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Old 06-02-2014   #11
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

Quote
I wanted to include Schnittke
I LOVE Schnittke. My favorite piece of his is the Concerto Gross No. 1, in which he gives you solid, traditional music and then proceeds to MELT it, until the music itself seems (to me) delightfully diseased and feverishly insane. I love writing fiction with this in the background.

His requiem isn't such a bad, morbid piece. And I enjoy his piano quintent and the piece "Labyrinths", as well.

I'll throw in another Shostakovich piece that I don't think has been mentioned yet...his Fourteenth Symphony (his piece dedicated to the theme of death). My short story in The First Book of Classical Horror Stories was based on the Fourteenth (and titled, blandly, "The Fourteenth").
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Old 06-02-2014   #12
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

The harp/string quartet (Conte fantastique) and symphony (Le Masque de la mort rouge) based on Poe's The Mask of the Red Death by Andre Caplet.
György Ligeti's Requiem and also Le grand macabre (which is based on Ghelderode's play La balade du grand macabre).
Tristan Murail (e.g. L'esprit des dunes) and Iannis Xenakis (e.g. Pithopraktais).
Amongst Liszt's also Totentanz (Dance of the Dead).
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Old 06-03-2014   #13
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

Morton Feldman music is more plaintive than it is morbid, but it is morbid, too.

Anyone else heard the huge Gothic Symphony by Havergal Brian? (his symphony No 1 out of thirty odd other symphonies).

Daisy's choice of Bruckner strikes me as a good one...

Philip Glass's DRACULA string quartet sequence...

There is so much to talk about here, I don't know where to start!

Going back to Webern, I need a dose of his music every morning to get me going.

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Old 06-04-2014   #14
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

I have just remembered two operas by Francis Poulenc which are ideal to mention here, I feel:
Dialogues of the Carmelites
La voix humaine

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Old 06-04-2014   #15
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

This thread has inspired me to reorganise my cd collection - some more I have selected:

Luciano Berio eg Epifanie, Differences (and for something out of context and quite different: Visage)
Edgard Varese eg Ionisation, Hyperprism
György Kurtág eg quasi una fantasia, Kafka Fragmente
Giacinto Scelsi eg Uaxuctum, Okanagon
Sofia Gubaidulina eg Light of the End
Luigi Nono eg La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura, Prometeo
Witold Lutoslawski eg Symphony No. 3, Funeral music
Kaija Saariaho eg Laterna Magica
Arnold Bax eg Symphony No. 2
Arthur Honegger eg Symphony No. 2
Sir Granville Bantock eg Hebridean Symphony
Einojuhani Rautavaara eg Cantus Arcticus

Edit: More generally, the Russian avant garde compositions seem to fit within this category in particular those heavily influenced by Scriabin such as Nikolai Roslavets, Alexander Mosolov, Arthur Lourié, and Sergei Protopopov.



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Old 06-05-2014   #16
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
As an aside, I'd say much of the many individual segmented works of so called Classical Music is morbid at least in parts (the essential movements by mood) and specific movements, if not whole works, have generally more morbid power to worm into the mind both constructively and destructively, I feel, than most rock music or heavy metal etc. etc.
I would say that the processes at work in through-composed classical music find plangent correlates in morbid prose. John Ashbery has compared classical music to a philosophical argument in which the terms are not known, and the novels of Raymond Roussel (who was said to be an accomplished classical pianist) are very nearly a literal representation of that idea. My friend Colin Raff has said that Roussel is like an insect, and his successions of tableaux, and the flat style in which they're written, comprise an elaborate nest built by an insect to attract a mate. (Ashbery called the effect of the stringently generic illustrations for Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique an example of Roussel's "militant banality.") The patterns evident in the construction might be decorative, but we have no indication they're viewed that way by the insect (Roussel, the writer imverminating the insect, consciously leaves out any indication of a personal POV). The construction is almost automatic, predetermined by equations of nightmare, repressed/coded sexuality and mental-emotional dissonance. (By the way: We need at least one book that analyzes the use of coded language and characterization by gay writers in modernist literature. Examples: Roussel, Proust, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, Frank O'Hara, Verlaine and Rimbaud, Tennessee Williams (in terms of characterization, not language), Elizabeth Bishop, early Auden and of course John Ashbery (who uses coded language in his poetry; characters and events in his misleadingly straightforward plays). An earlier example: Thomas Lovell Beddoes and his sexualized ecstasies of death which are like worlds and realms extrapolated from the Elizabethan metaphor (cf. Thomas Morley's "Phyllis, I fain would die now").)

Goethe also said two things that I consider to be pertinent: "Life is a disease of matter" and "architecture is frozen music." In a sense, abstract music is a dead-alive koan: the working out of an idea in absolute music is like an exploration of pathogens from beyond ; the awful vastness of its architecture, the sonic equivalent of "Trasitoen Espiral," by Remedios Varo:--



-- which in turn seems to me to be the visual equivalent of a story from Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges.

Nicole:

In fact I did mention Shostakovich's 14th Symphony in the OP, and I hope you will be pleased to know that, while I personally have not yet read your story, it has been mentioned and praised by Nemonymous in this very thread.

I, too, love Schnittke. There's something luminous about his harmonies that isn't reducible to the methods of standard 20th-century composition. It isn't merely pandiatonic or polytonal; it isn't just atonal, free-tonal or dodecaphonic. It's a cohesive harmonic language made of palimpsest: haunting in that it implies and cites sounds which are familiar to us even as it decontextualizes them -- all while suffusing them with a sacred or supernatural glow. Again, I think of stained glass when I hear it in his Second Symphony. The first Concerto Grosso does it as well, as do many of his other chamber pieces, such as the madrigal, string trio and septet. His method, of systematically eroding a style or theme from a different century -- as if one were stressing a piece of fabric into a dust-worn, mold-stained, moth-train-mutilated artifact, or subjecting it to processes of mutation and accelerated aging -- is something that other composers have tried to do as well. As I said, I myself did it before I knew that Schnittke existed. Somewhere in The Trembling of the Veil, Yeats effectively wrote, masterpieces grow vague in many minds before they crystallize in one.

gveranon:

I'll have a look at Richard Powers even though the name of his novel -- borrowed from one of the most tasteful operas ever written -- sets the bar uncomfortably high, esp. if Powers' defects (cuteness, etc.) are as noticeable as you say.

Daisy:

Re Knoxville, the Pavane and Bruckner:

I, too, am a fan of Barber's Knoxville setting, as I am of the death scene from Antony and Cleopatra, the Piano Sonata and nearly all of his art songs. I am equally a fan of the music of Roger Sessions. Here's to American composers who were able to remain unoppressed by optimism.

I still love Ravel but am over my college days of worshiping his Piano Trio (with its movement in the form of a villanelle), Le Tombeau de Couperin, Trois Poemes de Stephane Mallarme, Miriors, "Je d'eaux", Sonatine, Daphnis et Chloé, etc. He is considered more of a neoclassicist formally than an impressionist. I adore his ascetic restraint (which is made all the more painful by his sensuality) and delicate gravitas -- which feels like a form of impassioned respect for children -- but more as a pianist and composer than as a writer. If Ravel is morbid, then it must be in a Keatsian way ("looking at life through a sweet shop window"). It is a quality he shares with Franck and Faure, who might be the greatest art song composer of all time.

Bruckner can be dark in sonority, esp. when he orchestrates like an organist (expanding on the effect of the bass pedals) and specifically in the Ninth. You haven't lived until you've awakened in Bavaria to the third movement, then drifted through the glass doors of the house and out into your host's hanging garden for a seven-course breakfast on an overcast morning -- and then, for added effect, listened to the last movement of Mahler's Ninth immediately after the Bruckner ended. The world is never more paradoxical than when the sky is matte gray, the air is misted, and verdant vines and gustatory decadence overwhelm you -- all while disembodiment bids you to follow it into the caverns of unconsciousness.

Uitarii:

Thanks so much for mentioning Lutosławski's Musique Funèbre -- his elegy for Bela Bartok and one of the greatest morbid compositions of the mid-20th century.

Luigi Nono has also written chamber pieces so spare and spectral that I consider them to be morbid: stippled with lines like ghost and smoke-swirls amid the occasional ashtray, shard of aspirin and ellipses in pointillist's dust.

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Old 06-05-2014   #17
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

Quote Originally Posted by scrypt View Post

Luigi Nono has also written chamber pieces so spare and spectral that I consider them to be morbid: stippled with lines like ghost and smoke-swirls amid the occasional ashtray, shard of aspirin and ellipses in pointillist's dust.


I listened to Tippett's 3rd Symphony while reading the whole of Scrypt's exquisite post, a post that has its own morbid music, threading information with poetry.
TLO (from my experience of it from 2005) has perhaps never before reached such heights, matching obvious despair with even more obvious hope. Not a religion so much as a belief in the power of humanity's (not any God's) creativity: steering away from pretentious oxymorons towards some natural oxygen of sound.

PS: I love Sessions.

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Old 06-05-2014   #18
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

This piece is very visceral and dark:
Galina Ustvolskaya - Symphony â„–2 (Unreleased Version). WARNING!(read the description)* - YouTube
Ustvolskaya was a student of Schostakovich I believe

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Old 06-06-2014   #19
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

So glad to see that the list of morbid pieces is growing, and that it doesn't always conform to my own definition of morbidity. Deviations, digressions and changes of direction are important to the life of a conversation. Call them modulations into new territory -- with morbidity as their pivot chord.

I was just creating a playlist on Spotify titled "Chromatic Descension" and thought it merited inclusion in this discussion. It features pieces with a grim or elegiac tone, and that specialize in descending lines -- especially the chromatic scale.

Some of the favorites listed in this thread appear there (the Crucifixus, "When I Am Laid in Earth" and "Lasciate mi morire") but so do others, and it, like the thread itself, lengthens constantly:

"Jesu der du Meine Seele," by J. S. Bach;
"Die Nacht," from Pierrot Lunaire;
Shostakovich's Piano Trio, No. 2 (Op. 67), Third Movement -- Largo;
Prelude S. 179 (based on a theme from "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen"), by Liszt;
"Automne a Varsovie," from Ligeti's Piano Etudes, Bk. 1;
the Andante con noto from Penderecki's Third Symphony
and the first movement of his Second Violin Concerto ("Metamorphosen");
the fourth movement (Lamento; Adagio) from Ligeti's Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano
and the Passacaglia from his Violin Concerto.

I should also mention Bach's Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (I Had Much Trouble in My Heart), particularly the fifth movement, "Bäche von gesalznen Zähren" ("Streams of salted tears"), which depicts the tears of Christ with jagged descending lines. Here's the text:

Streams of salted tears
pour from me continually in floods.
Storm winds press against me like infernal waves,
and this malady-stirred sea
weakens my spirit and my life,
breaks my very mast and anchor,
until, finally, I totter to the ground:
knees to dirt, eyes gazing downward
into Lucifer's maw.

-- Georg Neumark, 1657

(Pardon the liberties of my free translation.)

And this is for you, blackout:

My imitation (in Robert Lowell's sense) of a text taken from Gorecki's Third Symphony:

"Imitation of a Polish Folksong"

(for Susan Walsh)

Never again
Will I graze her prone hand,
Even if I could weep
Till my eyes became sand

Even if all my tears
Made a new River Oder,
They could not ferry back
My only daughter

She abrades in her grave
In an unknown bier,
Though I ask about her
Everywhere

Is she sprawled in a gully,
Arms lambasted and splayed,
Instead of home resting
In her own warm bed

Oh, sing for her always,
Paradisiacal Jamna,*
Since her father can’t soothe her
In this world or Nirvana

And you, little fire-flowers,
Blossom around her
That my daughter may sleep
As if loved ones had found her

-----------------
* (An extinct Polish bird that the speaker construes as paradisiacal even though it was as minuscule as the chance his daughter is still alive.)

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Old 06-06-2014   #20
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Re: Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (and Other Morbid Classics)

This is performed by the Kronos Quartet.
Wait until you get 1.11 minutes into it before you decide whether you think this represents the most 'morbid' of any music.



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