Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mahler: Beyond the Infinite

Here's the cover of the first cassette I bought and listened to on my first Walkman, circa 1981. I bought (charged) the Walkman and the cassette (which had just been released) at the old, magnificent Lazarus in downtown Columbus.

When I was very young, music - especially certain pieces of classical music - had a scary and profoundly mysterious quality and effect on me which has mostly, though not completely, faded away through decades of nearly constant music listening (I think some groups, like Stereolab, attempt to recreate that feeling, with sporadic results). The music bespoke of the inchoateness of the universe, of dangers adult and unknowable, of inscrutable sonic and physical worlds. The low-treble rumbling undercurrent in Herbert Von Karajan's rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra (used in the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack) was like a premonition, a sonic background to the universe which we can sense, but not grasp.

Though musically "jaded" by the early '80s (as a decade of Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols,The Clash, Devo, Aerosmith, The Contortions and the B-52s will do to one - not to mention enough classical music to choke a horse), Bruno Walter's version of the Mahler 1st still had/has the power to represent. I remember also the first experience of hearing the music through the Walkman headphones, lost in my insulated world as I walked the city streets, Mahler providing the accompaniment everywhere I went for weeks - and this great, glorious stereo sound came from a little plastic box (these weren't your father's transistor radios)! Even the cassette hiss (it was an older recording) sounded great.

I still look to Walter for Mahler goodness. I'm playing this recording today. The Walkman is in the electronic scrap box, along with a couple others, all of which stopped working, each one manufactured successively cheaper.

Pin It

No comments: