Brakfast Jams: Mahler

*** Welcome to the first ever Breakfast Jams, Sunday edition!
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Happy Autumn!

Here in China the leaves are still green and the weather is still hot and humid. But that's not what the weather is starting to look like in many parts of the states. 

Throughout history composers have been inspired by the seasons to write beautiful, engaging music for audiences of all ages. Breakfast Jams during the month of October will center around these songs about the seasons.

Starting with. . . . 

Gustav Mahler: The Lonely one in Autumn

Gustov Mahler wrote this song, der Einsame im Herbst (The Lonely One in Autumn) as part of das Lied von der Erde (The Songs of the Earth) in 1908.

Mahler bridged the gap between the Romantic time period (where music sounded very expressive, emotional, and dramatic) and the Modern period (where music started to sound more and more unusual and dissonant). 

In The Lonely One in Autumn, you'll hear very emotional music and you might also hear some moments where the harmonies sound a little strange to you - as if the tonality of the song is wandering and can't quite find its way "home". If you hear that, good job! You're hearing the transition in music history from one period to another. 

Song Cycle vs Opera

If you were to just listen to this song, many people might think it is an opera. It’s actually not, even though the voice sounds like an opera singer. This is an orchestral song cycle which means that its several songs written for voice and orchestra that all have the same theme so they can be performed together. An opera has a storyline, characters, costumes, props, etc. 

Before you listen: 

Before you listen, go collect some things that change when summer turns to autumn. Maybe its your clothes, maybe it’s the leaves, maybe your hair gets staticey so you need a hair tie. Whatever it is, think about how things change when the weather turns to autumn.

How do you feel when these changes take place? 

Based on the music you hear, see if you can guess how the singer feels about the change from summer to autumn. 

Is the music smooth or choppy? 

Are the notes fast or slow? 

Is the volume quiet or loud?

This text is a German translation of some very very old Chinese poetry:

Autumn fog creeps bluishly over the lake.
Every blade of grass stands frosted.
As though an artist  artist had jade dust
over the fine flowers strewn. 

The sweet fragrance of flower has passed;
A cold wind blows their stems low.
Soon will the wilted, golden petals
of lotus flowers upon the water float.

My heart is tired. My little lamp
expires with a crackle, minding me to sleep.
I come to you, trusted resting place.
Yes, give me rest, I have need of refreshment!

I weep often in my loneliness.
Autumn in my heart lingers too long.
Sun of love, will you no longer shine
to gently dry up my bitter tears?


Remember how I told you that music from the Romantic era was emotional and dramatic?
That's certainly true for this song!!

What did you hear as you listened?

What are the things you think Mahler did to match the poetry to the music?


Enjoy your autumn weather much more than this Chinese poet did, and as always.....

Keep singing, 

- Victoria