5.8.09

prom 28: mahler 6th


thanks to the techy inventions and advances, monkey is able to enjoy all kinds of things in life. and im not just talking about the conveniences of indoor plumbings and a/c units in a sweltering humid days (as yyz has been for last couple days. thank god we get some sun and nice wind for next couple days). the beauty or may be the irony of the technological advancement is that it allows indirect experiences of old beauties, things that were born ages before all these gizmos and machines. such as music, arts, etc etc etc.

there are genres of arts that survives somewhat independently of the flow of time. i say architecture and literature may fall into that category. i mean, this is a gross generalization as no art can survive without a context and that particular context is inevitably effected by the given or chosen point of time. but unlike some genres, architecture, paintings and literature do survive that time-gap somewhat intact; in comparison, other disciplines such as music and dance always have been rather poor survivors of tyranny of time. sure we have scores and such, even foot-step diagrams for dances. however, have you ever tried to learn a dance step from one of those diagrams? it's almost impossible i think. those diagrams only become useful when one already have a pre-conceived notion of what it may represents and that it does certain leave out some important aspects of the chosen dance as a whole. same with music. a good and easy example would be the tuning pitches. who have decided a=440? politicians, ofcourse. why? who knows exactly why. seemed like a good number on that given day i guess. but once you tickle your fancy with 'what should be the 'correct' tuning,' you may never get out. it gets rather confusing, much like house of mirror. yes, scary as well.

anyways, monkey's primary interest of the day have nothing to do with pitches, tuning systems or even preservation of historically important buildings. rather, im musing about the fact i am able to hear the bbc prom concert in real time through my small laptop, size of a big beer stein, all the way across the ocean in comfort of yyz sun and wind. yes. outside, that's right. thanks to wifi, i am in fact, listening to it in the campus of utoronto downtown, near hart house, sitting/lying on grass, in shorts and somewhat indecent top (it's summer. and i did wanted to get some sun on my skin. i swear that it's nothing provocative really.) (it's just your plain bathing suit top, if you need to know. sorry to disappoint.)

the program today includes one of most intriguing compositions of western symphonic literature for me: mahler 6th. when i first entered music faculty back in the days, i have to specify that i knew nothing of classical music really. i mean my parents occasionally put on some classical tapes here and there and ya, i have heard things like handel's messiah and stuff, but really, i failed music theory entrance exam (how can i pass an exam when i dont even understand the questions themselves?), and nevermind anything about musicology. all the composers were dead (which, mostly is still true though there are some contemp composers i dig), and i never even thought of smaller details such as... urrr.... ya, a=440. i just assumed that's the way it goes and never cared. i had a whole bunch of things i needed to catch up. a mountain load.

mahler 6th was one of the very first symphonies i listened to, as a ignorant music education major, first year. i had no concept of who this guy was, nor i had any appreciation for his orchestrations. never mind the still-going debate about slow-fast or fast-slow (regarding the scherzo and andante. seems that current score shows that most conductors do fast-slow. but who knows really if that just may reverse by next year?) all i could muster was: holy cow, what is that about that soul-crunching march theme? where did that came from and why is that so menacing?

so that was my first ever exposure. i was casually rummaging through someone elses' cd collection and happened to pop that one in. then. silence. for next near 80 minutes i was lost. i can almost see the cover of this particular recording even. soviet-state-academic-i-cannot-ever- remember-what-it-is-exactly-orchestra with svetlanov. i believe it's out of circulation and is not so easily available anymore (too bad. i still think this is one of the BEST recordings of this particular symphony)

this symphony crushes, curses, fights back, takes refuge, beg for mercy, everything else. and supposedly written in mahler's happiest time in his life (ahhahaha irony here again), the symphony is... far from what i would call 'nice,' mildly put. its rhythmic drive is as vicious and unforgiving as beethoven's fate, except in beethoven 5th, it at least ends with a resonating, unyielding, insistent c major chord (29 bars of it, marked fortessimo? i dont really know if he was being serious, ha ha) and the shocking end... well, there is no need to talk about it, but of to go see it. in person.

however, despite of all these beat-downs, this symphony always leaves me just enough hope for me to go on, footstep willing to progress further, rather than collapsing down to nihilism. and the bbc phil, even through the long invisible connections of many 0s and 1s, did a very nice job on conveying sooooo many emotions. the only preferential difference wouldve been that monkey likes the scherzo a bit ruder. meaner. real wailing and violence tugs from the entire upper torso rather than a pull from the arms. the timps, i like it little less resonant, more with a
twhak, a thud. and cowbells with more dissonances. everything bit closer to cracking. but that's my preference, nothing more. perhaps tis my generation, used to distortion and cracking bass of popular music, learned-conditioned to prefer such sound. perhaps?

i have a funny feeling that this post is going to be edited further when i have more time to collect the bits and pieces that came through the small black computer and its blinking screen. for now, i am happy for the players who hauled through a massive symphony. one of my definite favorite symphony really. and it's time for me to put my decent shirt back on and walk back home. listening to the silent resonance of that marching ostinatos in my head. it's a pleasure in a weird sense to enjoy such oppression, i suppose it's because it's not a permanent situation. it's arts and it made me feel and think. taste something that is quite different from the nice sunny day of yyz, something more like mozart's jupiter. but thanks to technology, i was there, in the maelstrom, the turmoil of gustav mahler. a behemoth tale of... well, of many things.

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