Music and 9/11

On Saturday, September 10 2011, Alan Gilbert spoke before the New York Philharmonic performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York. Following are his reflections that preceded the performance, which was telecast nationally on PBS and can be watched in full at

We are faced, on this anniversary, with the responsibility and privilege of commemorating the devastation and bravery we witnessed in our beloved New York City ten years ago, of acknowledging sacrifices and heroism that still leave us stunned. 

We look back, remembering the fallen with a sadness that will never pass, and also look ahead, seeking inspiration and reassurance. Words pale, and we are humbled.  So we do what people do when the boundaries of our reasoning are strained and we must turn to art.  We make music.

In that day’s immediate aftermath we spoke through music and questioned through music.  There were concerts by professionals and by schoolchildren. By saxophonists in the subways, and by singers on the sidewalks. By the New York Philharmonic, in this very hall, and by these same musicians in Lower Manhattan. We reached out to each other as Mankind always has, touching each other’s hearts and feeling our shared humanity.

We do so again tonight, with Mahler’s Resurrection symphony and its evocation of every aspect of life, from its agonies to its joys and its profound sense of hope. 

This is a performance for New York City, but it is particularly for the families of those who died, along with those of the courageous first-responders, many of whom are here tonight. 

As we perform and as we listen, we remember what we lost, and we honor those who have struggled to live after losing their loved ones. We also aspire to give resonance to some of the best aspects of the human spirit — tolerance, perseverance, and optimism. We are united in our hope for a bright future – a future in which we will never forget: stronger for our differences and living together in a world rich with friendship and peace.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit

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