Field of Study:
In his final vocal work, Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedűvel (2000), composer György Ligeti invents a nostalgic fantasy of childhood that interacts with his Hungarian ethnic identity and his status as an exile. Scored for mezzo-soprano and percussion, this song cycle sets poetry by Ligeti’s friend and compatriot, Sándor Weöres, whose nonsense verses are a staple of Hungarian children’s literature. The title, however, is lifted from a traditional nursery rhyme in which a child heals a stork “with pipes, drums, and reed fiddles”—an allusion to the magical noisemakers employed in ancient Magyar shamanism. Drawing on manuscript sources, I argue that Síppal, dobbal enacts an analogous process of emotional healing for an aging Holocaust survivor working through the trauma of his past.