I was going to spend today at the piano. Not the piano pictured above, which was Gustav Mahler’s and, besides, it’s in Austria and as the sign says, you’re not allowed to put your grubby hands on it in the first place.
But I got sidetracked by thoughts of that forbidden piano, and more precisely where it is located – in a little hut on the edge of a lake not far from
, the Attersee. For Mahler had the sense to seek peace and quiet for his musical scribblings and had the luxury of using during his lifetime, not one, not two, but three huts, or Komponierhäuschen as we perhaps should call them. How wonderful to have a retreat to mess around in, to make noise to your heart’s content, not in some airless nuclear bunker but in what is effectively a garden shed whose windows look towards an impossibly blue lake and mountains beyond. And disturbing no one but the cows, the wind, the flies… Salzburg
So then I started thinking about my own composing hut, more precisely composing nook in the dining room, where it is a scary prospect (not just for me) to let loose, caterwaul, experiment, bang out endless chords, all for the sake of writing some new songs. It is hard to keep such work under wraps. Today I had the house to myself, free from trapped listeners who could have easily got distressed. I thought I would rumble up and down the ivories, stand on the loud pedal, gargle, open my throat, see what happened…
But then I got sidetracked again, because I couldn’t resist the attractions of my new toy, a Boss-BR 800 digital recorder. And giving the piano the cold shoulder, I turned to a different instrument and plugged it in to the Boss. Dear reader, I am excited to admit that for the first time in my life, today I made my acoustic guitar sound like a bass guitar. Just by twiddling some knobs on a machine. Yes, I know, this is old hat to all you techno-geeks. But for me to hold and feel strings resonating and sounding, in my headphones, as a bass guitar does – I tell you, I wanted to elbow Jim off the bass at tonight’s band rehearsal. I wanted to slap. Pop. Even go fretless.
I temporarily forgot about Mahler’s composing hut. I temporarily forgot about my piano. But during the fling with my acoustic-masquerading-as-bass guitar, it sat, it listened, it waited, and settled itself more firmly into the dining room carpet, confident that it would never be banished to the garden shed.
Mahler’s Komponierhaus in Steinbach on the Attersee is located in a campsite in the grounds of the Hotel Föttinger. You can ask for a key and go and have a look. He wrote part of his second and all of his third symphony there. The other two huts are in Maernigg in southern
, and Dobbiaco on the Italian-Austrian border. Austria