Skip to content

Mahler’s 3rd Symphony

March 2, 2013

So much of what we post on political economy has such a logical air about it that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the heart of the matter isn’t accounting or finance or trade balances; it’s about life itself, freedom, passion, humanity, and all that we feel from the inside.  I think that only music comes close to really capturing it.  Here’s Mahler’s 3rd Symphony performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and conducted by Leonard Bernstein back in 1973.

It’s a theme piece of six movements that deals with knowledge from different levels: 1st: life or nature awakening; 2nd: what plants tell me; 3rd: what animals tell me; 4th: what man tells me; 5th: what angels tell me; 6th: what love tells me.  The 2nd through 5th movements come from outside at progressively higher levels, the last from inside.

The whole symphony is tremendous but I especially recommend listening to the finale which begins at about 1:17.

From → Other

  1. Yeah, we caught the Met’s new production of Parsifal this weekend, thanks to their “in a theater near you” program. Fantastic.

    Much of the history of thought has been about what constitutes the good life and the good society. In Germany in Wagner’s time, the good life was approached in terms of the Heldenleben, that is, the life of the hero. Much of Wagner’s dramatic work was on this theme, showing Schopenhauer’s influence on him.

    The dialectic in the West has been between Alexander and Jesus as hero . Nietzsche promoted the Alexandrian hero and much of Wagner’s work until Parsifal reflected the Germanic lore. Parsifal is Wagner’s final statement about the hero’s life. It is a definitive break with Nietzsche and a display of spiritual hero in light of perennial wisdom. Very powerful. Makes the neoliberal conception of homo economicus look puerile in comparison.

  2. Hey Tom,

    Real interesting comments about Wagner and Parsifal. Parsifal is such a moving spiritual experience – I’ll definitely keep your observation in mind the next time I see it. I’m a great fan of Wagner and would love to see the new production. I used to live in NY and had the great opportunity of seeing many Wagner performances – I’ll have to keep my eyes out for the Met theater productions. I’m actually in the process of re-reading Schopenhauer right now – a quite impressive work I think, to which this Mahler piece has obvious links – particularly the differentiation between our knowledge from the outside (what the plants tell me, etc) and what we really know from the inside (what love tells me).

    How right you are about the puerile nature of the neoliberal homo economicus – the businessman and financier as hero. The Ring, I think, is very interpretable as the collapse of such a “civilization”. Such a sad farce. And one of the best ways of communicating how farcical it really is is to lock yourself in a theater for 6 hours and experience Parsifal!

    Always enjoy seeing your comments, Tom, both here and elsewhere on the web.

  3. Andrew Bell permalink

    Wonderful first sentence. Thanks as always. I haven’t listened to Mahler in years, but I guess it’s time.

  4. I think it’s a fantastic work. Let me know how you like it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: