Mahler and the First Book of Classical Horror

Megazanthus Press will soon be publishing a new anthology of stories using pieces of classical music as inspiration. The First Book of Classical Horror Stories, edited by DF Lewis, will become available in the next few months, and some great names in dark fantasy and horror writing are involved, including Andrew Hook, Rhys Hughes, and Rachel Kendall.

My story, Songs for Dead Children, is based on Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, which seemed a perfect starting point for psychological horror.

Taken from Wikipedia:

The original Kindertotenlieder were a group of 428 poems written by Rückert in 1833–34[1] in reaction to the illness (scarlet fever) and death of his children. Painter describes the poems thus: “Rückert’s 428 poems on the death of children became singular, almost manic documents of the psychological endeavor to cope with such loss. In ever new variations Rückert’s poems attempt a poetic resuscitation of the children that is punctuated by anguished outbursts. But above all the poems show a quiet acquiescence to fate and to a peaceful world of solace.”[1] These poems were not intended for publication.[1]

Mahler selected five of Rückert’s poems to set as Lieder, which he composed between 1901 and 1904. The songs are written in Mahler’s late-romantic idiom, and like the texts reflect a mixture of feelings: anguish, fantasy resuscitation of the children, resignation. The final song ends in a major key and a mood of transcendence.

The poignancy of the cycle is increased by the fact that four years after he wrote it, Mahler lost his daughter, Maria, aged four, to scarlet fever. He wrote to Guido Adler: “I placed myself in the situation that a child of mine had died. When I really lost my daughter, I could not have written these songs any more.”


English: Mahler Kindertotenlieder01
English: Mahler Kindertotenlieder01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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