Title

Viennese Moderne and Its Spatial Planes, Sounded

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Journal / Book Title

19th Century Music

Abstract

The opening of Mahler's ““Der Abschied”” from Das Lied von der Erde demonstrates a special set of musical conditions that include spare textures, a wide disposition of instrumental forces, and the effect of temporal suspension. This transparency allows the process of individuation and exchange between musical elements to come to the fore, especially in relation to timbre. Through this passage Mahler highlights voices that work in synthesis with those that are juxtaposed. The first half of the study explores how this music is defined spatially through this process. It then proposes that this space is historically meaningful because Mahler's construction of musical space is analogous to the visual tensions in the landscape works of his artistic contemporaries Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. In both musical and visual context, these tensions reflect the diversity of the Viennese Moderne through their ephemeral and laconic qualities.

Mahler's compositional tendency to ““suspend”” time and flatten the sonic plane gave his critics fodder for an ideological argument that involved ornamentation versus organic development, since his methods reflected ambiguously on the nineteenthcentury tradition of teleologically based symphonic forms. ““Abschied”” derived its relevancy from neither static surface nor motivic development but by its capacity to suggest unique spatial relationships. The movement initiates a timbrally and rhythmically nuanced recitative, in the form of subtle decays and articulated renewals. Like Klimt's superimposed visual planes, which create a synthetic relationship between figure and ground, Mahler's music suggests incremental distances between subjects. The economy of his music relates also to Schiele's laconic subjects. In Mahler's landscapes, both types of experiments coexist.

DOI

10.1525/ncm.2010.33.3.247

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN

0148-2076

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