Director’s News

“Doc Talk”/Class Lesson 4/28/2020

 VIDEO LINK: Link will be sent when it becomes available.  Technical difficulties this morning!


Monday’s Lesson: Aaron Copland’s 3 planes of music-listening; Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6,” first movement, exposition


Today’s Lesson:  Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6,” first movement, development



Should all music be liked on the first listening?

Did all composers write their music to be preserved forever?

What is the value of listening to music with a score and away from a score?

Why did romantic-era composers write more works that were “programmatic” rather than “absolute?”

Would Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6” be considered absolute music or programmatic?



Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6,” – first movement/development

As a review, we discussed the 3 planes of listening based on the writings of Aaron Copland:  the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the musical plane.  Then we applied these planes to the first movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is in “sonata form.”  This is the most popular form since 1750 and comprises three main parts:  Exposition, Development, Recapitulation or A-B-A for short.  In the Exposition, usually 2 main themes are “exposed.”  They are usually very contrasting in style, the first theme being very rhythmic and the second more legato (smooth).  In the Development, the 2 themes are manipulated by changes of interval, key, instrumentation, texture.  You can usually identify the themes in the development but let’s just say they are placed in a washing machine and are really tumbled around.

In the Recapitulation (or Recap for short), the 2 themes return in a form very similar to the Exposition (but with some differences, mainly the 2nd theme is usually in the key of the 1st theme).  You get the feeling of a “return” or “refrain” thus the A-B-A form.


Let’s review the main themes presented in the EXPOSITION: 

Main Theme (Theme A), image of Mahler—his exterior life; a minor.

Beginning of link shown in assignment

Bridge material; “death rhythm” in the timpani followed by the “major-minor motto” in the oboes and trumpets, followed by a chorale in the upper woodwinds—which represents Mahler’s obsession with death and eternal life.

1:55 in link shown in assignment


Second Theme (Theme B):  image of Mahler’s wife, Alma.  Sweeping, lyric, beautiful melody.  F Major.

2:35 in link shown in assignment


Episode between 2 statements of Theme B… light, cute, dancelike…a portrayal of his young daughter!

3:07 in link shown in assignment


Let’s listen to the 4 parts of the DEVELOPMENT:

First, think of a development section as a sort of “dream” where previous experiences “come and go” in almost random ways… where themes are juxtaposed in novel ways…and where even a NEW THOUGHT can enter your mind.

The development section of a sonata is often the most “creative” part of the movement because this is where the composer can show off all the possibilities of transforming the themes—changing keys, instrumentation, fragmenting the themes into motifs, having one theme accompany the other.  It’s sort of like playing with “Lego” blocks.  You can make the model that came with the package, or you can more the pieces around and make something quite different—but with the same blocks!  It’s quite fun—and very insightful.  Using a human metaphor, it’s kind of like realizing a gift that you have later in your life…it’s still you, but you are using your mind/body in a new way!

In early symphonies—like those of early Haydn and Mozart—the development sections were relatively short…sometimes lasting less than a minute…just a quick go at changing some keys and playing with a motive or 2…  However, as the pieces grew longer and more personal, and the orchestra grew larger (and hence the range of instrument color), developments grew longer.  And sometimes, beginning with Beethoven, the coda (the end/tag) of a piece actually expanded in length to form another development!

How do you “make sense” of a development?  To break it into sections based on themes, key centers, texture, etc.  Sometimes it’s fun to find the key area that is furthest away from the “home key.”  Sometimes the most intense or profound area of the movement occurs in the development.  Finally, it fun to explore the music that leads directly to the “Recapitulation.”  In other words, it’s fun to discover how the composer “gets back home!”

The Development section of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, movement I is usually thought of in 4 sections:

Part One:  Mainly development of Theme A:  Starts like the very beginning—on purpose!  Mysterious feel…use of xylophone to represent the macabre…an unstable feeling…use of motifs from themes…climax is a powerful statement of Theme A.

8:56 in link shown in assignment


Part Two:  Mainly development of Theme B

10:37 in link shown in assignment


Part Three:  The coolest part of the development, based somewhat on the chorale tune that served as a bridge between the primary themes.  This Mahler’s depiction of “eternity.”  Note the use of authentic COWBELLS that Mahler uses to represent vast space—being away from everything.  He also writes an ascending motif that was used in his Second Symphony as the “Eternal Life” motif.  Wow!

11:23 in link shown in assignment


Part Four:  Mainly a development of Theme A which leads directly into the Recapitulation

14:04 in link shown in assignment; Recap occurs at 15:05



1) Listen to the exposition and development of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6” several times.  I have provided a link to the famous Leonard Bernstein performance with the Vienna Philharmonic.  Note how many new things you hear with each listening.  Ask yourself what “plane” you listening-in (sensuous, expressive, musical).


2) Transfer the same exercise with Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.




Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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