Olivier Pigott

Mahler – Novel or Film

This lecture will compare the methods of film analysis, notably of editing, with those of musical analysis for the study of works having a strong narrative component.
The starting point will be an analysis of the finale of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in terms of Adorno’s categories (Theodor W. Adorno, Mahler - A Musical Physiognomy), notably the category of “Variante”, and the works of Robert Samuels (Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, A Study in Musical Semiotics) and Eve-Norah Pauset’  (Marcel Proust et Gustav Mahler: Créateurs  parallèles. L’expression du moi et du temps dans la littérature et la musique au début du XXème siècle). Acknowledging the numerous difficulties that the various analyses open up in Robert Samuels’ works, I will illuminate those elements that a simple formal description cannot include.
I will define  “concrete temporality” or “polyphonia of action”, in which active time, the time of themes in perpetual evolution, overlaps with “out of time”, the time of themes that are maintained and repeated throughout.
The capacity of music to accompany an action, whether scenic or not, developed progressively over the course of the 19th century. To the ductility of this capacity, Mahler adds the intrusion of heterogeneous elements that seem to come from a reality external to the music itself.

The last part of my lecture shows the relationship between these notions and the time of the cinematographic narrative, which crystalized during the first ten years of the 20th century. In fact, the appearance of cinematic editing, with its junction of scenes throughout a continuous movement, sets a counterpoint of events that is not without rapport with the polyphony of actions evoked earlier.
Finally, more generally speaking, the talk will show how the analytical concepts go beyond Mahler’s music and apply to other kinds of music