Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor




Jonathan Taylor is author of the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta Books, 2007), and the novel Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), which was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013, and longlisted for The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. His poetry collection is entitled Musicolepsy (Shoestring Press, 2013), and his short-story collection is Kontakte and Other Stories (Roman Books, 2013). He is editor of the anthology Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt, 2012), winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Fiction Anthology 2013. He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at De Montfort University in Leicester, and co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators ( In this latter role, he is General Editor of Hearing Voices magazine and the Crystal Pamphlets series, and he co-hosts Shindig, the bi-monthly open-mic poetry evenings in Leicester.

Jonathan is author of two academic studies entitled Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003) and Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Sussex Academic, 2007). He is co-editor, with Andrew Dix, of Figures of Heresy: Radical Theology in English and American Writing, 1800-2000 (Sussex Academic, 2005).

Creative Work

First published in The London Magazine.

Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19, no.6

mit sehr zartem Ausdruck

(Arnold Schoenberg’s direction in score)

Here is Mahler’s musical post-mortem,
his 4/4 dirges laid out, Sehr Langsam,
barely twitching under coroner’s scalpel,

reflex-recalling two chords, funeral bells
clanging on Liechtensteinstrasse
which the corpse once told you to set,

and pianississimo pre-reminisciences
of les adieux sighs at the Ninth’s opening,
a symphony cut down to bone




Arnold Schoenberg wrote his peculiar, epigrammatic Six Little Piano Pieces (Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19) in 1911. The first five were written together, whilst the sixth – which this poem is about – was apparently written when Schoenberg heard of the death of his great mentor and patron, the Austrian symphonist Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).

Marked Sehr Langsam (‘very slowly’), the piano piece lasts no more than a minute, yet it seems to compress the massive worlds of Mahler’s symphonies – some of which last up to an hour and a half – into the smallest possible space. Here is one of his funeral marches reduced to its bare bones; and here also are similar intervals to the opening musical ‘sighs’ at the start of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, a symphony which greatly affected Schoenberg and his pupils Webern and Berg, but which was yet to be premiered. In turn, Mahler’s musical ‘sighs’ hearken back to Beethoven’s Les Adieux (‘farewell’) Piano Sonata. Just as Mahler’s Ninth is a kind of ‘farewell’ to life, so Schoenberg’s miniature is also a farewell to his friend. Some years before, it was that friend who had told Schoenberg to set to music the bells sounding for a funeral on Liechtensteinstrasse, Vienna. This tiny piece is probably as close as he ever came to doing so.

I write a great deal about music in my prose and poetry, especially 'classical music'. This is partly because of my own background as a lapsed composer. I think it’s crucial, when writing about such a different art-form, for the form and style of the writing – as well as the content – to reflect its subject matter. In this poem, I wanted to convey and perhaps simulate the allusiveness of the music, its terse language, its absolute concision, and even its cadences.



Select publications

Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself, Granta Books, 2007
Entertaining Strangers, Salt, 2012
Musicolepsy, Shoestring Press, 2013
Kontakte and Other Stories, Roman Books, 2013
Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Sussex Academic, 2007
Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003


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