Faculty Mentor

Michael Walsh


This paper addresses the moral and ethical implications of Carl Orff’s masterpiece Carmina Burana. I begin with a brief introduction, framing the paper and providing some general background about the piece’s importance. I then delve into discussions about the original writers of the Carmina text as well as some possible philosophical influence that these writers could have had on Orff. Next I present some information on Nazi Germany (in which Orff lived) including the philosophical basis of their cultural policy and some historical theories that explain the phenomenon of Nazi eugenics. I include a summary of my research regarding Orff’s connection to the Nazi party as well as some historical information on Orff and the Carmina. A thematic plot analysis of the piece follows and then I conclude with some comments about the information as a whole. Throughout the study of all of the aspects I come to the conclusion that Orff’s piece is layered with meaning, and is a fascinating study on the inner psyche of oppression and cynicism. The piece itself reflects many of the external factors acting upon it, but it stands on its own as a philosophical piece of art. Orff creates his own ethical system that is shaped around what appears to be a supremely hopeless worldview. I show the connections found in the piece to these external factors while examining Orff’s own ideas.

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