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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000280.txt from 1995/01

From: Jonathan Cohler <cohler@-----.NET>
Subj: Re: Mahler and bells up sound
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 1995 17:38:15 -0500

>I would like some opinions on what Mahler's intent was of writing "bells
>in the air." For those of you who have played the various Mahler
>Symphonies and have an opinion, do you think that Mahler considered it to
>be just a visual effect, or to create a racous sound, or both??
>I have heard of people who claimed that Mahler wanted to create a visual
>effect, although they were trying to keep a "beautiful" sound (like
>normal, that is) simply louder. Should it be interpreted that he wanted
>to imitate a peasant band, and if an accidental squeak slips out to let
>it pass without admitting to anything? ;-)
>I was also wondering what other ways people have interepreted this "sound
>in the air" text. Roger S. mentioned that he stood up. Are you
>serious? Actually, the horns stand at the end of the final movement of
>Mahler 1, and I just assumed that was a different German indication than
>our schalltrichter auf (or the like). Any one out there have a score. . .
>Christopher Zello

Clearly, the marking is not meant as a visual effect, because it used
exclusively on lines that are marked loud and are meant to come out of the
orchestral texture. (This is also true of the passages marked for bells up
in other instruments, such as the horns.)

Raising the instrument up so that the bell points out to the audience
causes the sound to be brighter (i.e. more high harmonics and less of the
lower harmonics) and therefore it is more directional (higher frequencies
are more directional than lower frequencies). As a result, the sound can
be "picked out" from the orchestral texture more easily by the listener in
the audience.

If you bend your head back as you raise the instrument, keeping the angle
between your head and the mouthpiece constant, there should be no reason
for squeaking, because your playing position is not changing. The only
problem is that it becomes difficult to read the music as you lean back, so
you may need to memorize those passages.

Standing up does not produce the desired change in tone color as heard by
the audience, it simply draws visual attention. Brass intruments standing,
on the other hand, can produce a marked change in the volume and quality of
sound as heard by the audience for the obvious reason that all of the sound
from a brass instrument comes out of the bell. With the clarinet, the
sound comes out of all the holes as well as the bell.

As for the horns at the end of the first symphony, Mahler writes at the
pickup to measure 657 (rehearsal number 56):

Ammerkung: Von hier an (und zwar ja nicht 4 Takte vorher) bis zum
Schluss ist es empfehlenswerth die H=F6rner so lange zu verst=E4rken, bis de=
hymnenartige, alles =FCbert=F6nende Choral die n=F6thige Klangf=FClle=
erreicht hat.
Alle Hornisten stehen auf, um die m=F6glichst gr=F6sste Schallkraft zu
erzielen. Eventuell m=FC=DFte auch eine Trompete und eine Posaune herangezo=

My German is not great, but I believe the jist of this is that he wants all
the horns to stand (stehen auf). The score also shows the 5th trumpet and
4th trombone joining with the horns in standing. He also notes that the
section starts at rehearsal 56 and not for bars earlier (und zwar ja nicht
4 Takte vorher). Someone with better German, can surely give you a more
complete translation.

Jonathan Cohler

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