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:

New­ly Dis­cov­ered Piece by Mozart Per­formed on His Own Fortepi­ano

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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