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Just last weekend I finished two books I was reading on parallel: one about the legendary composer Gustav Mahler (Why Mahler from Norman Lebrecht) and the other about the jazz legend John Coltrane (Coltrane – The Story of a Sound by Ben Ratliff). What struck me was the similarities in the story of these two musical geniuses. Their respective approach to their Work mirrored each other some 50 years apart, and in different worlds and circumstances. Both of their genius was revealed through a tremenduous amount of practice: Gustav used to drive nuts the various orchestras he directed with the level of excellence he demanded in rehearsal, the musician that worked and collaborated with Coltrane were in awe of the amount of practice he got through right till the end of his life. Both Mahler and Coltrane were constantly working to adapt, incorporate and innovate in their pursuit of a music or sound like life itself. There is almost a religious zeal about them. Both musicians demonstrated prodigious physical feats to get their music out, and the response of their audience is described very vividly as creating a deep level of connection.

But the point is that both books are really inspiring whether or not you are a musical buff. And genius is nothing without a huge amount of hard work.

Now I am off to start my Mahler record collections in earnest… and to listen again to “A Love Supreme”.

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