Arts and 21st Century Learning Music Music Education The Arts and Lifelong Learning

A World of Wonder

An orchestra concert that includes Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is especially appealing, and the recent pre-concert rehearsal I observed brought me back to the symphony’s enjoyable, tuneful nature.

Mahler StampIt’s part of what makes it such a popular work and a welcoming experience for everyone in the audience. It’s similar to watching a fairytale-like movie with all of the action generated in your mind’s eye through the inner workings of musical composition. At the same time, it’s really a “musical movie” intended for adults.

Ah music. A magic beyond all we do here.

~ J. K. Rowling

The typical children’s tale might include the contrasts of elves and giants or mermaids and witches. The Fourth Symphony also gives us contrasting “imaginary musical characters.” Throughout the symphony, you have a sense of fun, childlike innocence that is interrupted by deep reflective moments that are ominous and dark.

Artists are often searching—open to what they may find. Time and again they look for answers to what they see, hear, and feel. Their expression of those investigations and findings are shared with the world through their performances and works of art. In fact, many would say artistic expression is the only way to truly bring forth what comes from these inquiries.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. 
~Victor Hugo

With great compositional skill, Mahler visits the awe and wonder of childhood with the contrast of deep knowledge that comes from the experience of living life and becoming older. It takes vulnerability, courage, hope, and insight to explore these things, but we can all learn the artist’s way to free our minds and open a little space for our own exploration.

Knowledge and WisdomWhat can help you explore life experiences as an artist in the expression of your everyday life?

  • Surround yourself with others who support you and give you a sense of security.
  • Let go of fear. It destroys your creativity.
  • Approve of yourself. Anything less limits your exploration and discovery.


Approaching this exploration as an artist will help you to keep mystery in your life and allow you to wonder, even if it has once been lost. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony has marches, waltzes, fantasy, and play. It even ends in a beautiful lullaby. Although occasional darkness interrupts the childlike innocence of the music, it always reemerges fresh and new.

It should be one’s sole endeavor to see everything afresh and create it anew.

~ Gustav Mahler

The willingness to approach life’s learning as an artist will help you to gain both knowledge and wonder. It can help you understand that knowledge gained from life experience can, in fact, increase your capacity for wonder and resilience. The artist’s approach to life’s questions and difficulties comes from the motivation to explore experience and feelings and to express the findings. It’s the artistic process that keeps you open to continue to explore and learn, gain confidence, and support others. An arts education is vital for young people growing up in the challenging world we live in today. An artist’s approach to investigation and discovery is critical for all of us as we face the demanding questions and uncertainties of the 21st century.

— Pat

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