Pre-Birthday Porn

Tomorrow is Gustav Mahler’s birthday. In acknowledgment of that, the conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Wood, just this week released these two fascinating mini-videos. These short explanations give fascinating insights into Mahler’s mind in the composition of the Ninth Symphony. (Readers of this blog will know that I have a particularly deep affinity for that symphony, since it was a hearing of that, one night in 1988 — it’s last that turned me to meditation, ultimately to this work.)

The talk is a little bit wonky and specific for musicians in the second video, but it thrills me nonetheless. To hear someone say, “in this passage, Mahler is thinking…“, “Mahler’s is trying to express…“, “Mahler’s notations in the score express things this way because…“ fills me with joy. To be inside his mind, from the technical point of view, and hear deeper of the feats of technical genius that created the soundscape that so radically reoriented my search for truth — something feels his presence more deeply.

Of course, the music itself is all – – it does not need anything else. But hearing a discussion like this is like some extra porno for my own mind.

A Most Guilty Pleasure


It is startling to experience, time and time again, the most precise expression of one’s own most private thoughts in the writings of the great Romanian existentialist. Some people call him “gloomy,” but I only see stark realism — the realism of Schopenhauer, Emerson, and Mahler. And as with those three, I notice experiencing a gratitude and love for him bordering on the deeply personal, as much as I have experienced for some living people.