Individualism for the Masses: Aesthetic Paradox in Mahler’s Symphonic Thought

In Elisabeth Kappel (ed.), The Total Work of Art: Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Context. Universal Edition. pp. 46-60 (2011)
Andreas Dorschel
Goethe University Frankfurt
In his Eighth Symphony Gustav Mahler envisions modern artistic production to steer clear of an alternative emerging at the time: that between popular music on the one hand and esoteric avantgarde music on the other; Mahler’s music is meant to reach the masses, but without descending to audiences’ lowest common denominator. One query through which Mahler’s paradoxical aesthetic vision of an ‘individualism for the masses’ can be explored has been hinted at by the composer himself: Does his integral symphonic work of art (‘Gesamtkunstwerk’) include or rather exclude chamber music?
Keywords individualism  mass  music  audiences  symphony  Gustav Mahler
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