Janet Baker
Lessons from Mahler
by Joanne Corey

In Sage Hall 5 at Smith, spring 1980, our music theory professor places the needle on the final band of the album of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder. The voice of mezzosoprano Janet Baker emerges from the orchestra:

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen…
I am lost to the world…

She weaves her way among the delicately orchestrated lines, answers the English horn, sings of how the world may think she is dead because she has set aside its tumult to rest in a quiet place. In serenity:

Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.
I live alone in my heaven,
in my love, in my song.

As the English horn resolves a suspension at the final cadence, I look up from my score to see our professor weeping.

Analysis of
chromatic chords failed that day.
Tears taught me Mahler.

Thirty-five years on
life, faith, love, music combine.
Eyes well, spirit rests.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My friend and roommate Mary Wallace took this photo of me at the console of the 1910 Austin organ in John M. Greene Hall on the Smith College campus, Northampton, Massachusetts. It appears in our Smith Class of 1982 yearbook.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the summer 2015 session of the Binghamton Poetry Project, I learned about the haibun form and have been experimenting with it. This is the first haibun I am sharing with a wider audience.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Corey lives and writes in Vestal, New York, where she is active with the Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and the Bunn Hill Poets. Her 2015 publications include the spring anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project, Candles of Hope anthology (GWL Publishing, U.K.), the “All About My Name,” “My Perfect Vacation,” and “My Sweet Word” poetry series from Silver Birch Press, and Wilderness House Literary Review fall quarterly. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog at topofjcsmind.wordpress.com.