*For an introduction to my whole series on Mahler, with links, click here!*
We’ve had Mahler and Anna May Wong, now for Mahler and John Wayne.
I make but a paltry effort to control my addiction to exclamation marks (!). In my defence I cite Mahler himself— I recall the instructions in his scores as being liberally sprinkled with them. Now that I come to seek instances, they’re not so ubiquitous, but here are some examples:
Vorschlage möglichst kurz!
And, like a red rag to a bull for the horns (sic) or clarinets, the immortal
Such exclamation marks add a personal touch—we can feel the composer–conductor communicating with his musicians. At the climax of Der Abschied, transcendent finale of Das Lied von der Erde, they suggest awe:
My search continues for instances of his use of triple exclamation marks!!!
Having drawn attention to Mahler’s use of quintuplets, Der Abschied is full of cross-rhythms— time dissolving into the nirvana of
Allüberall und ewig blauen licht die Fernen!
In this melody, emerging out of mysterious ascending motifs on flutes, the triple time is soon subverted by a duple metre, the quintuplet leading into that most distinctively plaintive of Mahler chords. (from 10.44 on the YouTube link here):
* * *
Now, you may think those awed exclamation marks make a flimsy and irreverent pretext to cite the famous John Wayne story—but hey:
In rehearsal for The greatest story ever told, the Duke, playing the Roman soldier who spears Jesus on the cross, says rather flatly,
“Truly he was the son of God.”
The director cuts in: “Not like that—say it with awe!”
Obligingly Wayne repeated his line, still deadpan:
“Aw—truly he was the son of God.”
And that links to the notorious vinegar ad.
Searching for a comprehensive analysis of Mahler’s markings, I came across this guide, which is even funnier.