Friday, June 29, 2007

The Mahler Cycle


As we drove from Seattle to Bozeman, we heard the last notes from Mahler's Ninth and final completed Symphony (he started a tenth but died before finishing it). This marked the end of our cross-country Mahler cycle.

Consider for a moment that Mahler completed his First Symphony in 1886 and his Ninth in 1911. Imagine what the world must have been like without blogs, email, automobiles, and airplanes. Nature probably played a larger role in everyone's lives. It has been documented that nature, in particular the forests and mountains outside Vienna, played a great role in inspiring Mahler's music. In fact, many of the works were written in the composer's cabin in the Alps. Mahler references nature a great deal in his music, from birdcalls in his first symphony to the dying hearbeats in his last.

In high school and college, I listened to a lot of Mahler but rarely in settings outdoors. To hear all of Mahler's works while seeing some of the landscapes that might have inspired him was a unique and enlightening experience. Here is a sample of some of the landscapes which served as our Mahler backdrop:

Mahler 1: North Ridgeville, OH to Lake Anita State Park, IA

Mahler 2: Lake Anita State Park, IA to Denver, CO

Mahler 3: Denver, CO to Taos, NM

Mahler 4: Taos, NM to Albuquerque, NM

Mahler 5: Albuquerque, NM to Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Mahler 6: San Diego, CA to Zion National Park, UT

Mahler 7: Zion National Park to Salt Lake City, UT

Mahler 8: Boise, ID to Portland, OR

Mahler 9: Seattle, WA to Bozeman, MT

Of course, Mahler is not alone in taking inspiration from nature. Many modern day composers, such as Messian, take to the woods to write their works (as do authors, academics, and others). Later this summer, Carmen and Andrew will be spending two weeks as artists in resident on secluded Isle Royale thinking about, writing, and performing music.

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