Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Beauty In Extremis

We are not concerned here with death so much as the farthest reaches of the creative process, be it in music, movement or film…


The Swede Mats Ek created this provocative exploration of the human condition in the mid-90’s. This small section from a later film version features Ek’s brother Niklas, and the mesmerizing Parisian Sylvie Guillem. Now in her mid-40’s and living in London, she was discovered and mentored by Nureyev, and was already a legend in her teens. A gymnast before she turned to dance, her now famous ability to mimic six o’clock is hinted at around 3.38. In the flesh, and there’s not much of it, she is frighteningly intense and out there, on the edge. ‘Music’ by the Estonian, Arvo Part.


Used literally dozens of times by advertising Tristrams, film producers, ring-tone Johnnies – even by RTE in Ireland to ram home car accident statistics – you might imagine this haunting few minutes by Arvo Part would have had all the life squeezed out of it – but no. Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror), in the bell-imitation style of tintinnabuli, for the spare forces of violin and piano, still has the power to move and disturb. Oddly, it appears to work with any visuals that it is married to but here, linked to scenes from Andrei Tarkovsky’s majestic film Mirror, it almost seems made for it, fitting like a hand to a glove…

Live With Me

Trip Hop is the phrase that first attached to the dense sound of the amoebic Bristolians Massive Attack, but it does scant justice to their ambition or to the pulsating orchestral soundscape they create, always serious and dark and often, as here, augmented by a really grown-up vid – this one, if I’m not mistaken, shot on the mean streets of South London, and switching effortlessly from grim reality to bizarre surreality. Popular music as art? To this six minute masterpiece I would say an unqualified yes.


Mozart once wrote to his father “I couldn’t get the ideas down quickly enough”, but his transcendent gifts, along with perhaps Schubert’s, were on a plane above even the very greatest, and ideas just tumbled out for most of their short lives. Consider the noble head and the penetrating gaze of the great Finn, Jean Sibelius and, before you hear a note of his music you may be able to postulate that, along with the inspiration came perspiration aplenty, as if the music were being hewn out of the landscape. The absence of human qualities – unless you count rough heroes and pure maidens – is replaced in his powerful imagination by a poetic apprehension of non-human forces. He arrived at his own ‘farthest reaches’ in late middle age. The muse left him; he struggled for a decade with another symphony, burning it in torment. He lived for another 30 years producing next to nothing. This from a man who conceived and notated whole symphonies in his head, only inscribing them when he was completely satisfied with what he ‘heard’. Here, the lightweight but delightful Andante Festivo, re-scored for string orchestra in 1939 from the string quartet original.

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About Author Profile: Mahlerman

Mahlerman's life was shaped by his single mother, who never let complete ignorance of a subject get in the way of having strong opinions about it. Facing retirement after a life in what used to be called 'trade', and having a character that consists mainly of defects, he spends his moments of idleness trying to correct them, one by one.

6 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Beauty In Extremis

    October 10, 2010 at 15:48

    Good to see some Bristolians in there, Mahlerman. And that ‘Mirror in the Mirror’ really is lovely.

  2. Gaw
    October 10, 2010 at 16:28

    Another amazing selection. I agree with Brit about Mirror – what a combination!

    Just watching the Massive video was enough to give me a hangover.

    October 10, 2010 at 17:41

    This is really brilliant stuff!!! the mirror film was genuinely moving. And what a lovely piece by Sibelius. A perfect sunday’s entertainment. Thank you Mahlerman!

    October 10, 2010 at 17:54

    Poor old Sibelius, who would have thought that he would have ended up looking like uncle Fester, sitting one January afternoon by a lake near Lillehammer, listening to Finlandia and the loons, with Mai Britt and Edgar, pissed, pure magic.
    Good on yer Mahlerman, Arvo, Jean and Der Spiegel, mirror mirror on the net, who is the fairest yet.

    October 11, 2010 at 10:07

    Rarely do I watch a video clip from beginning to end, but that Mirror clip is the mesmerizing art of film at its best.

    I also found myself wondering if I would listen to these pieces of music out of this film context. Not sure..

    October 11, 2010 at 12:13

    Than you so much for these. I particularly liked the first two. The Mirror piece made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, the amazement of simply being alive.

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