Remembering Mahler : music and memory in Mahler's early symphonies

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Title: Remembering Mahler : music and memory in Mahler's early symphonies
Author: Kangas, Ryan R.
Abstract: According to the critical tradition , Gustav Mahler’s music is full of memories , memories portrayed most frequently as being Mahler’s recollections of his own childhood . My study interrogates this trope—that Mahler’s entire oeuvre is an autobiographical puzzle waiting to be solved—using each of his first four symphonies as a case study . To accomplish this , I offer interpretations of each symphony , which rely on an analysis of the musical substance of the piece , and also refer to Mahler’s programs , potential allusions to preexisting material , and critical reception . Chapter 1 lays the theoretical foundation for these analyses , which draws on cultural memory , nostalgia studies , and the hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur . In Chapter 2 , by proposing connections between the Third Symphony and both the antisemetic political climate in Vienna and Mahler’s hopes for a conducting career in the city , I suggest that interpretation can make recourse to the composer’s biography without focusing on his childhood . Moreover , I use Mahler’s biography to suggest new avenues for approaching his music , rather than using his music to shed light on his life . In Chapter 3 , I move interpretation away from details of the composer’s biography : I analyze his First Symphony with Freudian repression as a theoretical framework , but I focus on how repression might eludicate both the musical processes in the piece itself and the persistent recourse made to the suppressed program in reception of the piece , rather than attempting to explain Mahler’s own supposed neuroses . After proposing several ways in which music processes might resonate with forgetting in the form of repression , in Chapters 4 and 5 , the Second and Fourth Symphonies are discussed in terms of mourning and nostalgia respectively , defined as two specfic types of remembrance . Turning in the final chapter to the later Seventh Symphony , I unwind the implications of the standard image of Mahler as a figure obsessed with the past . Mahler’s music grants us no access to his memories , but it does allow us to remember him . Our memories are all that remains , and the Mahler that we hear has always been merely our own construction .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /6537
Date: 2009-10-15


Remembering Mahler : music and memory in Mahler's early symphonies. Doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /6537 .

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