Salome By Mahler: Music Analysis

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Despite Salome having controversial elements for its time, its premiere was a success. As Mahler had stated, usually, “Genius and popularity were… incompatible” (Ross 10). Much of the worldview that was expressed towards nineteenth-century art and music did not match that of a modern worldview. A modern worldview was far more progressive and accepting of radical thought. The worldview of the time, stuck to what was mostly agreed upon. Regardless, Salome was a hit. The opera did not follow common norms of classical music at the time, and it even opened with a piece including a key change a tritone away, the diabolus in musica (Ross 7). The sudden shift from the key of C# major accompanied by Gershwin-esque melodies to a key a devil’s tone away,…show more content…
It was an endless melody with a continuous texture. It is impossible for the listener to find a distinctive recitative, aria, chorus, or ensemble, with the exception of the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. This allowed the audience to focus on the music alone in solidarity rather than being swayed by the applauses of their fellow audience members. The orchestra was not only large, but was also comprised of instruments unique for its time and the time now, as it included the xylophone and heckelphone (Simms and Wright 597). This produced a new timbre, unique to the opera, equating the significance of the orchestra to the vocalists. Rather than the orchestra only serving as accompaniment to the singers, it worked with the singers to better communicate the opera’s dramatic…show more content…
Leitmotifs were initially employed by Wagner, but Strauss mimics this technique in a more discrete manner. While the names for these leitmotifs were defined after Strauss’ time, I will refer to them by their popular names. The leitmotif “Ecstasy/Salome’s Bliss” is initially based on the key of C# major, however, there is a sudden jolt as an unrecognizable chord (can be identified as A13 b2) is struck without introduction, then the leitmotif immediately returns to the key of C# major (Roden, Wright, and Simms 1464). The inclusion of such a chord was beyond its time, and it was not prepared or resolved in a proper fashion. Along with more nonsensical chords, a tone cluster can be found in rehearsal mark 355 of Salome’s concluding scene (Roden, Wright, and Simms 1461). This tone cluster includes notes that does not follow a specific key, similar to the absent key signature as the work’s tonality is ambiguous. Ignoring such restrictions, is again a progressive move in Strauss’ part. Some may say that Strauss’ Salome is just full of cacophony, but everything is weaved in a way to benefit the narrative. In rehearsal mark 359, a V6/4 chord begins the section in the key of C# major, followed by a layering of the leitmotifs “Ecstasy”, “Kiss”, and “Salome”. The close succession of these melodic ideas on top of one another not only

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