adams on mahler


Idealistic, fantastic, grotesque, violent, tender, sarcastic, confrontational, confessional, the symphonies of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) are among the most profoundly autobiographical of all composed music. “I have written into them, in my own blood, everything that I have experienced and endured,” he confided to a friend after finishing the Second Symphony. For all its professional, emotional and physical crises, Mahler’s life was exemplary for an artist who, no matter how loud the outside world might pound on the walls of his concentration, vigilantly maintained an unobstructed direct line to his creative self, keeping it uncorrupted and unblocked to the end. He was the living embodiment of “the world as will and idea.” The composer Hans Pfitzner said Mahler was “one of the most strong-willed men I have known.” Romain Rolland, novelist and creator of the fictional genius composer Jean-­Christophe, saw in the “extraordinarily high-strung” Mahler “something of the schoolmaster and something of the clergyman,” with a “long, clean-shaven face, hair tousled over a pointed skull and receding from a high forehead, eyes constantly blinking behind his glasses, a strong nose, a large mouth with narrow lips, sunken cheeks, and an ascetic, ironic and desolate air.”

more from John Adams at the NYT here.

Saturday Poem

Gas Tank Sonnets

1 hour out of Byron Bay
and no dreams for three days
when the snakes in the engine
hatched a mutiny

the radiator hose was the first to go

a roadside heart-attack,
meatball surgery with a swiss-army knife
and almost hijacked by hitchers

the days and days of service station pies
finally ripped through my spare tyre
and cocktails of on-edge nerves did their work

while all the time
across the hills, the Pacific
looking good enough to eat

feelings of withdrawal
Byron Bay and the muse,
for the likes of Brisbane-town
and this want of becoming a writer
tongue dragging along the bitumen
regurgitating yesterday's gravel,
the mind aflush
with gas tank sonnets

by Samuel Wagan Watson
from Smoke Encrypted Whispers
University of Queensland Press, 2005