Dwight Mamlok was born on December 16, 1923 in Hamburg – his name appears in the birth records as Dieter Gerhard Mamlok. His father Reinhold Mamlok owned a successful chemical exporting business focused on South America. He was denounced and arrested courtesy of a woman who was a shareholder in his company and also a fervent National Socialist.
Yet, while incarcerated, he still managed to get his not yet sixteen-year-old son to Sweden, thanks to one of the very last Kindertransporte (evacuation to safe countries of refugee children, primarily of Jewish heritage) – with Sweden closing its borders on September 1, 1939. Dieter Mamlok lived and worked in Sweden for six years – initially living with foster parents, with whom he later remained in contact from the United States.
Thanks to assistance from relatives who provided an Affidavit of Support at the eleventh hour, his parents were able to escape to California. After the end of World War II in 1945, Dieter Mamlok found his way to the USA by a roundabout route via Great Britain and joined his parents in San Francisco. There, he changed his name to Dwight Gerard Mamlok.
He met Ursula Lewy in the summer of 1947 and the pair married three months later. After having lived for a year and half in San Francisco, Ursula and Dwight Mamlok decided to move to New York in 1949. They drove across the country via the legendary Route 66 – a belated honeymoon for the couple.
In New York Dwight Mamlok established a branch of his father’s export business, which he continued to run until way past retirement age. Dwight Gerard Mamlok died on September 20, 2005 in New York.
While still a youth living in Sweden, he discovered a love of photography which remained with him throughout his life, as did his love of literature. He wrote many poems, novellas and humorous short stories in English, which to date remain unpublished. One of the aims of the Dwight and Ursula Mamlok Foundation is to promote this treasure trove.
His only well-known work is his moving cycle of poems Der Andreasgarten, one of the few texts he wrote in his mother tongue. These poems were written in 1987, together with his wife Ursula Mamlok, the couple’s only collaborative work.
Ursula Mamlok was commissioned by the Jubal Trio to write this piece in 1985. The ensemble, founded in 1974, had the unusual combination of a vocalist (Christine Schadeberg), flutist (Sue Ann Kahn) and harpist (Susan Jolles). Der Andreasgarten, Composer: Ursula Mamlok, Lyrics: Dwight Mamlok was premiered in 1987 by the Jubal Trio at Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania.
In the program for a subsequent performance on November 18, 1995 at Philadelphia University the composer wrote of this piece that:
“The three musicians gave me the opportunity to write for a trio comprising mezzo-soprano, flute and harp. Armed with a mountain of books which I hoped to trawl through for suitable poetry, my husband and I drove up to our house in San Mateo, as we did every summer; I had even brought Salzedo’s book on harp techniques with me. My task for the summer had already been decided. Though on reading all this poetry which ranged from works by the historical greats, verses from the Bible, and poems written by not-particularly famous friends, I still found myself seeking a theme that would bring the entire work together, integrating the various poems and giving the piece overall cohesion and context. The sounds of my mother tongue German also appealed to me. I had previously set German texts by Hermann Hesse to music. Eventually I asked my husband who, like me, had been born in Germany if he could assist me in this challenge.
It was his idea to build the cycle of poems around the underlying tension between the beauty of our garden in California and the constant threat of destruction posed by the San Andreas Fault running underneath it. I was convinced that this dichotomy – the sublime beauty versus the destructive power of nature – would generate sufficient tension, and would perhaps serve as a metaphor to illustrate the fragility and precariousness of our own human existence in the context of the modern world.
So we set about this task together, for the first and, up until now, only time. Although the poetry should come before the music, my husband did not give me the texts all at once. Instead I composed the music for the first poem and then felt that I needed a contrasting mood, a shift in tempo and instrumentation which I was able to achieve through combining the vocals, flute and harp through incorporating three different-sized flutes (a standard one, an alto and a piccolo). I wanted the audience to experience the garden’s atmosphere – its beauty – and also to sense the dangers lurking deep below the earth’s surface.”
When the American Composers’ Alliance (ACA) in conjunction with the recording company Opus One announced a competition, Ursula and Dwight Mamlok secured a prize for Der Andreasgarten. Ahead of the award ceremony the prize-givers raised the question: “How do we secure the publication rights for the texts?” “No problem.” Ursula replied “The poet is standing right next to me.” (Excerpt from: Habakuk Traber, Time in Flux – The Composer Ursula Mamlok, Vienna, Cologne, Weimar 2012).