Thursday, February 18, 2016

Defining Moments in Arts History - All Coming Out of Train Rides...

Honneger's unique portrayal of a train ride("Pacific 231")   occupied my thoughts for a brief time the other day, followed by a recording   I remember hearing, with Honegger himself conducting. The recording, going back to the late 'twenties, was  one of my earlier memories. I really should get back to listening to it once again.
At any rate, it led to my thinking of other train rides that are connected to the arts, and three were scraped out of the bottom of my memory box:
On a train ride between New York and Boston, the composer George Gershwin became aware of a  pattern of rhythms emanating from the train wheels on the tracks. And in a manner not at all clear to those of us in the arts, that particular 'imagery' became the catalyst of the composition that  set the history of music on a new course; namely, the "Rhapsody in Blue."  Gershwin  himself was the bearer of this  event.
On a train ride from New York to Hollywood, Walt Disney  was discussing his cartoon character Oswald the Rabbit with his wife, and  mentioned to her that he wanted to come up with another animal character for his expanding lexicon. After a brief period of time, Mrs. Disney just happened to suggest "how about a mouse?"
Thus was born Mickey Mouse.
Many years later; in 1968, to be exact, I was on a train bound for New York, having been invited to a recording to be made at Carnegie Hall for a performance to be broadcast later on that year on world television. Everyone in that audience had been invited to attend; therefore it  was a closed affair, with no publicity attached.  To  state  that I was in an extreme state of excitement is to understate. I remember veritably every mile of that trip, even remembering the contents of the newspaper I had picked up in the train station before boarding. That newspaper was chock full of the horrors of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
The concert? Oh, it just happened to be the first television appearance of Vladimir Horowitz...

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