The Kramgasse Clock, from Einstein’s Dreams (Day 88)

“Do you have the time?”

When we speak about the time, we are obliged to do so with precision. Einstein lived in an apartment in Bern at Kramgasse 49 from 1903 to 1905, and in Lightman’s book Einstein’s Dreams, the municipal clock on the Kramgasse is an embodiment of the Swiss commitment to exactitude in time. That clock inspired this polka-style tune:

Kramgasse BernIn the west end of the Kramgasse,
A mighty tower,
A source of power,
A thing of beauty when it rings the hour.
It subdivides eternity
With an effortless tick and tock.
In the west end of the Kramgasse
Stands our municipal clock!

What a thrill to live in a world
Where every minute is exquisitely precise,
Where time makes each of us
An exact device!

In the west end of the Kramgasse,
It’s hard to miss
A shrine like this,
A mighty metaphor of all things Swiss.
It preaches punctuality
From a pulpit of steel and rock.
In the west end of the Kramgasse
Stands our municipal clock!

Noteworthy features of this number include Jeremy Lardieri’s severe sermon on the iron rule of time, the tune of which he improvised in recitative style while I banged out some wacky chords, and a stomping, foot-slapping rendition of the Bavarian Schuhplattler knee dance performed by the ensemble at the end. Some of the music in this composition (the la-la canon and the dance tune played by the violin) was first heard in 1976 as part of the score I wrote for a production of She Stoops to Conquer at Carnegie Mellon University, an exquisite demonstration of the Einsteinian notion that all moments in time can exist simultaneously!

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

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