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The Stepping Stones of Life

by Hinterlandt

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“The Stepping Stones of Life” Lyrics: John Rantzen | Music: Jochen Gutsch There stands my Doctor Red With a piss-pot for a head He greets the new arrival While he stands there by the bed The baby views an open door And sees the chamber now before A chamber full of mystery To be explored with wondrous eyes To see, to learn to multiply Like those who came before Time does not really matter To the young, the strong, the free To unravel tangled problems Is their future destiny But time in fact is limited As new ones seek their space For chamber’s space is finite For all the human race Suddenly a massive change His voice descends to lower range Hair starts sprouting on his face The acts of passage now take place Parties are a total hell His armpits make an acrid smell girls now avoid the chance to meet him His hands go clammy in a greeting He wisely takes advice from others And with guidance from his brothers Learns body cleansing from his mother and mornings start with shaving lather He sets to work with soapy sponge Buys a suit then takes the plunge Attends some local dancing classes Girls now give him second glances His time has come to play the field To find a girl who shares his need The wish emerges to go steady A friendship in which both feel ready Eye pairs then make a contact fleeting Both intent on mutual meeting Seeking some secluded space Where arms and legs can now embrace To multiply For time is short, proceed in haste For that’s the constant urge of life For girlfriends, lovers, man and wife A cantor calls From ages past “Now raise your foot and crush the glass” For few decades of life remain To love, to hold, and lips to kiss The end comes far too quickly Of this wonderland of bliss The sun descents in orange red My wife lies dying in her bed The song of life becomes a gasp As sorrow swamps the dreams of past To grieve, to grieve, to grieve some more To grieve as tear drops pol the floor The world has changed Its not the same I cannot bear to speak her name The laugh, the smile, the intellect These are things I’ll not forget A moving shadow on the wall Is that my wife I can’t recall Old Omar wrote the song of life A thousand years before He now stands quietly waiting By the chamber’s open door He holds the open door ajar And nods his wise old head He beckons me to pass on through And walk the path ahead Behold the path of loneliness Stretching into space “Your song is sung, there is no more It’s time to leave this place” “Boaties raise and boat your oar The cask is empty, head for shore” We two now clasp each other’s hands As dust that mingles with the sand


"The Stepping Stones of Life" is an original piece of music composed by Jochen Gutsch set to a poem written by John Rantzen. To read the poem, please click the LYRICS button that appears as you hover over the song title.

The poem is dedicated to John Rantzen’s late wife and was written immediately after she passed away in late 2020. John Rantzen reached out to his son, Andy Rantzen, and asked him to find a composer to set his words to music. Equipped with many contacts thanks to his work in an arts organisation, the latter considered several potential candidates; among them his occasional collaborator Jochen Gutsch who had written a body of original chamber music for this group Hinterlandt. The composer was intrigued by the emotional weight of the lyrics and agreed to create the piece.

In this work, Jochen Gutsch shaped a musical narrative that follows and supports the words closely while maintaining its own musical creativity. He envisaged a succession of sceneries to illustrate the situations relayed in the storyline, which follows an arch from the beginning of life to the end of it. He composed the work as a chamber-music piece to be performed by the highly experienced musicians in his quintet Hinterlandt, with special guests Andy Rantzen as narrator and Keyna Wilkins on the flute.

"The Stepping Stones of Life" starts in an innocent, playful mode, stumbles over moments of crude humour and hints of spirited absurdity, moves on to depict coming-of-age scenes and the trials of young adulthood, navigates into more complex emotional territory, triumphs in emotive unison, and eventually steers towards the inevitable: the end of life. It is only towards the second part of the piece that the dramatic melancholy that inspired the piece unfolds in its full solemnity. At the very end of the piece, the ensemble returns to bring back the introductory motif, ending on a positive note, describing the cycle of life.


released October 22, 2021

Lyrics: John Rantzen
Music: Jochen Gutsch

Lara Goodridge – violin
Monique Mezzatesta – viola
Simeon Johnson – cello
Nicole Smede – vocals
Andy Rantzen – narrator
Keyna Wilkins – flute
Jochen Gutsch – composition, piano, guitar, trumpet, vocals

Recorded by Richie Belkner at Free Energy Device Studios in Sydney, June 2021. Mastered by Michael Lynch at Shoehorse Sound Studio.

Recalibrate Records




Hinterlandt Sydney, Australia

Progressive indie-chamber ensemble from Sydney.

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