Monday, July 18, 2011

Brucknerian mountains

Sunday afternoon, a hot sweltering day in the City, I sat in the vast expanses of Lincoln Center's Fisher Hall, and I couldn't imagine being in a place more different from where I had been the week before-on the shore of an alpine lake at the base of the Sierra Buttes in the Sierra Nevada
Yet the glacial ebbs and flows, the undulating valleys and peaks of Bruckner's 9th Symphony transformed the hall (in my mind anyhow) into a very montane environment.
Literalists, or objectivists, would downplay the affective power of a Bruckner symphony, pointing out, in contrast, its purely"musical" (ie, "formal") attributes. Maybe it was because I had so recently been in such an environment that my sensors picked up the connection between musical structure, meaning, memory and mountains.
Yes, there are Brucknerian mountains, and they are not all in Austria
And indeed there are Mahlerian mountains, and even Beethovenian mountains (pace LB whose famous essay "Bullsession in the Rockies" from the late fifties warned us from such "meaningful" allusions - and no, there are no "Buxtehudian "mountains.}
Although I don't think Bruckner was much of an "Alpinist"--ie, a mountain climber/hiker--his music has its wildly contrasting peaks and troughs; in fact whole series of climaxes of varying intensities is a perfect way of "reading" a mountain range or massif such as the Buttes.
This begs the question: can we "read" Nature as we do Art? Or do we need to?

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