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Carmina Burana

1. Carmina Burana - The Music

The Carmina Burana is a piece of classical music created by Carl Orff and first performed in Frankfurt by the Frankfurt Opera on June 8, 1937. The title of the piece also refers to Johann Andreas Schmeller's 1847 compilation of an early 13th century manuscript from a Benedictine abbey in the area of Bavaria. The manuscript may not have originated there, instead it is believed that it may have come from Seckau. The language of the poetry is both Latin and German, and portions had music notation accompanying it, although Carl Orff did not use the original musical direction in his work.

Carl Orff's premiere of the piece spread rapidly to other opera houses and has become world famous. A description of the work tends to be difficult as it combines a mix of percussion with tunefulness and choral accompaniment that is unusual. Other descriptions emphasize the pagan nature of the music, and even physical effects on the listeners.

The lyrics of the poems cover a wide range of hedonism, from drinking songs, to love lyrics, gambling, gluttony, lust and sex. In many modern CDs mention is made of the paradox of innocent sounding boy's choirs singing some of the more lascivious pieces.

The music has been used in modern times in a wide variety of commercials, in the films "Excalibur" and "The Doors", along with numerous movie trailers. It has also been used in Enigma's Screen Behind the Mirror CD. The section of the work that is most often used and recognized is O Fortuna.

The lyrics, along with an English translation, are reproduced at:


Parts of the music can be listened to at most online stores. Here is one of only a wide variety of recordings:


2. Carmina Burana - The Poetry A collection of over 1000 poems and songs, ca. 1230, now in the care of the Bibliotheca Augustana[?] at the University of Augsburg[?], Germany. Most of the poems and songs appear to be the work of wandering students and clergy. Most are in Latin; a few are in a dialect of High German, and some mix the two languages. Many of the poems appear to be products of the Goliardic movement; the collection preserves the works of a number of poets, including Peter of Blois and Walter of Châtillon, and one anonymous writer who has been given the name of the Archpoet.

Divided into 6 sections:

  • Carmina ecclesiastica
  • Carmina moralia et satirica
  • Carmina amatoria
  • Carmina potoria
  • Ludi
  • Supplementum

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