Mahler Project

I was tempted to call this the “Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D Major Project” but thought that might incline me to have an end point for the project.

As it stands, what I’ve decided to do (since I’ve decided I should go ahead and do this performance of Mahler 1 with the IU Southeast Orchestra) is start a blog detailing some of my thoughts, trials and tribulations regarding the process of learn, learning about and ultimately performing the work (the concert date, if I’m not mistaken, is 2011 April 17 – so mark your calendars!).

What often happens when I learn a new piece is that I’ll at least learn something about the work. Whether I’m just coaching a group of youths for a performance, or as in this case, learning a work for one of my own performances I will invariable want to find out something about the music and composer (if the latter is possible).

In this case, what I’ve learned so far is fascinating. The many revisions; the excised second “Blumine” movement; the recycling of musical materials from the Leider eines fahrenden Gesellen; the context surrounding the practice of “Bruder Martin” (otherwise known more familiarly as Frère Jacques); and Mahler’s Jewish background all contribute to an intriguing and compelling story.

Not that there isn’t an intriguing and compelling story to pretty much any piece of music, but it’s not one that I’d bothered to explore when I’ve performed this work in the past.

What I’d like to do is share some of this story as well as document the process of learning the cello part to the work as well as give some analysis of the actual composition (and possibly some comparative analyses with other versions of work and the aforementioned song cycle, Leider eines fahrenden Gesellen).

While the work itself doesn’t have as many difficult licks for the cello as, say, works by one of Mahler’s contemporaries Richard Strauss – especially if we’re just looking at the shear proportion of licks to composition length – I think, for some of my students at least, having a description of the learning process (and with luck some audio samples if I can manage it) could be of great pedagogical interest.

The analyses might be of more general interest to the readers of my blog as well, though I suspect it might be a bit tedious for a non-musical audience. It has been some time since I’ve had the opportunity to analyze a symphonic work but I would like to toy around with some analytical techniques I haven’t had a chane to play with for some time like Schenkerian or Musical Set Theory analyses (I might even throw in some snippets of Generative Music Analysis ala Lerdahl and Jackendoff) in addition to the standard Roman numeral analysis developed by Rameau that so permeates orthodox Western Art Music education.

If that doesn’t sound appetizing, well, there will be some historical and biographical posts that may be of more interest to a lay audience.

The big issue was deciding where to blog about this. I don’t want to clutter up my blog with this, and wanted to make the Mahler Project more of a stand alone work [in progress] so I’ve decided to start (yet) another blog for the purposes of collecting my writings about this subject.

As I’m in the process of overhauling the website as a whole anyway, and trying to figure out how to integrate all of my various blogs into one (while having the ability to keep them separate) I thought “why not add one more project to that stew” – it’s not as if I’m a busy person or something, right?

Anyway, I will post a link to the Mahler Project blog once I get that set up and running and by the beginning of the new year I hope to have it going full steam!

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