Saturday, December 15, 2007
Mahler on the Subway
Alex Ross, writer of the fantastic book The Rest is Noise tells that when Mahler was appointed the conductor for the NY Philharmonic in 1909, he'd take the subway system to work. At that time, the NYC metro was only a couple years old, and I can imagine the novel excitement of commuting underground to your destination. Which I'm sure was, for Mahler, more glamorous than some of the stops I've had to get off at. (Why can't all the stops be designed by Squire Vickers?) However, Mahler being Mahler, I can only imagine the thoughts running through his nervous, energetic head while he's riding the subway. Naturally this image came to mind- even in the middle of the day, Mahler rides alone on a train. He thinks to himself, "This train is a machine of death. Don't die don't die don't die. It's taking me to Hell. I have to conduct my symphony tonight. My children are dead. WAGNER!! Oh, here's my stop."
It also begs the thought that perhaps he might have one day gotten around to writing Transitodenlieder. Songs on the death of transit. Or maybe Das Lied von der Metro? Song of the Subway? Luckily Mahler survived his commute, and Mahler's symphonies are preserved in even better condition than those hundred-year-old tunnels beneath this beautiful earth.