Monday, April 03, 2006
The Magic of Mahler
The 'magic' of Mahler indeed! In my humble opinion anyway, his music is truly magical. Gustav Mahler is the man many 'love to hate' and I feel his musical genius has been missed by many, as a result.
And so I shall digress a bit from my usual postings of pencil scratchings and talk a bit about music and how it occupies great territory in my studio and life. Having enjoyed the concert on Saturday evening, I thought much yesterday afternoon while at work, about how music plays a major roll in my daily routine and how it is ever present in the studio when I am working. Almost embarrassing to admit, with my CD collection now approaching 2900 discs (don't ask!), you would think, as many of my friends do, that I could start my own radio station (yes, if the art career goes down the tubes at some point, maybe I will do just that!). But as many artists will attest to, we must have music playing while at work.
Inspiration, as has been talked about before by me and others of my artistic friends, comes in many forms; a musical moment or melody being not the least of them. Consider the beauty and intensely evocative music that paralleled the Impressionist period of painting, with Debussy, Ravel and other great composers of that era, melding their musical notes with the feathery dabs of paint of their contemporaries. And then too, the works of mid 20th Century American composers such as Copland, Ives, Schuman and Harris, to name but a few, whose music reflected completely, the amazing array of variation of artistic movements that were taking place in the late 40's, 50's and early 60's. I just have to see the splashes of color and texture of a Pollack painting to have the strains of a piece by one of these American individualist composers come to mind.
And so, muisc plays constantly while I am at work, whether it be my favorite local classical radio station, a disc of Ella or Sarah or Frank or kd or Rosey or Billie or Lena or Tony or Art or Harry Connick ...... or maybe the Rachmaninoff 2nd Symphony (how could anyone not be carried away by jolts of intense inspiration listening to that music!). I guess the vast majority of my library consists of well over 2600 classical discs by the likes of John Adams, Prokofiev, Bach, Ravel, Sibelius, Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven, Haydn, Copland, Britten, Gershwin and Liszt. But there are many lesser knowns too, who occupy coveted space on my CD shelves, maybe lesser known to those who do not spend as much time as I, scanning for recent releases of interesting and obscure pieces of music and exploring the range of works by a composer recently 'discovered' by me through hearing a short work on the radio perhaps .... but none the less of equal weight in my estimation, to those listed previously. Composers like Tubin, Alwyn, Rautavaara, Picker, Bliss, Dyson, Bax, Howells, Martucci, Reger, Suk and Toch, whose musical output of emotion and intensely personal and individual writing has become so inspiring to me. And is there really, anything more moving than the music in the last act of Puccini's 'Turandot'?
Then there is Gustav Mahler! I guess I heard his first symphony, 'The Titan' as it has been dubbed, maybe thirty five or more years ago? That hearing was, as they say, a stunning experience for me, both as an artist and simply as a human being, as there was much intensity going on in my life at that time anyway and the music seemed to 'fit right in' so to speak. I think I played that record over and over and over again in the first weeks after buying it until I could almost hum the complete first movement on my own! I guess true 'Mahlerians' would say that was a good, if less than completely indicative, introduction to Mahler's work and all these years later I would agree. It was a nice, somewhat subtle way of becoming acquainted with Mahler.
In the succeeding years of adding to my understanding and appreciation for Mahler, I became even more entangled in his musical output, seeking out different orchestras and conductor's 'takes' on a particular symphony or song cycle. It is hard for me to put into words exactly what listening to Mahler does for me ... to me, but his music never fails to speak to me, spark my energy, set my mind to thinking and raise my creative juices. With such an array of choice in music to listen to as I work, I can honestly say that easily half the time of working on a given piece, Mahler is the choice. His rhythms and melodies haunt me and there are times when I find them emerging in my head when driving or reading or eating or simply moving through my day and out of the studio, not even focused on work. Yes, many other composers' music does that to me as well, but none so strongly or so often or so surprisingly at times, as Mahler.
And so I say to those who are among the many who 'love to hate' Mahler, let yourself go! Give his intensely personal look at the world a chance, as you would in seeing a new artist's work, and maybe, just maybe, you will also find his work will spark something within you, move you to experiences you never pondered and possibly help you to see the world in some new light.