A Story (Long)Forgive me for relating such a personal story on this forum, but I feel as though we have gotten to know each other somewhat through our common love of Mahler, and this story exemplifies what his music can mean in our lives.
Sunday morning, I was hiking on a mountain trail close to my home, listening to the last movement of M2 (the latest Kaplan version) on my iPod. (Most of you will remember my recent posting, which described the incredible experience I had when hearing the M2 live, just two weekends ago.) This hike represented the first time I had listened to it since then, and the emotions were rekindled. Needless to say I was mesmerized, to the point that the hike, the mountain scenery, and the blue sky melded together with the music to produce a nearly dream-like state. I can’t describe it in words, except to say that all of the ingredients combined in a way that, I’m sure, transported me back into Mahler’s thoughts as he composed the M2.
Just as the music reached its most emotional climax, as the final hushed silence fell over the orchestra before the chorus enters with its first “Aufersteh’n”, I thought I heard a child’s voice cry out, "Dad!". Being in that dream-like state, I thought at first that it was some kind of hallucination. Then, coming out of my Mahlerian trance, I realized that my thirteen-year-old son had found me on the trail, and was calling my name.
“What are you doing here?” I asked suprisedly, not expecting to see him so far along the trail, a few miles from my house. “Mom drove me up here” he said, “She’s waiting at the trailhead for us”.
While this is not typical hiking protocol for us, somehow the statement didn’t really register for me – I think I was still under the spell of the M2 finale. “All right”, I said, and we walked toward the trailhead. Along the way, I recounted the transcendent experience the music had just given me, and how it had taken me back to the live performance I heard just two weeks ago. For those few minutes, everything was perfect – discussing Mahler’s Second with my son, as we hiked under snow-capped peaks on a spectacular spring day.
Suddenly, it hit me: Why was my son here, and why was my wife waiting at the trailhead? Something must be wrong. My mind raced to thoughts of my mother, who has been hospitalized over the last three months in poor health. “Are you keeping something from me?” I asked nervously. My son nodded. At that moment, I realized the truth. “Has my mom died?” I muttered. He nodded again. My mother had passed away only a few minutes before; we had “gotten the call” at home, and my wife and son had set out to find me.
I’m a spiritual person, and I have a spiritual explanation for what happened to me that day; how it came to be that I would be prepared to hear the news about my mother by listening to M2 that morning (and through the concert two weeks ago), how it fell upon my son to give me the news, and how he had the presence of mind to wait until the timing was perfect. Along with that, the deepest meaning of Mahler became crystal clear for me as well, and was linked with my personal experiences in an indescribable way.
At the same time, I now understand Mahler’s appeal on a new level. I realize that, regardless of one’s particular views on religion and spirituality, Mahler was able, with essentially secular music, to provide a spiritual dimension that resonates regardless of the listener’s belief system. Mahler speaks to the basic human yearning to understand life’s greatest questions, and to face them in all their reality. I know that Mahler’s music helped me with that, last Sunday morning.
Thanks for letting me tell this story.