Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies


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Early life

Finkelstein, Einstein, Longyear, and Taruskin converge in confirming that the great bulk of emerging 19 th century or Romantic era nationalist musics reflect existential irony in the minority musics composed and incorporated into the Western Art Music canon. A citation from the introductory chapter lays out the main thread of her analysis:.

It demonstrates the basic irony and the paradox in its mythological nature, for this essentially forms the plot and determines the action of the work. Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies. In the closing passage of his book, Johnson writes:.

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What distinguishes above all is the intensity with which acts of expression continue in the face of their own deconstruction. Issues concerning the similarities of music and language have been and remain controversial. We can nonetheless point to certain parallels between the linguistic structure of worship and the musicological structure of sacred music in that both embody intertextuality and heteroglossia in their composition and effects. Intertextuality is the shaping of a text meaning by another text.

A central idea of contemporary literary and cultural theory, intertextuality, has its origins in 20th-century linguistics, particularly in the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure — The term itself was coined by the Bulgarian-French philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in the s. These different ways are different because of class, gender, culture, dialect, accent, demographics, and so on. Polyphony literally means multiple voices.

A number of linguistic scholars have invoked the concepts of intertextuality and heteroglossia directly in discussion and analysis of structure of religious language and worship. Day [17] devotes a full chapter to the topic of Intertextuality, introducing the analysis by noting that:. Musicologists, historians, and other scholars have increasingly cited and drawn upon the heterglossia and related intertextuality concepts and ideas of Mikhail Bakhtin in their analytical and comparative writings [12; 13; 29; 30; 31; 60].

Thus, though identity between music and language is consistently denied [e. And he cites the analyses of other prominent Haydn scholars in this vein:.


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Robbins Landon and Daniel Heartz. In his visits to England Haydn was so moved by performances of Handel oratories and, in particular, Messiah , that he subsequently turned much more actively to composition of his own Creation and succession of masses both during and subsequent to the Esterhazy tenure [22; 35; 76]. Mellers goes on to present evidence to show Beethoven as a religious and philosophic preacher to himself and his audience through musicological features of his scores. He writes:.


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Johannes Brahms — : Brahms spent a considerable part of his career as conductor of choirs and choral music; and publication and popularity of his German Requiem was followed by the cantata Rinaldo , the Alto Rhapsody, and the Song of Destiny. Thus he was an experienced conductor and composer of sacred and vocal music. In his tenure as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Society, he staged and conducted many choral works drawing on his thorough understanding of sixteenth-century a cappella music and seventeenth and early eighteenth-century musics.

Composition of his symphonies, concerti, and chamber music follow these; and inevitably melodies, modes, and structure of the choral and vocal works were incorporated. Brahms composed an extensive range of sacred music including motets and most famously his German Requiem.

In addition he composed a very large number of secular songs, lieder , generally settings of poetry or texts by German, and occasionally non-German, authors or folksongs which he rearranged. Very often Brahms rendered these strophically, i. And he shows in detail Brahms own sanctification and use of historical elements in his symphonic and instrumental music [cf.

Richard Wagner — : Wagner is said to have championed Italian Renaissance sacred music throughout his life. Whatever his own religious beliefs or practices, it is clearly Wagner who was most successful among nineteenth-century composers in sanctification of his works, primarily operas. Patronage and lavish support of King Ludwig II of Bavaria enabled Wagner to carry off his personal and priestly life in high style [53]. Gustav Mahler — : Mahler was well versed in traditional and contemporary sacred and liturgical music [49, p. First, Mahler adopted a number of compositional features familiar in Gregorian chant and in Renaissance and Baroque sacred music.

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The strophic, hymn-like structure both of Mahler songs and of his symphonic composition, probably first analyzed by Adorno [1], has also been extensively described by Mitchell [49]. Extensive use of minor keys [48] and especially A minor works, and chromaticism and marches — including funeral marches — are noted. He departed from Berlin to Paris where he returned formally and even ceremoniously now aged 59 to the Jewish religion, and he continued to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life [43; 58; 62].

He moved to Los Angeles, became a naturalized American citizen, relentlessly initiated actions for saving Jews from the impending catastrophe [see also: 51; 26 for detailed discussion]. He composed sacred music, viewed himself, and received status as, a prophet and visionary as well as a victim. For others, these may take place in addition to more conventional religious observance. Sherwood writes:. Further study should examine features of their patrons, performers, audiences, and reception as well.

Mahler's Voices by Julian Johnson (ebook)

Adorno Theodor W. Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, , p. Quasi una Fantasia. Essays on Modern Music.


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London, Verso, , pp. Bakhtin Mikhail M. Rabelais and His World. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, , p. Holquist, V. Liapunov eds. Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity. Austin, University of Texas Press, , pp. Toward a Philosophy of the Act. Austin, University of Texas Press, , p.

Beghin T. Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric. Bohlman P. Berkeley, University of California Press, , pp. Jewish Music and Modernity. New York, Oxford University Press, , p. New York, Routledge, , p. Musica Practica. London, Verso, , p. From Handel to Hendrix. The Composer in the Public Sphere. Mythology as Metaphor. Westport, Greenwood Press, , p. Lingiustics, Language, and Religion. London, Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, , p. Ludwig van Beethoven. Approaches to His Music. Oxford, Clarendon Press, , p.

The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York, Collier Books, , p. Music in the Romantic Era. New York, W. Inc, , p. New York, International Publishers, , p. The Viennese Classical Period.

Choral Music. Baltimore, Penguin Books, , pp. Steven Paul Scher [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ], —36 offers Johnson the concept of the plot archetype through which to look at Mahler. Howard [New York: Hill and Wang, ], —85 examines the roles of performance and evaluation in musical meaning.

Of course, it is not uncommon to see essays discussing narrative function in a single piece or a small sampling of works, but typically the authors of these studies tend to cherry pick prime examples from a broader body of work. Very few published works of monograph length have emerged from established scholars exploring the function of narrative within the works of a single composer.

In order to do this, Johnson must call upon a dizzying number of works within a very short space to demonstrate a seemingly endless variety of meanings and connections. The most frustrating aspect of the book lies in the printed music [End Page ] examples. The text refers to some specific musical passages by example number and others by figure number, which seem to refer to resemble rehearsal numbers within the examples, though this is not made clear.

This makes the process of locating the referenced music examples unnecessarily difficult, provided that they can be found at all.

After Mahler: Britten, Weill, Henze, and Romantic Redemption

Readers will find themselves frustrated while flipping through multiple chapters searching for numbers, hoping to stumble upon the correct example. It appears as though last-minute decisions to omit examples were made without the necessary changes in the text, leaving the reader on a kind of musical snipe hunt. Furthermore, although the examples when they can be located greatly demonstrate issues brought up in the text, they appear to have been something of an afterthought.

The type setting for them is sloppy those on pp. Note stems and slurs obscure articulation markings, stems point in the wrong direction, words in the lyrics do not have proper spacing, etc. Had these been rare oversights, they would have been easy to ignore, but their relative frequency, combined with the challenge one faces trying to find the examples in the first place, make it difficult to focus on the excellent writing. While it is doubtful that Johnson completed this aspect of the work himself, it does raise the question of why this carelessness was not observed and corrected during the editing process.

Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies
Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies Mahlers Voices: Expression and Irony in the Songs and Symphonies

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