Hanns Eisler: Music

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Song of Supply and Demand RealAudio Buy
Bertolt Brecht. Sung by Robyn Archer.

Dresden Schauspielhaus Production of Die Massnahme Scene from the 2001 Dresden Schauspielhaus production of Die Massnahme, with staging that reflects Brecht's inspiration by Japanese Noh drama.
Die Massnahme (The Measures Taken) was the first of Brecht's "didactic" plays written in collaboration with Hanns Eisler. It premièred at the Berlin Schauspielhaus in 1930. Brecht's plays at this point were strongly influenced by the minimalist staging of the ancient Noh drama of Japan. In this song, a Chinese rice merchant explains the operations of a market economy in its most brutal form.

Rice can be had down the river.
People in the remoter provinces need their rice.
If we can keep that rice off the market
Rice is bound to get dearer.
Then the men who pull the barges must go short of rice
And I shall get my rice for even less.

By the way, what is rice?

Don't ask me what rice is.
Don't ask me my advice.
I've no idea what rice is:
All I have learned is its price.

In winter time the coolies need warm clothing.
Then you must buy cotton so that
You can keep cotton off the market.
When a cold spell comes, then clothes get more expensive.
Our cotton spinning mills pay too high wages.
And cotton's too plentiful in any case.

By the way, what is cotton?

Don't ask me what cotton is.
Don't ask me my advice.
I've no idea what cotton is:
All I have learned is its price.

Working men need too much feeding
And this makes a man's work dearer.
To provide for his feeding you need women.
Our cooks can make a meal cheaper but look at
Those eaters making it dearer.
And we could use more men here in any case.

By the way, what is a man?

Don't ask me what a man is.
Don't ask me my advice.
I've no idea what a man is:
All I have learned is his price.

Music sample © 1999 Festival Records. Translation by John Willett in Bertolt Brecht: Poems and Songs from the Plays © 1990 by Methuen London.

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