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About Our Words: The Inextinguishable

Kevin Shawchuck from the USA comments on Paul Serotsky's article on composer Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable.

Kevin writes:

A very interesting and insightful article. I would love to hear more about how Nielsen (and other composers) use different keys/instruments to establish the themes and moods of the piece. I can hear it but it's hard to explain.

I'm curious about your use of the term "psychosis" which is a medical term referring to an individuals inability to properly perceive reality--with clinical consequences. I don't see the "life theme" displaying any psychotic features in the fourth movement. I see it challenged by outside forces which which strain it but it consistently responds to these challenges. Perhaps the psychosis you refer to is a societal one--where society fails to respond to reality thus threatening the individual "life theme''.

I see the main difference between the first and fourth movements as confidence. In the first movement life is born and struggles with its own existence physical challenges. (I loved the "eagle theme" metaphor immediately envisioning a small mouse which works well for the skittering music early in the first movement.) In the fourth movement the same challenges to the "life theme" are present--in fact even stronger ones. These strain the life theme BUT in the fourth movement the life theme has acquired enough confidence/strength to withstand these challenges. During the "tympani battle" the life theme is strained nearly to breaking but comes through stronger.

I've nearly completed a four quatrain poem with each quatrain reflecting the themes in each movement of the symphony. I wrote it before reading your article and was pleased to find I'd generally captured the main ideas/themes.



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