Today’s musical piece ‘O Fortuna‘ by Carl Orff (see image above) you have no doubt heard of because it has become so embedded in popular culture. It is derived from the 13th Century medieval Latin Goliardic poem of the same name. The Goliards, in case you were wondering, were young clergy of the Middle Ages who studied at universities spread out over Europe and wrote satirical Latin Poetry. They protested against the growing contradictions within the church through song, poetry, and performance. O Fortuna is a complaint about Fortuna, the inexorable fate that rules both gods and mortals in Roman and Greek mythology.
like the moon
you are changeable,
and then soothes
playing with mental clarity;
it melts them like ice.
Carl Orff (10 July 1895 – 29 March 1982) was a German composer. His family was Bavarian and was active in the Imperial German Army. He too served in the German Army during World War I, when he was severely injured and nearly killed when a trench caved in. Afterward, he returned to Munich to pursue his music studies. Orff founded the Günther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich. Orff was there as the head of a department from 1925 until the end of his life, and he worked with musical beginners. There he developed his theories of music education, having constant contact with children. In 1930, Orff published a manual titled Schulwerk, in which he shares his method of conducting. The concepts of his Schulwerk were influential for children’s music education.
Orff’s relationship with German national-socialism and the Nazi Party has been a matter of considerable debate and analysis. His Carmina Burana was hugely popular in Nazi Germany after its premiere in Frankfurt in 1937. O Fortuna” was the opening and closing movement of his cantata Carmina Burana. Orff’s assertion that he had been anti-Nazi during the war was accepted by the American denazification authorities, who changed his previous category of “gray unacceptable” to “gray acceptable”, enabling him to continue to compose for public presentation and to enjoy the royalties that the popularity of Carmina Burana had earned for him.