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You know .. the music they play at Gillette when the Patriots come out

What's That Music?
Carmina Burana - Carl Orff, Composer

It's one of the most recognizable pieces of music of the 20th century. I first came across it watching the movie Excalibur, but many Patriots fans who have been to a game in Gillette Stadium know it as the music that precedes the team streaming from the inflatable Patriots helmet leading up to game time.

The piece -- composed by German composer Carl Orff -- is called "O Fortuna" from the larger work "Carmina Burana" (technically, "Songs of Beuern: Secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magic images"), which itself is based on a medieval collection of poetry of the same title.

Of all the versions, this one (first 22 seconds -- click to listen) performed by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus is my favorite. The piece is actually included twice in the overall work, the first and last of 25 parts. This clip is from part 25 and is far more majestic and ominous than the opening piece. It starts with an earth-shattering gong and has a much more invigorating finish.

However, the vocals are Latin and German; and the question is: What's it about?

Well, all music is open to at least some interpretation. Below, I present the German lyrics with the English translation provided in the liner notes. Unfortunately, I did a lot of typing before finding the same exact thing on the web.


Latin vocal English translation
O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the string man,
everyone weep with me!