What are we doing here?

Dear reader

Thus is the first time I have addressed Your Readership in that manner. Intentionally I have tried not to really address anybody here. Today I will do exactly that.

For there are two of us, me the writer and you the reader. And so, what are we doing here, you and me?

Let me start with myself, and try to be really honest. (As I just wrote in another text, I think honesty is the real “talent” (unit of weigth) of Man, on a much higher level than “truth”, which is often just a convenient excuse to get in a fight, verbal or actual, intellectual or bloody.)

Why am I here, writing? What am I doing?

I now realize that I am basically writing columns. I have been working for many years as a columnist and this has almost become second nature, definitely a habit, with me. Possibly a bad habit.

And even if it is good, why on Earth am I writing free columns on the Net? Trying to prove something, am I?

The answer, as usual, has several facets. It is important for me to formulate myself. To form sentences and build logical/ poetical palaces is a vital need, even stronger than playing or composing music.

— However, that can be done writing regular books. Why do it on the Net?

Instant reaction and appreciation is part of the answer.

That would be logical if there WAS reaction and appreciation. When there isn´t another part of the motive needs to be looked at:

Writing here is way to survive, to get through a difficult patch in life. It helps me to feel alive and at least verbally kicking. So there is a therapeutic motive, probably somewhat narcissistic as well.

So much about me. Now what about you? Why are you here? What are YOU doing here? Let´s have a little soul-searching, shall we.

I know that rather few people are reading my texts. There´s a good chance that you and I know each other, maybe even intimately. This leads to some questions to the unknown, as well as well known, visitors of this page:

Why are you so seldom making your voice heard? I´ve had perhaps 2-3 real comments here, but most visitors leave without leaving a visiting card.

I understand that one needs special motives for writing a comment; I seldom do that myself.

However, you could also write me an email? That might feel like an even more dramatic step than leaving a comment. But way back, around -96 when I launched my first “home page” I got lots and lots of mail from interesting, happy and angry, strangers. Today, 20 years later, I hardly ever see mail from strangers. (Instead lots and lots of strange spam.)

The roles have changed. You, the reader was not so long ago sitting, figuratively, in the same coffee house as I. You sometimes came over to my table to discuss this or that, or maybe suggest that I “remove my shit from the Internet”.

Here is one memorable e-mail from that happy time.

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 14:14:51 -0500
From: stuart@mcs.com
To: horatius@common.se
Subject: your webpage

It sucks!

Believe it or not, that mail made me glad; somebody actually took the small trouble to tell me that my webpage sucked!

Talking of which I will tell you, dear reader, how I nowadays see our relationship.

Not as a two people sitting in a coffee house making small talk. No, I feel like a stripper in a cheap porno joint, dancing behind a glass wall where you can see me, but I can only imagine you. You leave a small trace behind, enough for the statistics to pick up, but not for me to understand. What you see, think, understand and feel, not to mention who you are, remain mysteries.

I am kind of stuck with my question: Why, if you know me (and even if you don´t!) aren´t you having a conversation with me? In this our brave new communication society of ours.

Why don´t you open the glass wall, stop being an invisible observer and rise to the level of participator, thereby also raising my status from a Thing Clinically Observed to interligent interlocutor?

How far will we let voyeurism go? You could say that exhibitionism, of which I perhaps could be accused, invites voyeurism. No, it can just as well invite discussion, conversation, dialogue, simply sitting down for a glass of IRL wine. “Hey, tell me your reasons for letting it all hang out, will you…?”

Voyeurism does not need exhibitionism, it can observe and distance itself from most anything. Exhibitionism is an outstretched hand (as in The Who´s Tommy; “See me, feel me, touch me”) while voyeurism is the hand that says No-no, let´s do this in a hygienic way.

So tell me. I am listening to you.

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Musical favorites: Doppio Concerto

What follows here I consider to be one of the great works of the 20th century.

Hans Werner Henze´s Double concerto for oboe and harp was written for Heinz and Ursula Holliger. This is a superlative recording with Paul Sacher conducting Collegium Musicum. (Sacher also commissioned the work, I believe.)


Perhaps I should say something about the music. It has always reminded me of white marble, Greek gods, a breeze blowing from a frozen sea and dim memories of lovers from former lives.

I find it irresistibly attractive, which makes me, as is often the case with strong attraction, disinclined to analyze, dissect or even comment. When something is wholly beautiful, why perform surgery?

Duration: ca. 30 minutes. I humbly suggest concentrated listening, without detracting multitasking.

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Soft and strong

There are certain words
that makes your writing
sound weak


By using such words
you sound
undecided, hesitant, irresolute

But who cares about sound?

These words
actually makes you stronger
They show that you are not
an arrogant, cocksure know-it-all

You know that you don´t KNOW
and you express it

Which is a giant step forward


feather pen

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The true life of Salamon Ödön

The view of Samuel Butler starts to take hold. Today I had a most enjoyable hour together with Salamon Ödön. He died in 1903 but is living his “true life” now, sometimes with me.

We met in a bookshop, where I picked up (for 390 FT) a slim volume called “Minden jóra fordul, de későn” (Everything turns out for the best, but belatedly),

A book of aphorisms, of course. Aphorisms very easily lead to satiety. Imagine a jar filled with magic peas. The magical thing: each of them can expand so as to fill the entire jar, if not burst it. Now imagine eating five or ten of these peas. You will be more than full.

I opened the book from time to time, took out a few magically expanding morsels and saw that they were good. Once I took out a morsel that was so good I almost threw up. The goodness about it was almost — lethal. Moving in the land of “Gloomy Sunday”, that supposedly suicidal song, — no, it doesn´t kill itself, but those who hear it, if you believe it, and I don´t; it is regularly played in the cafés of Budapest, and if it leads to suicide it is of the delayed kind that cannot be distinguished from ordinary death — I have come to believe in the lethal powers of, as I said, not songs but certain sentences.

One of them was contained in this slim volume.

It was not just an expanding pea but more like a fish-bone that gets stuck in your throat and wipes you out by cutting off your air supply. Clearly there was MUCH power in that small book!

Today I picked it out again and tried to find the dangerous aphorism. (I usually bend the top of pages that contain something special but there was no clue.) Finally I found it, but didn´t read it. I read many other aphorisms, though, too many for my digestion but I couldn´t resist them, they were so good. How good? So good that several times they brought a broad sunshine smile, beyond Duchenne, to my face. Now that´s a sign of being in good company.

I will not share the dangerous aphorism with you, but here are a few others. Before that I should say a few things about the author. I know little, and am content with little. I mean, when you have a really good time with someone, the first thing you do after parting is not looking him up on Google. That´s how I see it. But I know that he lived a relatively short life, 39 years. He spent some time in Paris and worked as a journalist. I think that is enough really.

Now for some expanding (exploding) peas.

Hátunk mögött semmi, előttünk minden: ez legyen minden nagyra törekvő jelszava.

Angyalok sem szoktak soha beleizzadni a munkába.

A mai versenyvilágban a szerénység halálos mérge a tehetségnek.

Meg akarod tudni a jövődet? Add össze múltadat a jelennel, vond le ebből a konzekvenciákat, és előtted áll a jövőd.

Már sok óvatos ember járt úgy, hogy a veszélyt mindig elkerülve, oly hosszu utat választott, amelyet kijárni nem tudott.

Néha, hogy életban maradhassunk, új életet is kell kezdenünk.

Az ember regénye ma a kiadás és bevétel közti külömbségből áll.

Tavasszal jobban hiszünk barátainkban.

Mennyi balsorson kell átesnünk, hogy a boldogságot megbecsüljük.

A művelt férfiak kesztyűben és frakkban teszik egymást tönkre.

Csodálatos sajátossága a pénznek, hogy éppen a zsenilális emberek zsebébe unatkozik legjobban.

Ugyan ki törődik azokal a patkányokkal, amelyek a süllyedő hajót nem hagyják el!

Gyermektelen szülők figyelmébe ajánlom azt a körülményt, hogy legtöbb kisgyermeket a tengerparti vidéken láttam.


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En smak av forna tider

Vi vet ofta hur äldre musik låter (vissa av oss vet BARA hur äldre musik låter) men kanske mera sällan hur man skrev om den. Här ett citat ur “Svenska tonsättare under nittonde århundradet” av Lina Lagerbielke. Det handlar om August Söderman (han med Svenskt Festspel).

Det intressanta är inte bara skrivsättet utan s.a.s. levnadssättet. Jag har tillåtit mig det något grova tilltaget att kursivera rader som jag finner särskilt intressanta och / eller underhållande, samt strukit under några ord som jag anser förtjänar att överleva SAOL-s uppgraderings- och kasseringsprocess. Ni får ursäkta.

— “Johan August Söderman var Stockholmsbarn, född den 17 juli 1832, son af orkesteranföraren och vaudevilleförfattaren J. V. Söderman. Gossen var i tidiga åren håglös och oläraktig, och då han ej heller visade någon böjelse för musiken, som fadern hoppats och önskat, skickades han såsom en sista utväg till sjös vid elfva års ålder. Redan i Bremen blef resan afbruten, då han därstädes insjuknade och måste återsändas hem.

— Han sattes då i Grundens pianoinstitut, där han i början var omöjlig men sedan ett, tu, tre, tycktes få en snilleknäpp och började arbeta med en fart och en vaknande energi, så att han snart gick förbi alla kamraterna. Då han äfven spelade violin och oboe, blef han tidigt medverkande i orkestrarna och kom då snart till insikt om huru en orkester bör vara sammansatt och ordnad.

— Söderman engagerades redan vid aderton år af Edvard Stjernström som orkesteranförare vid hans resande teatertrupp och besökte med den under 1850-talet åtskilliga platser i Sverige och Finland. I det sistnämnda landet gjorde han sig först bemärkt som kompositör med sitt första verk för scenen, “Urdur eller Neckens dotter”, hvilket uppfördes i Helsingfors 1852.

— Det mottogs af en lång kritik i tidningarna, hvilken först klandrade det något lätta i musiken (naturlig nog till ett sådant sagospel) men slutade med orden: “Vi lyckönska herr Söderman, att detta första försök slagit så väl ut, samt önska att han oförtrutet måtte sträfva fram till konstens sköna mål, obekymrad om hopens efemeriska hyllning eller klander, i medvetandet af att han, om han uppnått detsamma, skall kunna behärska just denna hop, som nu med tjusande förespeglingar söker locka honom ifrån den rätta stråten.”

Slut citat. Fy för att försöka locka en konstnär från hans höga bana!

Så långt om Söderman. När jag ändå är i gång att skriva på svenska vill jag också dela med mig av en dikt som jag fann i en sång av Ludvig Norman. Vissa svenska dikter som tonsattes på 1800-talet ger mig utslag och än värre åkommor, men den här går att älska, särskilt sista strofen.


Sparfven sjöng för vårens drifvor
Djupt i skog.
Sjöng om sippor och om vivor,
Sjöng — och dog.

Strax var ej likväl hans hjerta
Riktigt kallt
Och för glöden i dess smärta
Drifvan smalt.

Kom så vid en vink af sunnan
Vårens hopp,
Stego då der snön brast unnan
Sippor opp;

Syntes vänliga och milda
Den förfrusne sparfven bilda
Sorgsen ring.

Ensligt lif bland stela klippor,
Död af köld, men graf af sippor

Sångarlott indeed! Så sorgligt, vackert och sant. Den lotten inkluderar förstås sådana sångare som poeter och andra Yin-arbetare. (Se min tidigare text The True Life för vissa kopplingar.)

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Two apples (comparison and fantasy)

How unhappy we are at times when we compare ourselves and our lives with others. “Miserere, how I wish I had your life, money, car, wife, etc. ”

Sometimes this can be something positive, if it forces us to get our act together and actually work (not just yearn) for that which we want. A kick in the butt. As when Rubinstein heard Horowitz play and realized he needed to practise more .-)

But what is a comparison? Putting two things beside each other, looking at them and measuring the differences. You can compare two apples in front of you but not one apple here and another in a different continent. You cannot compare an apple and an Apple computer. That´s unscientific.

But it gets worse. When we compare our lives with other people´s lives we can get into really muddy zones. A classic, modern example is the Facebook comparison.

Let´s look more closely at the FB-apples.

One apple is my life. I know quite a bit about it, if I open my eyes really wide I can know quite a lot about it.

The other apple is your life. I see it, if seeing it can be called, through the FB-lens. Which is also a filter, and a crop tool, plus all the other Photoshop tools.

With a photo I need some kind of original, but frankly there is no need for that on Facebook. Everything can be made up. Name, profile picture, history, occupation, every status message can be downright fake. So how the hell can I compare my apple with yours?

That is an extreme case and we don´t need to go that far.

But even so, that other apple — your life, or what I see, or think/imagine, as your life — is probably cropped, censured, sanitized and beautified. You show what you want to show, other parts are concealed or never mentioned. Some things you enlarge and exaggerate, others you reduce or depreciate.

And yes, some parts you or I might even make up. That picture of your stylish dinner might be your third cousin´s dinner, and my login at Sheraton Dubai, well, let´s not look too closely into that.

But the pictures sure look nice, and it could have all been true (in an other, better world)…. Yes! Why not better this dull, imperfect world sometimes? And what better tool for that than Facebook?

Back to our science and apples. But also to some comfort and consolation (things science seldom gives us).

If you find yourselves being depressed when you compare your life with the life of somebody else, ask yourself if this is a comparison or a phantasy.

Sorry, I don´t want to involve YOU in all this grit. If I find myself being depressed when I compare myself with someone else, I can ask myself if this is a comparison, or just a fantasy.

Are the two apples both visible to me, in front of me? When did I last meet or talk with this other “apple”, more than over a short lunch? What and how much do I actually know, and what do I believe, assume and surmise?

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
(Robert Frost)

If the answer to those questions is “what I KNOW is very little” then I am not comparing, but only indulging in a fantasy.

Why we, you and I, do that is another question. The enjoyment of complaining and self-pity sometimes seems to be a universal or at least global force. Masochism takes many interesting and “intellectual” forms. And so on.

Knowing why might not help much. Seeing the what — that I don´t compare but just indulge a fantasy — can hopefully disperse the clouds of confusion, at least a bit.

Coda: When I see that I don´t compare but making things up, I might get a glimpse of the real values of my life, as it is here and know. And doing that I might totally forget to “compare” (fantasize) and actually live in the present.

And seeing that there is no real ground for comparison, even the desire to compare might go up in smoke and evaporate.

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You exist

Lost again in the
dark forest
(I don´t mean
the Schwarzwald torte)

Trapped in the jungle
of confusing
terrifying thoughts

I turn left
turn right
blind alleys on each side

Monsters of the ID(isney)
are staring at me with neon eyes
running after me
clutching at my throat
sinking their claws into my heart

But there is an end to everything…

After total exhaustion
I give up and lie down
Sleep (a much better driver than I)
takes over the wheel


The forest is still dark
but sleep has dispersed
at least the worst phantoms

Between the almost impenetrable branches
a thin ray of light
a delicate whiff of hope

A thought, until now neglected and cast aside,
momentarily disperses the fog:

Things cannot be
all bad, since…

You Exist.

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The secret life of music

This theme has been on my agenda many times before. I have written about it, made workshops around it, lectured about it. But it is time to stop being “about” or “around” and go straight to the POINT. I am now gathering all my old material, and “downloading” new substance.

My premise is that music is such a wonderful thing. And let´s stop right there! Wonderful = full of wonder.

But if we have lost the ability to feel wonder — and its cousins curiosity, astonishment, reverence, fascination — then it doesn´t really help that music is so wonderful. We (listeners,, receivers) need to be wonderful as well.

Or maybe wonder-empty, having an inner vacuum that longs to be filled with fantastic new revelations. If I have anything I have this vacuum. Music, after a long life together, still fills me with wonder. I am still thrilled by the thought “Let´s turn the page and see what musical surprises will jump at us….”

To be continued, as you understand. On this site and its sister site Melosophy (music-wisdom) and its blog Melosophics.

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Musical favorites: David Ackles

I have written elsewhere about David Ackles. I bought his LP American Gothic after having read a great review of it in Melody Maker, I think.

I didn´t like it at first, always a good sign of a coming Discovery.

There is very much dark melancholy and even depression in his music, which I resonated strongly with back then. And I still regard him as a great artist, painting with dark colours, most often looking at the Yin side of life, observing the Shadow.

David Ackles
He has written my very favorite “protest song”. Protest songs are generally about a crowd singing / shouting against this or that injustice. The tone is usually collective, the emotions crowd-emotions. Ackles has in the following piece captured the essence of protest without protesting, just by describing, softly and with irony, what happens to some of us when when we are cast out from the sphere of normal, “respectable” people.

Outsiders are one of his main themes, love songs is another branch. Here is a lovely one.

But we go back to dystopia. Here is one more dark song about the ugly side of life, tarnished by our disability to be humane to each other. Ah, the rash, thoughtless laughter, what a lacerating weapon it can be…

But let´s not part in darkness. Open the window wide so that fresh air can enter, with these lines:

Lend me a shack and I’ll perform you
All kinds of happy songs to ease your pain.
Think of all we will gain.
We’ll be sunny until it starts to rain. (from “California”)

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Musical favorites: Petrarca sonnet 123

I have this theory: The winner is never the best. The most beautiful “miss universe” lives in a small poor village, far away from television and the hungry eyes of reporters. crown
The fastest runner alive will never be discovered by anyone, for similar reasons. The very best wine is known only to a small family in a godforsaken corner of the world.

It is a very comfortable theory, for I neither need nor can prove it (if I could, the fast runner, the Miss Universe and the wine would be soon discovered, compared, rated — and in a way, killed).

When it comes to musical recordings something similar often happens. The most famous versions need not be the best — aside from the fact that we don´t, and don´t want to, agree on which is the best. Arguing and hotly debating this question, for example on YouTube, is a favorite sport of many a musical aficionado.

Enough talk. Here is an absolutely wonderful (two superlatives are enough) version of Liszt´s Sonetto del Petrarca no.123, played by the little known Czech pianist Miroslav Langer.

You could bring out your yardstick to compare it with other versions — or you could just bravely lean back, listen and enjoy.

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Jag trodde aldrig jag skulle skriva en text med denna titel men det är väl dags att överraska sig själv.

Jag ser mig omkring och ser mer och mer roller. Eller kanske ingrodda vanor, som djupa, leriga hjulspår. När ska gatan städas, asfalteras?

Kvinnor sitter fast i vissa hjulspår, män i andra. Det “svaga könet” tycks gå omkring med den inre övertygelsen att vara det högre könet (vem behöver styrka när männen är så bra på muskler och slit?). Självklart ska kvinnan gå före, det är klart att hon inte håller upp en dörr.

Utseende och skönhet, härliga saker så länge man har dem, och den tiden vill man förlänga. Men på bekostnad av vad? Är det kanske så att männen också får klara av tänkandet, ännu ett slitgöra?

Den höviska tiden är förbi för länge sen — för kvinnorna. De har tillägnat sig all möjlig emancipation och girl/bitch power. Men de berättar inte om detta för männen, som själva får fatta och begripa att en hövisk riddare inte längre matchas av någon skön mamsell. Riddare finns det många av, mamseller är rariteter.

Vad sitter då männen fast i? Till exempel rustning med tillhörande hjälm och spjut. Som sagt, attribut från forna dagar, men vi karlar har inte uppgraderat oss lika duktigt som kvinnorna. Vi lever egentligen i skilda tidsepoker.

Det som jag alltmer ser också är halva människor. Att två halvor måste hänga ihop för att, ja, varför? För att må bra, vara “hela”, matcha varandra, bli bekräftade och “godkända”. Det är nästan ett slags handikapp jag börjar se, inte lika uppenbart som att sakna en fot eller en arm men snudd på.

Att vara homo eller lesbisk tycks inte förta behovet av komplettering, den andra halvan ser bara annorlunda ut än hos heterolägret.

Kanske kommer man aldrig att bli hel så länge man är man eller kvinna. Eller så är detta bara ännu ett varv i de gamla mentala hjulspåren. Kanske lurar androgyn harmoni bakom närmaste gathörn?

Att vara konstnär är att ha ett visst försprång; vi har alltid tillåtit oss att vara mer gränslösa än andra grupper. Och kanske kommer det sega, trista kriget mellan könen att ändas först när vi lägger ner våra yttre vapen och sluter fred mellan inre Mars och Venus, när vi låter Yin — som vattnet mjuk och stark på samma gång — lägga en sval hand på den kämpande och martialiskt frustande Yangs panna och säga: Let it be.

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