Relationship to Literature
Hindemith's distinct modernity became consolidated in his confrontation with modern contemporary literature. Already in 1916 he confessed: «The joy of my meagre free hours is our small but beautiful library, on the expansion of which Rudolf [Hindemith's brother] and I are working most zealously.»
And in 1917 he reported: «I have discovered an interesting magazine – das Kunstblatt – , that I shall now always buy. I don't know whether you'll like this kind of art; it is a completely ‹ultra-extravagant› direction the aims of which extraordinarily interest me, the means of which, however, I cannot really grasp. (Maybe just not yet now. Perhaps I must embark on these paths this myself.)»
Hindemith owned the various literary almanacs of the period, the «Collected Poetry» of Else Lasker-Schüler, the «Poems» of August Stramm as well as numerous volumes of the «Insel-Bücherei» (Island Library). Many texts that he set were taken from the central published series of expressionist literature: «Der jüngste Tag» (The Day of Judgement).
Like no other composer and with an unusually certain discernment, Hindemith found his way to the expressionist poetry which then proved itself the paradigm of literary expressionism: Oskar Kokoschka, August Stramm, Ernst Wilhelm Lotz, Else Lasker-Schüler and Georg Trakl. In addition, he also set poems of Christian Morgenstern, Rainer Maria Rilke and Walt Whitman, also basing instrumental works such as the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Op. 11 No. 3 (first version) and In einer Nacht, Op. 15 on poems.