The Mahler Series
Last month, I was one painting away from completing the Mahler series. My goal is to complete “Mahler Symphony No. 1” during December. Now is the time to put down some random thoughts about the experience.
Listening to all ten symphonies repeatedly was a pleasure. I was either in my studio or in my car. From my glass-enclosed studio, trees progressed through their spring awakening, summer fulsomeness, autumn colors, and then shed their leaves for another winter. As I drove along Lake Erie and past Pennsylvania farmland, it was a treat to be held inside Mahler’s musical passages.
I treasure the memory of talking with a classical musician at the Gallery Z reception in March. He was preparing for a European tour with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and loved Mahler, too. He told me something astonishing about a connection he made with my three tree-filled symphony pieces: Mahler always had a composing cottage in the woods.
As I drove through the seasons this year, I maintained a keen awareness. Trees: along the thruway, along city streets, in towns, in the Berkshires. I decided that the best time for getting at the “treeness of trees” is when they have shed the adornment of their leaves. That’s when their character can be viewed best: their trunks, the way they sit in the ground, their broken or healthy limbs, their regal, defiant or sad gestures. Tree trunks have a wide palette of colors to offer. They are richly textured and improved by lichen.
My final Mahler and the trees story comes by way of an excellent German film John and I watched two nights ago. Barbara is set in East Germany in the 1980’s. One scene stunned me, but not because of the story. It was where it was shot: in the forest. The camera angle was low and the two actors played the scene among the trees trunks. I shouted all through the scene, “Look at those trees!” Who cared what they were saying? It was a few minutes in a film that matched what I have been immersed in for 2013, an artistic déja vu.