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Mahler symphony’s motif in movie `Interstellar`

Posted November. 25, 2014 03:49,   


When will we come back? Can we ever come back?

Dr. Cooper looks at his old house but his daughter, Murphy, locks the door and refuses to come out. Then, the speakers in the theater begin to play the heart-wrenching melody. At the moment, I hear a thump in my heart. “This melody is exactly like the last movement of Mahler’s 10th symphony!”

Gustav Mahler started composing the 10th Symphony in 1910 when he felt that he was moving towards the end of his life with a heart problem. The minor motif of the sad flute solo in the beginning part of the last movement of the symphony leaves a strong impression. The motif changes into a major in the latter part of the movement and reemerges as a powerful ensemble of the entire string instruments. If the flute solo is like a regret of a person who is facing the end of her/his life, the string instruments seem to send hopes and long for a new world amid the strong waves of emotions.

What is surprising is that the exact motif can be found in the movie “Interstellar.” The motif of “La Re … Do Si Do,” which is similar to the flute solo of Mahler’s symphony, is interchangeably played with the major motif of “Do Fa … Mi Re Mi.” This gives us an impression that the regrets of leaving our planet are mixed with hopes for the salvation of humanity. This part is not included in the movie’s official sound track, however.

According to American conductor John Mauceri, Mahler’s music was inherited by Jewish musicians including Wolfgang Korngold, who escaped the Nazis and moved to the Hollywood, and the soundtrack music industry got to inherit Mahler’s music expressions. It should be taken with a grain of salt. One thing is clear, however. Younger musicians tend to move within the “musical gene” left by older musicians, and a brand new idea is quite rare.

Here comes the last month of this year. What about Mahler’s 10th Symphony? Anyone would have both regrets and hopes when one says good bye to a year. Of course, if you have a lot to regret about, you need to move toward hopes.