I’ve been listening to Mahler lately in anticipation of going to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra this fall. They’re performing some symphonies and some songs and I’ve always wanted to see a Mahler performed live. We’ve had a “MahlerFest” out in these parts on a semi-regular basis since around ‘88, put on by a mostly-volunteer orchestra conducted by Robert Olson and made up of players from all over Colorado, the Nation and sometimes from other parts the world. I’ve always wanted to go this weeklong event, but for some reason or other have never been able to go. Mahler never skimped on his instrumentation, sometimes employing a mind-blowing 80 instruments and even a choir. Mahler would sometimes have huge orchestras and he would use the massive sound generated by it to great effect. If you think the bass in some of the rap songs pulses through your body, listen to some Mahler (and Bruckner, too) turned up loud. I think they realized how stoic and stiff the classical audience could be at times and decided to hit them with an explosion of sound that would cause their bodies to shake and hair to stand on end whether they liked it or not! (And how could you not like it!)
Anyway, as I listen to Mahler I think about what he would be writing today. I can just imagine if he went “electric”…. I mean, he was already writing heavy and progressive music that could knock down walls. If he were around now and using modern electric instruments (drums and guitars…guitars…guitars…and maybe a keyboard thrown in for good measure), I can just imagine him writing “face crushing” Metal; you know…the stuff that would make your eyes melt! If people thought Judas Priest, Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath were heavy, or even Metallica, they would be incinerated by the power of a modern day Mahler.