After Mahler

The introductory notes of the trumpet are without pretense: this sound is only an initial victory. “Trauermarsch” is a single word for funeral march. The stage is set. The cymbals clash. The timpani reverberates throughout the room. Most brass instruments compete when they are played one after the other. The horn offers deeper sound. Here then is the sound of a tuba. Then the strings play a steady waltz, rooted in the low sound a double bass makes. Repetition is an impossible thing: what comes before changes it. As if the trombone is one step higher now. In playing the same notes, the trumpet is not itself. The thrum of a bass. That low sound. Attempts towards melody—is a note a word? is a sound a letter? is a phrase a sentence? The sweetness in music is consonance-making. Dissonance-making is a phrase of notes in the second octave from middle C on a violin repeating. Bow quickly downward and upward. With repetition we slowly become used to violence. The cymbals clash upon the snare drum, replication forming on itself. The clarinets, somewhere. The modulations of a woodwind instrument. How fragile the sound of a flute is when it precedes such rhythmless motion—sound happening as opposed to sound made. Some people call this selfish. Then the strings play that waltz again but in a minor key, the same sound prolonged enough to reveal a void. Shorter notes make this a real dance now. Furioso folds into dolce. Was the word “expressivo,” when composers wrote it down and noted it to their music, always enough? The sound of a tuba rubs against that of a flute. The hum of a bass drum, its echoes contained. The violins making their way to becoming soundless. Then the collection of all low sounds, every instrument, becomes the plane from which the trumpet sounds again. The manner of a flute is the same as a trumpet, melancholy and ephemeral.

from Self-machinations


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