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published: 2018-01-12

“It sounds like people are chasing each other,” says my son as we eat and I ask him what he thinks of the music: Mahler’s 1st Symphony. Not that we’re always listening to classical music in our home. The contrary. But I am going to a concert that evening, to hear it.
I say, “I hear a banquet, dancers I think, the king and queen are coming in.”
He chews on his food and listens.
“It’s more like a market,” he says and the runs off to get his desert.
During the concert, I sit next to my sister. She is pale and tired but she’ll never give in. Sometimes, I am unable to connect with her and it may have me feeling unsettled. I remind myself: connection can never be a one way act imposed on the other. I learn from her.
I haven’t looked at her in a while and when I do, I see her eyes are red and damp. I touch her briefly, and she turns to look at me. She smiles gently through her own, private, emotions. There it is, for that brief moment, connection.
The next day, there is a woman who is twenty years my senior and who I noticed at the concert. We are in the same pilates class. She always looks cold and hardened. I walk over to her. She is confused at first, but then her frowning face breaks open into a ripple of joy.
“It was magnificent, wasn’t it?” she says and we talk about how powerful it was, how lucky we were to have experienced that, how the conductor turned this music into a piece that touched every fibre of emotion and every shade of colour. We hold each others’ elbows while sharing this, seeing only each other for a brief while.
1888. That’s when Mahler wrote it.

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