Der Ohrenzeuge

Complete Work Title:

Der Ohrenzeuge (The Earwitness) — character study after Elias Canetti

Performance Medium:

solo bass flute



Date Composed:

September 2000 – January 2001


to Helen Bledsoe

Additional Information:

  • This work is part of a collection of solo works based on character studies in Elias Canetti’s book Der Ohrenzeuge (Earwitness).
  • Solo works from this collection may be programmed as a set, or in conjunction with the semi-improvisational, open-form works Canetti-menagerie (for five to eight instruments) or Conversations (for two to four instruments), which use these works as source material for improvisational interplay.
  • Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).


Helen Bledsoe, bass flute. Recorded 28 March 2001 at the University of North Texas Center for Experimental Music & Intermedia (Denton, TX).
Lisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute; with text reading by William Joyner. Recorded September 2021 at the University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND).
Ann Maker, bass flute. Performed 25 October 2021 at the University of North Texas Recital Hall (Denton, TX).


Program Note:

Der Ohrenzeuge (The Earwitness) is the sixth in a series of short works for solo instrument based upon characters in Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig Charaktere (Earwitness: Fifty Characters), written in 1974 by the Bulgarian-born British-Austrian novelist Elias Canetti (1905-1994). Canetti’s distinctive studies incorporate poetic imagery, singular insights, and unabashed wordplay to create fifty ironic paradigms of human behavior.  This collection, begun in 1997, was inspired by the vividly surreal depictions of Canetti’s characters, and comprises twenty-two solo works to date—composed for familiar instruments such as violin, guitar, piano, and trombone, as well as less common instruments such as ocarina, cimbalom, glass harmonica, and carillon.  In Canetti’s depiction of this character, the Earwitness “comes, halts, huddles unnoticed in a corner, peers into a book or display, hears whatever is to be heard, and moves away untouched and absent.” Accordingly, the work itself quotes fragments of nearly two dozen Twentieth-century works from the flute and bass flute repertoire.

Der Ohrenzeuge was composed between September 2000 and January 2001 for flutist Helen Bledsoe, who first performed the work on 25 February 2001 at the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).

Performance/Broadcast History:

3 December 2022Boston New Music Initiative Prismatic Congruency SeriesBoston, MA (online)Lisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
21 October 2022University of Nebraska, OmahaOmaha, NELisa Bost, bass flute
17 October 2022University of North DakotaGrand Forks, NDLisa Bost, bass flute.
16 June 20222nd International Low Flutes FestivalonlineLisa Bost, bass flute
12 December 2021The Arc Project Online Festival 2021York, UK (online)Lisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
25 October 2021University of North Texas Recital HallDenton, TXAnne Dearth Maker, bass flute
7 November 2020University of North Texas Spec's CourtyardDenton, TXAnne Dearth Maker, bass flute
28 October 2020University of North Texas Voertman Hall (live-streamed event due to COVID-19)Denton, TXAnne Dearth Maker, bass flute
29 September 2018Luther College Noble Recital HallDecorah, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
26 September 2018University of Northern Iowa, Graham HallCedar Falls, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
25 September 2018The University of Iowa Center for New Music Recital HallIowa City, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
23 September 2018Simpson College, Lekberg HallIndianola, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
21 September 2018Drake University, Sheslow AuditoriumDes Moines, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
20 September 2018Grinnell College, Bucksbaum Center for the ArtsGrinnell, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
2 April 2016North Dakota Museum of ArtGrand Forks, NDLisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
10 March 2016Faith Lutheran Church—Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra Rush Hour ConcertBismarck, NDLisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
14 March 2014radio broadcast on WUV-FM—The Floating Head of Zsa Zsa” with Laima HarmonBurlington, VTHelen Bledsoe, bass flute
19 February 2014radio broadcast on WMUA-FM—"Martian Gardens” with Max SheaAmhurst, MAHelen Bledsoe, bass flute
16 February 2014radio broadcast on WMUA-FM—"Martian Gardens” with Max SheaAmhurst, MAHelen Bledsoe, bass flute
18 May 2011Lawrence University Conservatory of MusicAppleton, WILisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
25 April 2011University of North TexasDenton, TXLisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
6 March 2011Seldin Home—Voices of Change Salon ConcertDallas, TXLisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
9 October 2009Clarke University—Society of Composers, Inc. Region V ConferenceDubuque, IALisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
27 March 2009University of North TexasDenton, TXLisa Bost-Sandberg, bass flute
6 April 2001University of WashingtonSeattle, WAHelen Bledsoe, bass flute
27 March 2001University of North TexasDenton, TXHelen Bledsoe, bass flute
25 February 2001Posthoornkerk—"The Great Virtuoso Slugfest"Amsterdam, NetherlandsHelen Bledsoe, bass flute