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Songs Of The Earth The Visions Of Gustav Mahler

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nusic is the healing force of the uni verse, said Albert Ayler. All music is relative, say I. Free Jazz transcends all preconceived limitations. Ayler, like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, speaks to who I was long before I ever heard either of them. A child is a receptor of past and present relative to future. The wonderment of being alive and sentient is an eternal nowaday celebration. And there is no separation. I am a child as Darius Milhaud is a child. Young Anton Webern is old Webem and therein lies innocence. Soft spoken as the gentle poet Hildegard Jone, whose words Webem set to music. Moments of silence pregnant as with a thousand bells. Benevolence. Empathy . Sanctity. Silence. I probably am not supposed to cry at chamber recitals. But I do. My mothercried at a street parade. We're not supposed to be that honest in public but who's going to replace my stopper. It's out for a reason. Schoenberg' s dark changes upon Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde grabbed me round the ventricles and I did sob with it. That's the child receptor in fluxus. A fullgrown blubberpuss. Everything genuinely planted has the sublimity of the painted desert. Mahler speaks to an enormous span of time relative to the bloodline. Hearing nis pictures I feel the great oil pastei presence of the places my people have been. Living in this land is very confusing. One must honor the land beneath the feet and the other land whence carne the blood. That's a lot at once. European classical and chamber music is for me a sincere and constantly replenishing ritual of ancestor reverence. All music has this potential inside of it. A sensitive heart will embrace the radial weave. Heart is a melody of time, said Pharoah Sanders. Gustav Mahler's child-self is alarmingly capable of joining the boy that I am; we share chocolates while the fïddle plays a tone above the rest of the viols. The E-flat clarinet cuts a terrible magnetic waltz in the shadow of the buildings I was frightened away from as a boy. Little stick figure pacing off some innocence as the adults collide and spin themselves round in desperation. Gustav was able to do wonderful things with children's lyrics: Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magie Horn), a giant compendium of verses intended for early 19th Century Germanic kiddies, became a sourcebook for his contribution to the Germán Lieder tradition. It's amazing what bizarre and often creepy things are described in these little nursery rhymes: Cuckoo is dead, cuckoo is dead; he ran into a willow and busted his head. The donkey won first prize for singing nicely. St. Anthony of Padua preached a sermón to the fish because nobody came to church; the fish listened carefully, then swam away and forgot all about it. The geese wrote a little song and if you ask them they'll honk it to you. Then there' s the child who starves to death while the adults are harvesting wheat, grinding flour, mixing dough, baking bread. By the time the loaf comes out of the oven, the kid has perished from malnutrition. Then there's the young men going off to fight battles. I grew up watching the Vietnam war on televisión, worrying that my older brother might have to move to Canada, and marching my little twelve-year-old self through the streets to protest it. Few songs resonate inside of me as does Revelge which means "Reveille." Here's a battlefield strewn with the mutilated corpses of soldiers. Suddenly, their skeletons stand up in response to the rhythms generated by the skeleton of the drummer, who executes great drumrolls and paradiddles, leading his comrades in a macabre processional. They march intothe village and stand at attention within sight of the drummer' s sweetheart's window. Gustav Mahler set this little nightmare to music. It blows my mind every time without fail. Some of the liederare simple and warm. Or innocently melancholy. Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) is a perfect four-part cycle, elements of which show up in the First Symphony. Symphonic visión constitutes the panorama of Gustav 's world view, his Weltanschauung. "Maler" means "painter," appropriately enough, as his symphonies are a series of landscapes. That' s my impression as I am so often transponed there. Hooray for a world which can never be trapped in a sound bite. For a reality far too complex and wonderful to ever be rendered into copy, floppy, headline or punchline. Symphony No. 3 takes in the rocks on the mountain, the flowers in the field, the animáis in the forest, the enigmas of humanity, the mystery of midnight, a burst of moming bells and the immensity of love, of spiritual rebirth. Lindsay Forbes, my partner in this life and in all the lives to come, had a succinct comment about this composer: His mythology is with the Earth. We undêrstand the word "mythology" to mean "mythos" - the world view as a metaphoric construct; one's own pantheon of spirituality. We do not subscribe to the Christian usage of "myth" which implies a false or outmoded belief. That usage belongs to the Inquisition and to the Crusades. Mahler' s mythology is with the Earth. And with the "Eternal Feminine." I do not care about certain definitions of that phrase, either. My personal interpretation is that "Etemal Feminine" describes a universe which is female. Everyone must find their own meaning, and this is what it means to me. The context of a Goddess whose cycles of life and death are older than the human race and will certainly outlive us. All hail the Eternal Feminine. For a clear picture of this miracle, see the opening of Symphony no. 8, where an impossible multitude of voices sing Veni Creator Spiritus which I translate as "All Hail the Creative Spirit." See also the end of the 8th, whereupon Mater Gloriosa appears as "Mother, Queen of All, Etemal Womanhead" ready to "lead us on high." What is music if it is not for each of us to realize in our own way, deep within ourselves? I share this with you because to me it is precious as breathing and allowing the mind to move of its own accord through the void, away from noise and trouble, beyond a culture cruelly distorted by reckless marketing. The Goddess cannot be marketed. An understanding of the Eternal Feminine can only occur when the petty machinations of grabby human torque cease to distract us from sincere contemplation and gratitude. Much has been made of Mahler's preoccupation with death. It is best to try and see his maturity as reflective upon all points of the circle of being. This does include changes from one life unto the next. The later Symphonies do draw upon more wistful imagery. The poems of Friedrich Rückert are infused throughout this period with Gustav's own changes. One reason I study Germán and Austrian Lieder so closely is the presence of the poets who inspired the songs. Hugo Wolf s infatuation with Eduard Mörike and Joseph Eichendorff will probably occupy me for the rest of this lifetime. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) was among Mahler's last achievements. The texts derive from Germán translations of French interpretations of ancient Chinese poetry. Permutation is the music of Evolution. An oboe is Baltic amber in Mahler's hands. A dream of vinegar, red and clear. Teil me how you feel. What is your name? Take time to listen. Suggestion: For a clear and concise discussion of this and any other music in the Classical or Chamberrealm, visit Jim Leonard at SKRClassical at 539 E. Liberty in downtown Ann Arbor. He will be happy to give you perhaps a more studied and informed viewpoint. I am proud and happy that as different as Jim and I might be, we share an endless respect for Gustav Mahler.


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