ICMSN/SurreyMAC 2017

  • Rebecca Day (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


A cursory glance at the ‘inscrutable face of the world’: Anamorphic tonality and the role of ‘Suspension’ in Mahler’s Seventh Symphony

Since the ‘Mahler renaissance’ that followed Adorno’s monograph in 1960, the material category of ‘Breakthrough’ has been assimilated into formal analysis as a critical space in which the course of a work is disrupted from the outside. The categories of ‘Suspension’ and ‘Fulfilment’ that were initially developed alongside this, however, have received less attention. Where Breakthrough is considered as a moment of deflection or ‘turning aside’ in the form, Suspension is described by Adorno as a ‘self-reflection of what is entangled in itself’, as a ‘roundabout way that turns out retrospectively to be the direct one.’ Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, whilst often denounced for its formal ambiguities, offers one such example of Suspension.

This paper will trace the rotational and tonal narratives of the finale of the Seventh Symphony to suggest an alternative goal for the work: the mode of Eb, a key that is never fully present, except within a Suspension episode in the development of the first movement. Through further consideration of the interactions between the two movements, this ‘roundabout way’ will introduce the concept of ‘anamorphic’ tonality. As a notion initially taken from the visual arts, anamorphosis constructs an image from one or more points of view and subsequently marks the creator’s ironic commentary on the structure. In music formal terms, the anamorphic qualities of this Eb suspension episode will ultimately be shown to present a self-reflective tonal narrative that is only visible when viewed from a different, rotational, perspective, and that retrospectively becomes the ‘impossible’ goal of the finale, and of the symphony as a whole.
Period11 Sept 201714 Sept 2017
Event typeConference
LocationGuildford, United KingdomShow on map