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Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas$
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Seth Monahan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199303465

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199303465.001.0001

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“The Objectification of Chaos”

“The Objectification of Chaos”

Epic Form and Narrative Multiplicity in Part One of the Third

(p.177) Chapter Six “The Objectification of Chaos”
Mahler's Symphonic Sonatas

Seth Monahan

Oxford University Press

Chapter 6 examines the sprawling opening of the Third Symphony specifically in light of Adorno’s idea of “novelistic” construction. After reflecting upon the form’s interpretive difficulties, it demonstrates that the work is not only novelistic in Adorno’s sense—e.g., through its recursive “variant” form, its “disempowerment” of traditional sonata-form rhetoric, and its nonreconciliation of part and whole—but also in its interweaving of numerous distinct and independent story-strands, many of which appear to have roots in Mahler’s original programmatic conception (a factor Adorno wholly disregards). These include a “cosmic Beseelung” narrative (spanning the entire 368-bar opening rotation); a narrative of “integration” (traversing just the sonata-spaces); an “evolution” narrative (unfolding within the non-sonata introductory spaces); and a through-composed, movement-spanning narrative that seems to bear out Mahler’s beliefs regarding eternal recurrence and the cyclicality of existence.

Keywords:   Mahler’s Third Symphony, program music, Adorno, novel-symphony, variant form

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