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  • for string quartet and six voices
  • By:


application/pdf,98k Score (98k) pages 1 - 2© Jack Body

External Media on Demand

Programme Note

On September 25, 1940, a man presented himself at the customs office of the border crossing at Portbou in the French Pyrenees. There his request for an official stamp to legalise his departure from Vichy France into Spain was denied. That night, in his hotel room, facing that prospect as a German Jew of being delivered into the hands of the Nazis, the man took his own life. That man was Walter Benjamin, one of the twentieth century’s most important philosophers and literary critics. His age was 48.

As I face my own mortality I also stand at a border. However, unlike Benjamin, I am a traveller reluctant to transit. But the sentence has been pronounced, and when the call comes, proceed I must. But at least I have already been blessed with more years than the unfortunate Benjamin was granted.

Walter Benjamin

Date of Birth?
July 25, 1892

Nationality? German Jew.
Your request?

Border transit to Spain.
Request declined.

Deceased, by suicide. Walter Benjamin Walter*

Your name is known.
Your age is known. You are expected. The border is open.
The stream of your life
Has become a river
Whose banks grow ever wider.
It is time to embrace the ocean.

(*Benjamin’s death certificate mistakenly reversed his names, as “Benjamin Walter”.)

Notes by Jack Body

Performance History

World Premiere for P: Cries from the Border; Song Company; NZSQ 070215 07 Feb 2015 Performed by the Sony Company (director Roland Peelman) and the New Zealand String Quartet at Nelson Cathedral on the final night of the Adam Chamber Music Festival 2015.
09 May 2015 Performed by the New Zealand String Quartet and The Song Company at the Canberra International Music Festival at the Filter’s Workshop, in Canberra.
24 May 2015 Audio recording of the New Zealand String Quartet with The Song Company played at the Jack Body Memorial Concert, at St Andrews on the Terrace, in Wellington.


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