Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Mahler warns about his music

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-05-07

The erudite and often hilarious Language Log demonstrates a bucket load of reasons why I (and perhaps anyone with an ear attuned to Bach) should hate Mahler.

"Mahler’s score markings" (2009-05-06) gives "accurate" translations of the directions in his manuscripts – which explains why Mahler sounds like Mahler does.

This covers a translation of various Mahler instructions by a professor of modern linguistics and second violinist in an orchestra – a translation also noted by the New Yorker music reviewer.

My anti-favorite because it makes no logical sense is:

Somewhat louder, though still inaudible as before

But the what-it-should-sound-like instructions are even more damning:

  • do not look at the conductor
  • with more intense inner torment
  • with indescribably horrific inner torment
  • From this point on, the spit valves should be emptied with ever-increasing emotion
  • with steadily decreasing competence
  • as if wild animals were gnawing on your liver

Yeah, they are unofficial and certainly not literal translations… but pretty darn accurate according to my ear.


One Response to “Mahler warns about his music”

  1. Al said

    “do not look at the conductor”

    Top notch advice that.

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