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This thesis examines the expressive and philosophical content in Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (1908), as well as the intellectual journey of the speaker whose voice is heard throughout the work. Das Lied von der Erde contains seven poems originally from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) of ancient China. The Chinese original poems are a significant part of the history of this work, although Mahler's familiarity with the sources before Hans Heilmann's translation (1905) remains unknown. This thesis reconnects the work with the original poems. A comparison of different texts – the original poems, Hans Bethge's paraphrases (1907), and Mahler's alterations – leads to a more thorough understanding of the poetic meaning of Das Lied von der Erde. The discussion of the text is followed by musical analysis, focusing on melodic figures, formal structures, harmonic schemes, word painting, rhythmic devices, orchestration, and texture. The lyrical and musical analyses illuminate the speaker's ongoing journey through the six movements. The speaker has been afflicted by doubts about life and desires a deeper understanding of life. In the course of his journey, he brings along the audience to experience different emotions, seasons, and thoughts with him. At the end of the work he recognizes the meaninglessness of pursuits in the material world. He thus decides to retreat from the world, look beyond life and death, and live a life detached from material concerns. In Das Lied von der Erde the historical significance of the texts and Mahler's musical setting reveal an intellectual journey across two cultures.
Chinese Poems, Das Lied von der Erde, Intellectual Journey
Date of Defense
April 6, 2009.
A Thesis Submitted to the College of Music in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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