Posts Tagged ‘Gustav Mahler’

‘Words,’ please stay a bit longer.

December 27, 2015


With a post this morning showing Venice clad in fog, I was trying to remember the composer’s name whose music was used in ‘Death in Venice.’ It would not come. I gave up and asked my wife, Helvi. It was Mahler. Of course it was. Am I slipping? The urgency to put down words is there but is the re-call  lagging? Perhaps it is just the result of so much emphasis lately, on the aged loosing memory. All that publicity is affecting me. Am I going gaga? Don’t go there!

All those TV medical shows on Alzheimer and close ups shots of the pulsating vibrant full brain of the healthy maniac and those of an old dithering bloke’s blacked out bits of a withering brain. Why anyone is so keen on having to remember all and everything, is so soul destroying.  So much of it could well be overrated? Has it become obligatory to remember Mahler at all times? Surely a reward of getting old is blissful forgetfulness!

Even so, I do notice a tapering off. I will use less words and condense. That might help and could well be my answer as well as to other sufferers. Would it not be marvellous to have a book all written down in using just one word. In music sometimes just a single note hangs in there so hauntingly beautiful. Why not in words? A simple unadorned word like ‘Carrot in Middle c’ . Would that suffice? Would a book titled ‘Carrot’ sell?  Perhaps not many. What about extending it to ‘A Carrot for Rudolf?’ The imaginary reader could well link this further. What about ‘Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer and his fondness for carrots?

I remember reindeer and Santa’s homeland. Suomi. That wonderful country of birch, spruce  and fifty thousand lakes. Some call it Finland. I was there during 1965/66. I remember the stopping of the train at Ankeriasjarvi with my Helvi. We walked over the frozen lake and made tea in the surrounding forest on a fire of twigs and pine with water made out of snow.  I made a hole in the ice but did not catch a single fish. It takes an expert and a true Finn to do that. But, I did try out the -34C and threw water over the grinding wheel to hone he axe which turned into instant ice. I thought my eyes would freeze but they did not. I was no Dr Zhivago nor a Boris Pasternak.

I remember as well the glorious stillness of Finland in winter and the inside warmth of Helvi’s parents farm-house. The huge lounge and fire-place above which we would, on New Years Eve, slowly melt lead and throw in water to figure out our future  from the randomly formed leaden ingots. (Uudenvuodenaatto) Surely those memories will never escape into the fogginess of advancing years.  I also cannot  forget  JP Sibelius and his wonderful music. His wife Aino was still alive when I was in Finland.  He did not write anymore music for the last thirty years of his life. He must have felt he had done it all. He also had six daughters.

So, there you have it. All from a single word, ‘carrot.’


Romantic notions in vain.

April 10, 2014
Gustav Aschenbach

Gustav Aschenbach

I have been fortunate that a Jack Russell attracts the attention more than I. It leaves me free to enjoy in observing the people squatting down while patting Milo. I would be lying in denying that at times I also get drawn into looking at attractive ladies. The drawing down includes, especially in summer, a peek inside their blouse. What sort of etiquette would be expected to be observed? What can I do? Should I glance at the passing traffic or upwards towards the sun, start reading a good book? No, I feign compassion towards Milo as well and partake in making comments about his age and other general chit chat.

In fact, last week I lamented again to a nice lady that a dog gets patted so much…and left the obvious answer ..why not the owner?; to be contemplated by the patter. She just gave me a lovely smile and I knew she took the hint. She understood, which was nice. It doesn’t take a lot to get a friendly exchange. Thank you Milo, you make an old man happy.

I have always thought ‘happiness’ was over-rated. Mainly by the west and especially by the US. Many make millions by writing books about how to attain ‘happiness’. Advertisers really know and understand the dichotomy of the aim for happiness and the reality of life’s struggles and pain. They cleverly exploit this endless and utterly futile aim by linking happiness with a product. We queue up to buy the product because we seek ‘happy’.

I do like tranquillity and I suppose it is really a balance between both happiness and sadness. They are like the ocean’s waves. They come and go. It is like breathing and the reason for our existence.

Would endless ‘happy’ not be very boring? I like experiencing and growing towards finding some truth or reason why we live. That includes a lot of joy including laughter and a lot of pain or sadness which includes tears.

In my new resolution to seek more tranquillity and joy than pain (and save money) I decided to cancel my teeth implants. It wasn’t that difficult. Those graphic photos of jaws being drilled into with screws inserted in the holes was all the incentive needed to cancel the appointment. The secretary was somewhat miffed. It was still over a week for the appointment and I fibbed in telling her I was going overseas. I always had trouble cancelling promises. It must date to childhood. I so much wanted to please my parents, especially my mother. Kids are different now. They say ‘get fucked’ easily to their peers, including even their parents.

My vanity in providing a better smile to the public bending to pat Milo is now taking a step back, I know. But in my seventies, and considering the missing two teeth are downstairs in my lower jaw and generally not visible when smiling with lips closed, I am willing to forego the perceived uptick in my visual public persona.

I so remember Gustav Aschenbach ( Gustav Mahler) in Thomas Mann’s filmed version of ‘Death in Venice’ dyeing his hair black in his pityfull attempt to still be found attractive to the young Polish boy Tadzio. That scene on the beach with the dying Aschenbach, sunk in his deckchair, while Tadzio, wading in the water with his hand raised, as if to say goodbye. Unforgettable scene. His blackened hair finally did not help or save him.

Moved to tears ‘Simon met a Pieman’ and piano Concerto by Lang Lang.

May 14, 2013


You sometimes wonder which of the arts the primary one is. Is it literature, the visual arts of painting, sculpture etc, architecture, dance with ballet, or is it music?

Which of our senses is most aroused by beauty? That is if we claim ‘beauty’ to be the sole arbiter of becoming emotionally or spiritually aroused. Some people might well claim that tragedy and sadness is the one that moves us most. Do people get tears in their eyes when viewing a beautiful painting? I know I have never been moved to tears by visual arts but have (been moved to tears) listening to a beautiful piece of music.

A few nights ago I viewed on television the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto with Lang Lang on the piano. Now, that did move me to tears. It was held in the Sydney Opera House in 2011. Not that viewing the beauty of design in Sydney’s opera house would ever move me to tears. The visual versus the auditory are different and evoke different responses. If tears are the arbiter of emotional responses music would have to be the clear winner in reaching deeper into our souls than anything else.

When Lang Lang performed at the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games it is claimed 40.000.000 Chinese children took up the piano afterwards. That’s twice the entire population of Australia. Now, that’s what I would call a rousing response to music. Music would have to be an art form that seems essential to us humans reaching our potential in nurturing emotional intelligence, sensitivity and awareness… It is known now that babies, while still safe inside their mothers, already react to musical sounds. Take any group of toddlers and start up music and in no time they will dance, move about and clap hands.

With books and stories we might get closer to tears. Films are also very capable of evoking tearful emotions, but… a good filmmaker knows that the music is essential during beautiful, harrowing and emotional scenes and it plays an important role. I can’t imagine a scene of great sorrow and loss but accompanied by the music of ‘three blind mice, or Humpty Dumpty’ could easily induce tears in an audience. I vividly remember in the Visconti movie of ‘Death in Venice’ Gustav Mahler’s piece the adagietto of his 5th symphony moved many to tears. Would it have been the same with the music score of ‘Simple Simon met a Pieman?’ I doubt it.

In the ‘best movie’, the ‘best director’, nominated for ‘ten awards’ movie ‘The Artist’ there was no dialogue but this was compensated more than adequately by its glorious music, (and the spitting image of our Jack Russell ‘Milo’). Yet, a non-documentary movie with only dialogue but without any music would be difficult to not become boring, perhaps even unwatchable. The era of silent movies always had live music being played. This was sometimes achieved by a tinny phonograph, a solitary man or woman playing the piano, or an entire orchestra. The music score was essential in bringing an audience to appreciate the movie and its story during the era of ‘silent movies’.

I feel that music might well be the foundation corner stone of the ‘arts’, but of course many will claim this to be owned by Shakespearean written words or  Picasso’s Guernica or Rembrandts Night watch. It’s what moves us is what is important. Who knows, for some it might be just looking at the stars and the moon?

It just never stops.