Writes, like Oliver Sacks, his life, his dying, his death.

In a passage from his book about music and the brain, Sacks notes that he woke one morning with Mahler in his mind. He didn’t know it was Mahler.

I found something deeply disturbing and unpleasant about the music, and longed for it to stop. I had a shower, a cup of coffee, went for a walk, shook my head, played a mazurka on the piano – to no avail. The hateful hallucinatory music continued unabated. Finally I called a friend… and said that I was hearing songs that I could not stop, songs that seemed to me full of melancholy and a sort of horror. The worst thing, I added, was that the songs were in German, a language I did not know. [He] asked me to sing or hum some of the songs…

“Your mind is playing Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder,” he said, “his songs of mourning for the death of children.” I was amazed by this, for I rather dislike Mahler’s music and would normally find it quite difficult to remember in detail, let alone sing, any of his Kindertotenlieder. But here my dreaming mind, with infallible precision [the day before, Sacks had finished a stint on the children’s unit of a hospital], had come up with an appropriate symbol of the previous day’s events.

Leonard Bernstein calls Mahler’s Ninth “a sonic presentation of death itself. . . which paradoxically reanimates us every time we hear it.” No doubt some of the writing Sacks will now produce will have this quality.

Sacks has always been very good on the dreaming mind, which may be all the mind that we have, really… Joyce and Nabokov and Mahler voice this mind… to the extent that they can…

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