the other meaning is not to be ignored as well. It could also be translated as “take too much, throw up”. We can also interpret this to mean that Germany is taking too much, because they pretentiously believe to be better – and throw up; it is too much.

Both interpretations leave one thing clear: out of a belief to be superior Germany “takes” too much and this is proven in the last phrase: “Deutschland, Deutschland über allen”. This is a daunting phrase for anyone who is aware that this is a phrase is derived from the first verse of the poem on which the national anthem was based. Its most famous use, however, was under the Nazi rule as national anthem, where they actually defended this same belief of superiority. We can interpret, however, that the band disagrees with this. Because the moment when Germany has most taken too much, or been to proud has been during this time. That would explain why allude to this phrase just before the chorus, that states they want to curse Germany. The music is dark, gloomy, negative. The piano mentioned before already foreshadows a mournful melody. The lyrics of the bridge begin with the word “überheblich”, which is used in a negative context in the German language. And just after this phrase of “Deutschland, Deutschland über allen”, they repeat the chorus which includes this duality of wanting to love but also hating Germany – they are unable to ignore the cold breath and will to condemn Germany for exactly this reason. 

As such, the song Deutschland shows maybe the errors of Germany, in its belief of superiority and in its pride. And while we may love Germany, because it is our home. We have to condemn it for its cold breath and condemn our historically dangerous pride. This song touches on a sensitive nerve of Germany in 2019. Germany as many European countries have seen a rise in the far right movements. Political parties like the German AfD, Spain’s Vox, the French Front Nationale are gaining more votes. Rammstein’s song seems to remind where we came from as country, and that “[we’ve] cried a lot”. Concerning the criticism to the images of the music video, already by the lyrics of the song we can see that there is no highlight, or marketing use made of the images of the members as concentration camp inmates. The song is concerned about Germany and its past, of which the Holocaust in inseparable. The phrases “Meine Liebe kann ich dir nicht geben” and “Wer hoch steigt der wird tief fallen” show that it is not to praise Germany. While it doesn’t deny that there is love to the country – there is also no way one can love Germany.

Movies Songs

Rammstein + Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac

Analysis of the use of Rammstein’s “Führe mich” in the movie by Lars von Trier. Written during my Master’s degree course

Nymphomaniac – The movie

The movie by danish director Lars von Trier is a 5 and a half hour long “opus”, centering around leading lady “Joe”, who is a Nymphomaniac. She is found beaten up in the street by “Seligman”, a jewish-agnostic, passionate reader and self-diagnosed asexual. With him she recalls her life experiences in 8 chapters, going from the discovery of her sexuality to the struggles of leading a life with her addiction. While she expresses self-condemnation, she is met with understanding from Seligman, who is able to relate to and even explain her behaviour with similar patterns found in nature, science and culture.

Nymphomaniac is part of Lars von Trier’s “Depression”-Trilogy, comprised of the movies Antichrist​, ​Melancholia​ and ​Nymphomaniac.​ Each movie is the result of a depressive episode and hospitalization in 2006, and cover different aspects of depression. ​Antichrist focuses on the descent into mental disorder, and the depths of despair when it starts to take over. ​Melancholia​ depicts the numbness people with depression experience, even in a crisis such as the end of the world. And ​Nymphomaniac​ deals with the obsessive and addictive escapes people with depression indulge in, searching to feel good and “whole” again. The movies do show these behaviours in an extreme vision.


To complete the background for this movie, I would like to mention DOGME 95, a manifesto written by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Similar to futurisms manifestos, the manifesto of DOGME 95 compiles a set of rules and beliefs these Danish artists set to follow. They moved to separate themselves from the “technological storm” which was taking over the art of cinema. These show only an “Illusion of pathos and […] illusion of love”. They wished to “force the truth out of [the] characters and settings” and keep up integrity in sound and picture. They expressed this in their “Vow of Chastity” which contains the exact rules and a vow to keep them

Freud in Nymphomaniac

There is a strong Freudian presence in the movie, by the means of an unresolved Electra complex; Joe’s relationship to her mother is summed up by the words “cold bitch”, which may have led to a phallic-stage fixation in Joe, due to missing identification with her mother and not learning sexual morality from her. This later may have developed into her hypersexuality. Joe sees it as negative, as seen in her self-chastising as a “bad person”. But Seligman sees this as a feminist gesture. She has lived as a man would, fulling embracing her sexuality, while a man wouldn’t be chastised. This alludes to post-freudian interpretations of the behaviour of unresolved Electra complexes as a rebellion against the power of males in a patriarchy. Finally there is a close relationship of Joe with her father, represented by trees. Joe later makes a leaf collection because of this. Freud in his work ​Traumdeutung​ states dreaming of tearing off branches represents masturbation. We see a sexual note to her father meaning no complete transfer of sexual libido – an unresolved Electra complex.

The Music in Nymphomaniac and Heavy Metal

All 3 installments of the “Depression”-Trilogy have classical music accompanying them. In ​Antichrist​, the music is centred around ​Lascia Ch’io pianga​ by Händel; in the case of Melancholia​ it is the Prelude to​Tristan und Isolde by Wagner.In​ Nymphomaniac’​s varied soundtrack a special place is reserved for Bach. Seligman mentions his Fugue and use of polyphony and Joe then compares each voice of a Fugue to one of her lovers. The bass voice is a loving man, who puts her desire above his. The second voice is a feline, dominating man. The last voice, that completes the harmony is a man named Jerôme, which has the “secret ingredient to sex”: Love. This however does not lead to a happy ending.

We can already guess that Joe’s story does not end happily thanks to foreshadowing in the opening scene. In complete silence but for the noises of the sparse action, the encounter of Seligman and Joe in the street is accompanied by the blasting guitars of Rammstein’s song ​Führe mich​. Rammstein’s sound is dark, with distorted guitars and steady, pounding beat. Singer Till Lindemann’s voice is unique in its booming, ominous, brute masculinity and rough pronunciation of the German language. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the mainly classical soundtrack. By being heavy metal, it encaptures a darkness and an “outside-of-society” notion, we associate to metal, and maybe also to Nymphomaniacs. There is also a sense of the unknown; the general society has little insight into a nymphomaniac life, neither into heavy metal as a genre, but has a conception of both to be dark, dangerous and deplorable.

The first reason for using this particular song might be Rammstein’s fame for sexual topics in their lyrics. Many of their songs of several albums are centred around different and mostly tabooed types of love and sexual relations, which include violence and abuse. Adding to the title ​Nymphomaniac​, this connection of tabooed sexualitiy could be one reason.

Another reason could be related to the allegations of nazism in both Lars von Trier and Rammstein.With the release of ​Melancholia h​e made a controversial comment, concerning his new found German identity although believing he was jewish. He said now he “understood and sympathizes Hitler” – which resulted in him being banned from the Cannes Film Festival. Rammstein have also been met with criticism for their nazi-like

imagery and performances. However they have many times stated to be against such ideologies. They can be understood simply as heirs to the​ New German Wave​ of the 80’s, rooted in Post-Punk and known for using shock to convey harsh political messages. Rammstein being used in this movie, right after this scandal could be considered thus a message by von Trier that his comments were mere provocation.

When looking up the music of this movie, the above mentioned reasons will be the most popular visions of why this song is used. However for those two reasons, one would not need to use this particular song. ​Führe mich ​is a bonus track of the 2009 ​Liebe ist für alle da ​Album, depicting a twisted union of two souls in one body, one ruling over the other, the other depending on the ruler. One could argue that the use of a song with a sexual content would be just as effective if not more. For example the song ​Pussy ​which has partly english lyrics. Or the song ​Rein raus, ​which is more focused on sexual pleasure. Yet the choice was ​Führe mich​. If we take into account the DOGME 95, there ought to be an internal reasoning, representing the truth they wanted to express above all else. So what truth could he ”forcing out” of Joe?

There is a loneliness that accompanies her which we can see throughout the movie. Beginning with the mother’s “abandonment”, to her abandonment of her own child and lover. And at the end Joe ends up beaten in an alley, alone. She is unable to live a normal life because of Nymphomania. It dominates her life several times, although she wishes to live differently. We can see this when her father is dying and she is crying while having sex, due to his worsening state. It shows when she leaves her son behind not being able to resist going to a BDSM session, or when she tries to go into therapy to save her job. It’s the only thing that is always by her side until the end, no matter how much hardship it brings her.

And I would also take into consideration the moments where we can hear rock music, albeit not being heavy metal they still contrast to the rest of the classical music soundtrack. The song ​Born To Be Wild ​by Steppenwolf for example, often considered to be the first “heavy metal” song. This song is heard when she and her friend “B” take the train to have sex with as many men as possible. She is enjoying her life and her condition here and the song has a much more rebellious connotation. The song ​Burning Down the House​ by Talking Heads is the second example. It first shows when Joe leaves therapy proclaiming her pride of her Nymphomania and uses it to find a new work, however illegal it may be. The rock songs thus mark moments where she lives well with her condition, where they stand for rebellion and pride.

But the darkness remains, as she is dominated by the illness and it will remain the only constant in her life until the end. This duality of surrender to and struggle with her condition reflects back to the depression Lars von Trier experienced. Often one gives in to the negativity of depression, and most people will struggle their entire life with recurring fallbacks while managing daily life. The Rammstein song represents that.

Classical People

Camille Saint-Saëns – Le carnaval des animaux

Analysis of the characteristics of “Programme Music” in the Carnival of the Animals in the single movements and sound descriptive elements.

The musical suite

Le carnaval des animaux ​is quoted to be a “humorous musical suite” by the french composer and piano-prodigy Camille Saint-Saëns, composed in 1886. The suite contains 14 parts, each representing an “animal” but the last, which is a finale. The term “animal” is a little flexible, as these animals include pianists, fossils, beings with long ears, and swift animals to name a few. The most famous part is by far “the Swan”, nr. 13

Programme Music

This suite would be best sorted into programme music of the romanticism period. The first clue can be found in its title, which already gives away the programme idea behind it. The piece only gains “sense” with it. As we discussed in class, programme music was a way to turn away from the metaphysical pure music of the romanticism and bring the music closer to the listener. That included new listeners, outside of the elite, when music was democratized with the national revolutions of the 19th century. We also know that composer of programme music prefer content over strict form. Also the parts differ in rhythm, speed, length, and key. The shortest part is comprised of barely more than 20 compasses.

The main concept behind the parts are to mimic or make allusions to animals. However apart from the title, there is no further programme, nor explanation. While, as we had spoken about, symphonic poems had an actual poem as background, and was given to the listener to set the mood. What serves as programme in Camille Saint-Saëns piece is actually musical context and “heritage”. He took in some parts inspiration and sounds of animals using other composers work. That way he establishes an image in each part that will remind the listener of the animal in question.

Inside the music

  1. Introduction et marche royal du lion
    The introduction is played by the string instruments and both pianos. At first, it bears little resemblance to the lion, and ends in the two pianos one rising and one descending into extremes. Perhaps this virtuoso effect, makes the actual march be more dominant. The rhythmic pattern one the one hand, and on the other he uses the Dorian mode in this part. The Dorian mode, curiously was used in Beethoven’s ​Missa Solemnis​, dedicated to Archduke Rudolf of Austria and first performed for Russian Prince Nikolai Galitzin. So there we can find the relation to royalty. Finally a trace of a Lion’s roar can be found in the music as well
  2. Poules et Coqs
    In the second part we will hear references to chickens and roosters, but not just their “call”, but also the noises of their actions. The first notes already mimic picking. We can connect this to chickens so precisely, because he based this part off of Rameau’s piece​ La poule. Played on the clavichord, we can see a similar movement in both.
  3. Hémiones (animaux véloces)
    This part is comprised of very fast-paced piano, giving the impression of running. Also, the movements of the melody go up and down, which gives a scenery to the running. Finally together with the name, we understand that this is about wild donkeys in Asian mountain areas.
  4. Tortues
    This slowed down, and even lumbering part describes the cautious walk of the tortoise. Far more than an animal noise, again, this describes the way they move, or at least the sensation we associate with them: slowness. Camille Saint-Saëns chose for this part to slow down a known piece – the Galop Infernal Can-Can by Offenbach. It is just played slow beyond recognition, but we recognize it in the score
  5. L’éléphant
    In the Elephant Camille Saint-Saëns begins with the piano playing a chord in each hand in coupled eighths, giving a very heavy and full sounds, fitting for an Elephant. The main melody is played by the Bass, lowest of the instruments adding to the impression of a large animal. The last touch is using the melody from Berlioz ​Danse des Sylphes ​, from his ​Damnation de Faust. ​This dance related to fairy, sprite-like beings, being played by the bass adds to the feeling of a heavier animal, which completes the image of an elephant.
  6. Kangourous
    This part seems less obvious. Again, Camille Saint-Saëns decides to interpret the movement of the animal, not the call or cry. The Kangaroos most iconic characteristic is the jump. And Saint-Saëns gives it a sound. One can also note that Camille Saint-Säens switches from a 4/4 time to a 3/4 time between the jump and the other music. Also the “jump melody” is marked with a accelerando and ritardando. He has found rhythmic elements to express movement and the tensing and untensing of the leg muscles.
  7. Aquarium
    The Aquarium – how can one describe the sound of fish and of water? Camille Saint-Saëns’ 7th part of the carnival of the animals could be considered “pre-impressionism”. Far more than describing the movement or “sound” of fish, he tries to emulate an under-water feeling. Maybe similar to Wagner’s R​heingold p​relude, the string section begins with steadier notes, held notes. But what stands out above all, is the use of a glass harmonica. The unearthly sounds help put us feel under the water.
  8. Personnages à longues oreilles
    Quite simply put, these ​personnage,​ these people are donkeys. And after the pre-impressionist piece may bring some calm into the storm with an obvious animal call sound. The donkey violins. This is the shortest part of all 14 in the Carnival and rumour has it, Saint-Saëns wrote it with his critics in mind, that were not pleased with the European Tour he was taking a break from, when writing the Carnival.
  9. Le Coucou au fond des bois
    The Cuckoo has one particularity – it is being played by the Clarinet. The same instrument that Beethoven used in his 6th symphony, “pastorale” for the same animal. If there were any doubts that this is piece is programme music, now there should be none. Here we find referenced the very symphony that gave way to the idea of programme music.
  10. Volière
    We stay in the winged realm of the birds. The flute describes the flutter of the wings in its fast-paced melody, that “flies” up and down the pentagram. Again, we find a description of movement – the birds are represented by Camille Saint-Saëns by their call and their movement.
  11. Pianistes
    Probably the most curious of all the animals are the pianists. This part was dedicated to the students Camille Saint-Saëns and their relentless practice of scales. His quick wink towards the human animal nature gives the entire suite a more comedic essence.
  12. Fossiles
    After going through a quick history of Romantic composers, Camille Saint-Saëns honors himself in this part. The fossils come directly from his own symphonic poem, ​La danse macabre.​ He uses the Xylophone to imitate the rattling of bones, in a small section that is later repeated by the piano and string section. However the use of a solo-clarinette in some sections gives a much more cheerful atmosphere than the original danse macabre.
  13. Le Cygne
    We arrive at the last part, the p​ iece de resistance​ of the Carnival, the Swan. After originally composing the suite in Austria in 1886, Saint-Saëns did not want to publish it, and only had it performed in private occasions. He feared his reputation as a serious composer would be damaged. However this piece for Cello and piano was published still during his lifetime, and remains the most famous of all the Carnival. The sweet melody embodies the form of a swans neck. The part may not be very obvious, very programmatic. However Camille Saint-Saëns manages to embody not just the form but the elegance we relate to swans. The steady piano swims along like the flow of a river.
  14. Final
    The final part gives a reprise to the animals in the previous parts, with small bits of melody we can recognize from before. It gives its conclusion to the Carnival in a last dance. And if that were not enough, it even begins similar to the ​Introduction.​

But is it programme music?

This question is founded on several factors. At first, and maybe just a formal issue, the suite is not based on any poem or other-art inspiration. For many the “extra-musical” was part of essence of a work of art, for example for Franz Brendel. Camille Saint-Saëns wrote it after a criticised tour around Europe, in Austria in the year 1886. And adding to that he did not want to publish it, because he feared it would tarnish his reputation as serious composer. For him it was just a humorous adventure he reprised for private events. He seems like an academic and trained composer who should be “in favour” of pure music, but has written a programme piece.

It is however based on, and in someway uses, musical references of the last decades to express the different animals. To me, the suite is more a “programme music for musicians”, in comparison to a real democratization of music. To be able to understand how the allusion to the animal is made, you have to recognize and be aware of different compositions of the ongoing century. The parts of the Elephant or the Tortoise are less understandable without this information. We might have the “intuition”, but the genius of the “musical program” becomes lost. Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a suite that has a clear description in its title, that has a narrative thread through it, but that has a programme based on other musical compositions one ought to know to be able to understand the ​Carnaval des Animaux. I​t is not perfectly clear nor perfectly democratised and has no extra-musical aid apart from its title. It is not 100% programme music.

The poem for the ​Carnaval des Animaux

All that being said, nowadays we will find a poem being given to us when we listen to the Carnival. The american poet Ogden Nash wrote poems to each part in 1949, which explain each animal – and has references to the sounds we hear. For the Lion he mentions the roar. The tortoise’ poem makes references to the lore of the Hare and the tortoise race. And the rattling of the bones (or xylophone) is explained in the twelfth part.

Maybe these verses prove to be a better approximation to the music for a general public, but Saint-Saëns already gave the clues to those who can recognize them. And so the poem ends quite fittingly with “​ St. Saëns has done a miraculous thingling.”