Nature as Metaphor

In the City of Music

Throughout his life, Mahler returned to the natural environment for inspiration.
“My music is always the voice of nature sounding in tone…”
VIDEO:Mezzo soprano Susan Graham on Mahler
  • Nature was not only a source of inspiration for Mahler; it could function as a nature as a metaphor for human emotion. In a setting of a poem by Friedrich Rückert, “Do Not Look into My Songs” (Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder), nature in the form of bees represents the artist at work: “Bees who are building their cells don’t allow themselves to be observed, nor do they watch themselves.”

  • A particularly touching example of nature as metaphor for human emotions occurs in one of the songs from the Kindertotenlieder (Child Death Songs) collection, also on poetry by Friedrich Rückert. The singer laments the decision to send children out into the weather; the stormy music also reflects the condition of the singer’s heart and soul: “In this weather, in this wind, I would never have sent the children out! They were carried, carried out! I wasn’t allowed to say anything about it!”

Mahler's Methods

  • In his setting of Friedrich Rückert's "Do Not Look into My Songs" (Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder), the accompaniment imitates the buzzing of bees, as a constant musical metaphor for the dedication and perfectionism of the artist.

Related Examples

Shared Experiences

February 9, 2015

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February 22, 2012

Thank you for this page.

I am very familiar with the life of Mahler, and especially his religious/assimilation issue.

However, I did not realize he was so attune to the rhythms of nature. I will have to read a little more on the Maestro.

Warmest regards.

Alan Loren
Chief Editor