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‘“Laughter and Forgetting”: the Socio-Cultural Dynamics of March and Dance in Mahler’s Music'

Barham, JM (2012) ‘“Laughter and Forgetting”: the Socio-Cultural Dynamics of March and Dance in Mahler’s Music' In: Seventeenth Biennial International Conference On Nineteenth-Century Music, 2012-06 - ?, Edinburgh University.

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While the musical topics of march and dance are fundamental to Mahler’s idiolect, they are rarely used straightforwardly or unproblematically. Surprisingly, exploration of the deeper cultural significance of his manipulation and re-contextualizing of such musical material has barely begun. Calling on the socio-political characterizations of this cultural duality in the works of exiled Czech writer Milan Kundera (especially The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978)), this paper aims to develop a line of inquiry within Mahler studies. A double paradox can be identified: on the one hand, the dance carries with it connotations of the magical, play, ritual unity, and the innocence of childhood, while the march suggests Realpolitik, duty, false unity and an imposed or knowing sense of control; on the other hand, the circle of the dance is vulnerable to excessive and disturbing insularity, and is a closed form, escape from which risks permanent exclusion and alienation, while the row of the march is an open form which allows comparatively easy departure and return, at the risk of unthinking conformity and facile prejudice. This paper argues that Mahler aestheticizes these conflicting cultural tendencies in a variety of structural and idiomatic ways across the range of his output, to such an extent that historical and socio-political meanings may be usefully inferred. The post-Seventh-Symphony decrease in structural recourse to the militaristic march topic is also assessed in the light of that work’s unusually disintegrative strategies and the persistence of dance forms in the same period.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Barham, JM
Date : 2012
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 Feb 2017 12:40
Last Modified : 16 Feb 2017 12:40

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