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Thread: Mahler's Eighth Symphony: Eek, a ghost!

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    Default Mahler's Eighth Symphony: Eek, a ghost!

    I am a bit ambivalent about Mahler's Eighth, with its "creator Hymn." This is about the Holy Spirit, in other words, Pentecostal, and that sort of demonstrative, physically animated extravagance makes me nervous. I remember a friend of mine saying "You gotta come with me to this church, you'll be surprised!" and I, indeed, was. It turned out to be a Pentecostal church, and this lady jumped up and started 'speaking in tongues.' It about scared the crap out of me.

    Thus, having studied Carl Jung's ideas, I am nervous about 'the holy spirit' animating people. This is like the "God" archetype being activated psychically, and it becomes manifest in the person, like any archetype can. And when people in groups start 'activating archetypes,' like thwe Manson family did, it makes me nervous.

    If Mahler had adhered to Judaism, he would have agreed that "God stopped talking directly to Man some time ago," and any good Christian would say that Christ was sent for this same reason, and while both views are different, at least The Holy Spirit is out of the picture, and Men are left to their own responsibilities and actions.

    I don't know exactly what Mahler's intent was, but he surely made a very big deal out of it, both in the work itself and the people present at the premiers. Webern conducted it as well. Maybe this appeased the Christian elements in Germany at that time, but if this is true, it didn't work, because Mahler ended up quitting the Vienna opera and being 'run out of town' anyway. The growing political climate started gearing-up around this time, culminating in Nazi Germany, and the German people going along with this madness. I wonder, were they "full of the spirit" when this all happened?

    I say this Eighth Symphony of Mahler's is a grim premonition, just as his Sixth was; only this time, Mahler was naïve enough to believe that Christians "filled with the Holy Spirit" would manifest their higher selves; instead, it seems that the flip-side of archetypes is revealed by what transpired later.

    I know this is a rather far-fetched notion of mine, but no more far-fetched than the Holy Spirit entering people, and 'speaking in tongues.' Go ahead, have a field-day with it; I don't care.

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    Mahler may have converted to Christianity,and he did believe in a higher power of some kind for sure, but he was anything but orthodox in his beliefs. He took an interest in a number of different kinds of mysticism over the course of his life, and it is notable that when he set Christian texts, he removed dogmatic elements. So the first problem with your interpretation is that it takes the literal view that Mahler believed in the Christian Holy Spirit.

    The interpretation that I've seen most often, and the one that is indeed supported by Mahler's juxtaposition of the Latin hymn text with that of Goethe's Faust, Part 2 (which I have, at times, thought of as "Faust's adventures in purgatory"), is that he wanted to evoke the idea of the "creative spirit" and higher spirituality in general. The motifs associated with the "Veni creator" theme in the first movement return often throughout the second, and in fact the themes in the second movement are created out of those in the first.

    It's also important to note that Mahler may have written the Eighth before he was forced to resign from his position at the Vienna State Opera, but he finished it afterwards. In fact, the premiere performance took place in the fall of 1910, at the point when all of the "Mahler as soothsayer" critics claim he was acutely aware of his own impending death and had already written two or three farewells to the world. Fortunately, he managed to be able to rehearse the orchestras and make the premiere of this complex work a resounding success, despite his own doomedness.

    I don't see either Mahler's Eighth or his Sixth as "premonitions", but merely as expressions of his wide-ranging worldview, which could encompass everything from exultation to tragedy.

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    Lotta reading for me, guys. I'll just say Mahler was capable of writing some of his happiest tunes during devastation in his private life. Escape? Maybe a little. But mostly, I'll just venture that he was a true professional.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    Lotta reading for me, guys. I'll just say Mahler was capable of writing some of his happiest tunes during devastation in his private life. Escape? Maybe a little. But mostly, I'll just venture that he was a true professional.
    Yes, and that needs repeating. Thank You.

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    Veni Creator Spiritus: When the original Latin text is used, it is normally sung in Gregorian Chant. As an invocation of the Holy Spirit, in the practice of the Roman Catholic Church it is sung during the liturgical celebration of the feast of Pentecost (at both Terce and Vespers). (WIK)

    Mahler had 'unorthodox beliefs,' but nonetheless, he was using this text, and the 1000-plus force of musicians and singers to "invoke the Holy Spirit," or some kind of spirit. In Jungian terms, regardless of belief and dogma, "if it walks like a God archetype, and quacks like a God archetype, then chances are, it's a God archetype."

    Mahler was attempting to "psychically activate an archetype" in Jungian terms;
    and the fact that his 'vague belief system' of spirit, as you call it (whatever it was ) was clothed in a ninth century Christian hymn, designed to invoke the Holy Spirit, is unsettling, to say the least.

    It sounds like Mahler was playing with forces beyond his, or anyone's control.

    Mysticism? Yes, this is 'magic' of sorts, just like it was in the ninth century, when Gregorian monks sang it not only as music, but as actual worship. This hymn was music for religious purposes, and it still retains that purpose, no matter what excuses one makes for Mahler. No wonder Adorno and other critics criticized this. Care to go into that aspect?

    "Evoking spirits" can be an exceedingly dangerous business, and Mahler was playing with fire if he expected this use of the Latin hymn to be benign, or NOT to activate the belief systems of the audience who were not as "cosmopolitan" as he was, and who were ready to "chase out the Devil."

    Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that awful day, when the heavens shall be moved, and the earth; when thou shalt come to judge the earth by fire.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-30-2014 at 21:02.

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    Whether its dangerous or frightening really depends on your point of view; of course when you liken it to demonic possession it appears very negative, but that presumes you belief in the spiritual on a certain level, if you don't then there is nothing to fear.

    I've been to pentecostal churches and witnessed people apparently receiving the holy spirit, but something I've realised is that its very often the people who really want to experience the holy spirit who somehow end up having their wish fulfilled, (big surprise). Still; the entire point of the Pentecost was for the holy spirit to be given freely to all mankind; and ultimately it is that which allows us to form and govern our Churches without supernatural handouts from God the Father every other week (as seemed to be the running theme with Moses and his wandering Israelites). I don't pretend to fully understand it but I certainly think we have nothing to be afraid of from it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jobis View Post
    Whether its dangerous or frightening really depends on your point of view; of course when you liken it to demonic possession it appears very negative, but that presumes you belief in the spiritual on a certain level, if you don't then there is nothing to fear.

    I've been to pentecostal churches and witnessed people apparently receiving the holy spirit, but something I've realised is that its very often the people who really want to experience the holy spirit who somehow end up having their wish fulfilled, (big surprise). Still; the entire point of the Pentecost was for the holy spirit to be given freely to all mankind; and ultimately it is that which allows us to form and govern our Churches without supernatural handouts from God the Father every other week (as seemed to be the running theme with Moses and his wandering Israelites). I don't pretend to fully understand it but I certainly think we have nothing to be afraid of from it.
    People in groups wearing robes has always frightened me. And religion is best when used as a mirror to improve oneself. It's when this becomes a "projection" that it gets scary.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Mar-30-2014 at 22:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Mahler may have converted to Christianity,and he did believe in a higher power of some kind for sure
    What is the source of this? I'm not trying to be critical, I'm genuinely wondering, I've often read that Mahler was an agnostic?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carpentier View Post
    What is the source of this? I'm not trying to be critical, I'm genuinely wondering, I've often read that Mahler was an agnostic?
    His letters, among other things. He may have been agnostic as regards organized religion and its attendant dogmas, but few who call themselves agnostic today would write to his future wife, who was an atheist:
    "I'm so unhappy about [having to leave Vienna at this moment] and yet it's almost like the voice of the Master, the Teacher (I'm using these words in order not to say 'God', since we haven't discussed that subject fully enough and I couldn't bear a meaningless phrase to come between us)."

    And later:

    "Although I'm aware you don't yet know Him I pray God that He may guide your hand, my beloved, so that it may write the truth and not be moved by infatuation"

    I'd also add that somewhere (probably in his conversations with Natalie Blauer-Lechner), he said that he thought of the finale of the 3rd Symphony, which was named "What Love Tells Me" in his program notes draft, as being equivalent to "What God Tells Me", which would complete, in his mind, the chain upwards to ever higher spheres of being that runs through the entire work.
    Last edited by Mahlerian; Mar-30-2014 at 23:11.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    "I'm so unhappy about [having to leave Vienna at this moment] and yet it's almost like the voice of the Master, the Teacher (I'm using these words in order not to say 'God', since we haven't discussed that subject fully enough and I couldn't bear a meaningless phrase to come between us)."

    And later:

    "Although I'm aware you don't yet know Him I pray God that He may guide your hand, my beloved, so that it may write the truth and not be moved by infatuation"
    That's interesting, that would perhaps indicate an increase of religiosity with age, but his later music has always seems to me to be more secular or earthly... the odd one out maybe being the eighth. But certainly Das Lied von der Erde, you know, the clue being in the title.
    Last edited by Carpentier; Mar-30-2014 at 23:25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carpentier View Post
    That's interesting, that would perhaps indicate an increase of religiosity with age, but his later music has always seems to me to be more secular or earthly... the odd one out maybe being the eighth. But certainly Das Lied von der Erde, you know, the clue being in the title.
    Like I said, Mahler was never "religious" in the traditional sense at any point in his life. There's no indication that he regularly attended mass after becoming Catholic, for example. I'd say that the spirituality of Das Lied is not very far off from that in the 3rd Symphony, which is often described as pantheistic in its outlook.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Like I said, Mahler was never "religious" in the traditional sense at any point in his life. There's no indication that he regularly attended mass after becoming Catholic, for example. I'd say that the spirituality of Das Lied is not very far off from that in the 3rd Symphony, which is often described as pantheistic in its outlook.
    This implies that 'religiosity' or 'spirituality' or 'a sense of the sacred' is tied to dogma, text, or religious context; I say that it is not.

    'Sacred music' can operate independently of any dogma it contains, as long as the sacred intent of the composer is conveyed to the listener; and this operates beyond the realm of text or dogma, on a purely psychological level, which conveys the universal experience of the sacred.


    My earlier point, which was apparently lost in discussion's attachment to dogma, was that Mahler did, indeed have a sacred intent with his Eighth symphony. The fact that he clothed this intent on the dogma of the Creator Hymn may have been well-intentioned, and in keeping with the Christian tradition in Western music, but due to some listeners' attachment to dogma, may have been interpreted beyond this sacred intent as a dogmatic declaration, as the text is decidedly Christian (no possible argument about that, is there?).

    The events which took place in the supposedly Christian nation of Germany which followed, and Mahler's experiences with anti-Semitism and his subsequent exit, seem to confirm my worst fears about the "activation of the God archetype" and its misguided power when placed in the hands of believers who hold simplistic, fundamentalist beliefs, and are ready to act on those beliefs.

    You see, Mahler did have a sacred intent, and I consider the Eighth to be a sacred work in the fullest sense. He was using music as it has always been used, as a 'spiritual technology' to activate the universal God archetype which is in all of us.

    The 'spirit' which it invoked was not as Mahler intended, due to the fundamentalist and simplistic belief system of its audience. Thus, we see music as a two-way mapping and juxtaposing of experience; which works on a universal level, but fails or is misinterpreted when it becomes tied to dogma and fundamentalist belief.

    Such a shame!

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    .

    The events which took place in the supposedly Christian nation of Germany which followed, and Mahler's experiences with anti-Semitism and his subsequent exit, seem to confirm my worst fears about the "activation of the God archetype" and its misguided power when placed in the hands of believers who hold simplistic, fundamentalist beliefs, and are ready to act on those beliefs.

    ![/B]
    To relate those events to Christianity is to completely misread the teachings of Jesus and the whole New Testament.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jobis View Post
    Whether its dangerous or frightening really depends on your point of view; of course when you liken it to demonic possession it appears very negative, but that presumes you belief in the spiritual on a certain level, if you don't then there is nothing to fear.

    I've been to pentecostal churches and witnessed people apparently receiving the holy spirit, but something I've realised is that its very often the people who really want to experience the holy spirit who somehow end up having their wish fulfilled, (big surprise). Still; the entire point of the Pentecost was for the holy spirit to be given freely to all mankind; and ultimately it is that which allows us to form and govern our Churches without supernatural handouts from God the Father every other week (as seemed to be the running theme with Moses and his wandering Israelites). I don't pretend to fully understand it but I certainly think we have nothing to be afraid of from it.
    If you look in the pages of the New Testament you see the believers constantly received what you refer to as 'supernatural handouts from God'!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    To relate those events to Christianity is to completely misread the teachings of Jesus and the whole New Testament.
    I have no quarrel with Jesus; but the apostles all have different accounts, and Paul is the man who really set things in motion. It is a well-known fact that there is a strain of anti-semitism which runs through Christianity in the years following Christ's death, and the subsequent establishment and spread of the Church.
    The Inquisition is another, earlier example of the "God archetype" being activated.

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