Ties and Counterpoint

Composer Arnold Schönberg once said that “if you are in a position to observe how Mahler ties his tie, you can learn more counterpoint from this than you can in three years at the conservatory”.The point being that how a musician goes about her life can be just as informative as the music making.

Observing how Mahler ties his tie is close to impossible. Close, because we at least have books about Mahler (maybe a section includes his tie etiquette). Biographies let us know how musicians dealt with family life, finances, and social and creative circles. They can give us pointers, things to avoid, and everything in between.

What these biographical details draw upon is that which filmmaker Werner Herzog declared: “I haven’t had a career at all. I only have a life”. Musicians aren’t people too, they are people period. Being human precedes being artist.

Even Mahler had to put on a tie before he wrote his symphonies.


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