Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony no. 2

Happy Easter Folks. :)

Supposedly my boss's wife is training their little girl on how to find eggs. She's been planting plastic ones around the house, showing her hiding places, and timing her retrival abilities. That's pretty hard core for a 2 year old! I have a feeling that she's most likely going to be an over achiever in the future. :)

I discovered that I can't find any free Mp3's of David Sedaris reading "Jesus Shaves." Sigh. It's freaking funny. I've got his book, but it is so much funnier when he reads his essay. If you haven't seen this before, here's an except.

I was flipping through old journal entries late at night and came across one from Feb 10, 2003. This was back when I was a member of Choral Arts Society and we had just finished performing Mahler's "Resurrection" symphony. To this day, I feel it is one of most powerful pieces ever composed. You can hear a sound clip of us in my music blog but it just doesn't compare to the live show. I remember afterwards I met up with my friend Shawn backstage and he was in tears. "It was better than a fucking rock concert" he bawled. I'll never forget that. Here's a snippet of my journal entry:

Dr. James Morrow, my choir director, told all of us on the first day of rehearsal this would be a life-changing piece. It would be a work that would stir and awake our innermost passions to the extent that all of our emotions-pain, glory, reverence and joy- along with our massive efforts would be melded together into something so great and complete, that words would fail to describe the moment. I realized last night, when I performed the piece for the first time, everything he said was true.

In the Mahler Second, the choir only sings in the finale. Before then there's a slow and tension filled buildup comprised of four movements. An English horn solo starts all alone and then a trombone choral plays on top. Suddenly, an off-stage trumpet trio begins. Alone, they fill back stage with their cadence and then slowly taper off. The violins tremolo so softly that no one in the audience even recalls when they began. On top, a flute and piccolo whips out bird-like 32nd notes and then a horn and a timpani join in. This all builds and builds with the violins getting louder and then suddenly the volume drops. So quietly, that our sounds are almost just a sensation, the choir comes in a capella singing in German:

"Rise again, yes rise again
wilt thou, my dust
when rest is over
When life immortal,
then life eternal
He thee will give in realms"

The soloists add on top of our textures as one by one, each orchestra section joins in. The sound is so rich and voluptuous at this point, you feel as if you could cut it with a knife.

"With love enduring, will I be soaring to the light.
On pinions faith for me created,
Will I be far soaring, soaring
Will I be soaring"

And as we soar we become louder, brassier and brighter. I could feel myself drawing energy from everyone around me and at the same time I was giving all of myself self the the music and everyone else. We were sharing everything with each other. All of our instruments started to play to their full volume and ability. The basses behind me sang so well in tune and loud that I could hear an angel of a harmonic wailing two octaves above them. I felt like swooning-- this sensation was so amazing to me. The organ began to hit heavy chords on the down beat and the strings were going ballistic. We belted in heavy notes:
"Rise again
Yes, rise again
Wilt though, my heart
In moments blest. . .
To God, To God
Shall thee be bearing!"

And everything clanged and soared and the beads of sweat were running off of everyone's face. So beautiful it was! At the very end, I just stood there in awe. The audiences applause almost hurt my ears. All of us gave everything we had for this performance and it was truly wonderful. We received a standing ovation and the soloists had three curtain calls. I've have not felt the sort of exhilaration for the longest time.

I'm a religious person, but perhaps not as deeply religious as I used to be. However when a piece of music such as this exists, one can't help but acknowledge at least the concept of an all-powerful, awe inspiring God, and I don't necessarily mean the Christian God either, but rather the existence of a god. One can't help but wonder if the Holy Spirit does indeed exist. How else could Mahler have been inspired to create something of such magnitude and beauty?

So, amongst the pastel colors, bunny rabbits and chocolate, I try my best to remember what Easter is about: rebirth, faith, trust, empowerment and inspiration


On a totally different note, here's a pic of me trying to write a song for my darling husband:

Unfortunately, the deepest words that came out were something to the effect of: His name's Travis...He ain't a cat.

Not that I'm aiming to be a songwriter or anything, but it is nice to serenade one's spoude every now and then.

It's officially been 3 months since I first acquired my guitar and I still suck at it. Any notions I had that this would be an easy transition from violin are totally false. Fortunately, I'm not alone in my suckitude. My neighbor is a really awful drummer (when I say awful, I mean the guy can't hold a beat for more than 3 measures). I'm tempted to go next door as ask: "Hey I'm awful at guitar and you're even worse on drums, but do you wanna form a terrible garage band? I'm sure our mutual crappiness can inspire us to get better fast."

Or maybe we'd be better off going Easter Egg hunting together.

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