Leck Mich Im Arsch (“Kiss My Ass”): Listen to Mozart’s Scatological Canon in B Flat (1782)

We all know the manchild Mozart of Milos Forman’s 1984 biopic Amadeus. As embodied by a manic, braying Thomas Hulce, the precocious and haunted composer supposedly loved nothing more than scandalizing, amusing, or exasperating friends and enemies alike with juvenile pranks and scatological humor. Surely a fiction, eh? Gross exaggeration, no? Surely Mozart comported himself with more dignity? Those familiar with the composer’s biography know otherwise.

We have, for example, a ridiculously dirty letter the 21-year-old “poop-loving musical genius” wrote to his 19-year-old cousin Marianne—a missive Letters of Note prefaces with the disclaimer “if you’re easily offended, please do not read any further” (oh, but how can you resist?). This piece of correspondence is but one of many “shockingly crude letters” Mozart wrote to his family. And if these slightly insane documents don’t convince you, we offer as further evidence of Mozart’s exuberantly childish sensibility the above canon in B flat for six voices, Leck Mich Im Arsch, which translates roughly to “Kiss My Ass.”

One of three naughty canons composed in 1782 with lyrics like “Good night, sleep tight, / And stick your ass to your mouth,” this piece was discovered in 1991 at Harvard University. Harvard librarian Michael Ochs, with a clear penchant for understatement, said at the time: “These are minor works. They’re not the Requiem, or ‘Don Giovanni.’ They were written for the amusement of Mozart and his friends, and they show another side of him.” The first edition of Mozart’s complete works, published in 1804, bowdlerized the texts and removed the racy humor, changing the title of Leck Mich Im Arsch to “Let us be glad!”—likely, writes Lucas Reilly at Mental Floss, “the complete opposite of what this tune means.”

Reilly also points out that Mozart’s “potty mouth” was probably not, as some have supposed, evidence of Tourette’s syndrome, but rather of an especially strong current in German humor, shared by Johannes Gutenberg, Martin Luther, and Mozart’s equally brilliant contemporary, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In fact, Leck Mich Im Arsch alludes to Goethe’s serious dramatic work, Götz Von Berlichingen. The chorus reads as follows in English (see the sheet music with lyrics in German here—some bowdlerized and original lyrics in English at Wikipedia):

Kiss my arse!
Goethe, Goethe!
Götz von Berlichingen! Second act;
You know the scene too well!
Let’s sing out now summarily:
Here is Mozart literary!

Hear two additional dirty choral pieces—Bona Nox and Difficile Lectu—at Mental Floss. Some other scatological canons thought to be Mozart’s, such as Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber (“Lick my ass right well and clean”), have since been attributed to amateur composer and physician Wenzel Trnka, yet it appears that the three featured at Mental Floss are genuine. And also genuinely, hilariously, adolescent, which must be why they appealed to the über -juvenile Insane Clown Posse. In 2011, the clown-rap duo recorded their own take on Leck Mich Im Arsch in a bizarre collaboration with former White Stripe Jack White. It’s not safe for work, of course. I wouldn’t recommend listening to it anywhere else either.

via Mental Floss

Related Content:

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Read an 18th-Century Eyewitness Account of 8-Year-Old Mozart’s Extraordinary Musical Skills

The Recycled Orchestra: Paraguayan Youth Play Mozart with Instruments Cleverly Made Out of Trash

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness



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by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

  • Elies

    That kind of humour can be found also in Henry Purcell’s pub songs. Also french painters depicted pissing women. I think it was common in european culture to create such works for close audiences.

  • Josh Jones

    Oh absolutely. Also the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and of course Jonathan Swift.

  • Josh Jones

    The 18th cent. in general was obsessed with bodily functions.

  • Ignatz Ratzkiwatzki

    The Pogues need to record this.

  • Peter Hoog

    ‘Kiss My Ass’? Well, not quite. ‘Lick me in my ass’ would be a more accurate translation. Wolfie was even dirtier than you thought.

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