There are several very different opportunities to experience Mahler's Symphony No. 3 during NEC's Mahler Unleashed concerts. A "straight" performance of the complete symphony from November 2 is now available to listeners at InstantEncore. On November 29, as part of a "Mahler in Chinatown" concert, Anthony Coleman of the Contemporary Improvisation (CI) faculty and the student ensemble he coaches, Survivors Breakfast, perform their arrangement of the symphony's third movement, which in Mahler's original marking is "Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast (Leisurely. Playful, humorous. Without rushing)." Here's what Coleman has to say about this interpretation.
"What is best in music is not to be found in the notes."
This is not a Jazz Version of this movement. I'm not a big fan of those. Rather, this is a "writing through," in the sense that John Cage used that term (see, for example, this article). But not in a Cagean way.
Every once in a while I find myself obsessed with a piece of "Classical" music and I feel like I want to do something with it. This one's been waiting a long time (my score is dated 1/24/81). Some aspect jogs something and I want to deconstruct, create a reductio ad absurdum, spelunk, unfold, unpack, dialog, debate…
We (Survivors Breakfast) work mostly by ear, in the classic CI manner. This produces—many things: attentiveness, naïveté, gross exaggerations, creative misreadings. By the time we come to performance, we don't really improvise. Not to be condescending, but we're not Blowing on the Changes. But everything is filtered through the Improviser's Sensibility. What does that mean, exactly? Well … do you have a few hours for me to try to explain it? I think it will be clear.