Carmina Burana

Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.

Carmina Burana, i.e., Songs from Beuern, is a collection of satirical songs from between the 11th and 13th century, composed by the so-called Goliards, a subversive fraction of the clergy mocking various aspects of the church, among other pranks, through texts such as those of the Carmina Burana.

Carmina Burana is now more famous as the classical music composition it inspired to Carl Orff, who composed it in 1936. It is the first part of his Trionfi trilogy.

O Fortuna

O Fortuna is the most famous, and possibly the best, song of the work as a whole, which opens and closes it:

O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as the sharp mind takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate – in health
and virtue –
is against me,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

O Fortuna is among the most popular pieces of classical music. It has been used in a variety of popular contexts [1], although the music seems more fit to accompany things such as John Kenn's drawings than adverts, romance or thrillers. Still, bad taste is no ground for limitation, restriction or censorship of any kind. Unfortunately, the so-called "estate of Carl Orff" seems tough on "regulating" the work. For instance they successfully banned this resampling from being redistributed. I'm not sure how much it agrees with one of their mission, that purports to "encourage for the public understanding for the universal oeuvre of Carl Orff and support for its dissemination". Not even entering the question of the (indeed, dubious) quality of this particular work, one can only regret and condemn such a shortness of view and crippling of the composer's work. What if the estate of Johann Sebastian Bach or the Henry Purcell foundation had issued a lawsuit against Wendy Carlos on similar charges? This would have cheated the world from such treasures as this famous revisit, which adds to the original more than it takes. Even if rave techno or whatever variation would butcher the work, would that spoil the original? It is clear, therefore, that such a protection from modern corruption keeps Orff on the edge of genuine Classical Music, that of Mozart and Beethoven, or any of the others that we would all know whether or not to put them in their wake. Orff is too recent and, still in the cushion of the copyright knights, his work has not matured enough to take the full force of the creativity, positive and negative alike, that it exerts in its public of all ages (that of the public and that of the times).

Other songs

Fp.laussy.jpg I have always be familiar with Tanz as the opening song for the beautifully crafted French documentaries Histoires Naturelles.

I have used Veni, veni, venias to accompany a bit of the Supermoon of September 10, 2014 in Madrid.


We went to the following live representations of the work:

  1. On 23, September (2007), by the choir of Tres Cantos (free, during the mercado medieval).
  2. On 29 August (2014), by the Orquesta y Coro RTVE, conducted by Juanjo Mena (free, from mayorcita, i.e., on the roof of the Plaza Mayor).