Sunday, February 25, 2007

Music of the Subways

I had a series of nice New York moments this weekend, in addition to the fact that it is snowing right now and Brooklyn always looks beautiful in the snow.

I was on the subway last night and an older gentleman got on with a friend and his 12 string guitar. He looked like "Old Bluesman" straight out of central casting, but when he began playing guitar, it was anything but the standard blues (the music of complaint). It was beautiful, soulful, soft and hypnotic. He seemed to be playing for his friend rather than money. When he was finished, the two of them talked rather than getting up and passing the hat.

At the next stop, a group of four Mexicans got on the car with their instruments: guitar, accordian, stand up double bass, and hat. Yes, one member of the group was only there to pass the hat for donations. I'm assuming they were Mexicans because their first song was that "Aye-yi-yi-yi-I am a Frito Bandito" song, but they could have been from Honduras or El Salvador. I was half-expecting a battle of the bands between them and the Old Bluesman, but he just listened to them play while continuing to talk with his friend. Someone one the subway was eating an orange and its scent perfumed the entire car.

The best occured this afternoon while taking the subway to Manhattan. I was reading a book when suddenly I heard someone singing the "Ave Maria." I looked around the car expecting to see the standard robust opera singer (again, right out of central casting) and was surprised to see the incredible sound coming out of a rather slight, unassuming young lady. I guess I should count myself lucky that it wasn't a fat lady, cause that would mean that it was over. Regardless, the girl was able to sing the "Ave Maria" in a way that resonated throughout the subway car, her beautiful voice completely saturating and subduing everything else going on the the car.

It was absolutely beautiful, one of those unexpected moments in life that you treasure.

I gave her a dollar.


Julie said...

I'm glad I wasn't there as "Ave Maria" is one of those songs that causes me immediatly to cry (just because it's so beautiful) and I would have felt like a fool crying on the subway.

number 2 sister said...

Don't dis the blues. Remember:

"The blues ain't about making you feel better. They're about making everybody else feel worse"
-- Bleeding Gums Murphy

number 2 sister said...

Y'know, I used to think that movie musicals had an air of fantasy because no one really walks down the street and breaks out into song. Then I moved to Baltimore and started going to Lexington Market on my lunch hour. And, right there on Lexington Street, I did indeed see people stop their walking and break into song (gospel, to be exact). Of course, the lady who carries along a suitcase-sized amplifier, complete with microphone, sort or takes the charm out of this phenom.

London also has great subway & subway station musicians. The open guitar/violin/trumpet case doesn't bother me.

Iva said...

Actually, I love the music in the subways (or the tube, if you like.)
Whenever I start singing something that I think is "appropo" to a moment or a situation, Erin always says to me, "You know, Mom, life is NOT a musical." Well, it should be!!

the hanged man said...

Actually, I've been thinking of taking my videocamera out and taping some of the buskers' performances. Might make a nice musical documentary.

One of my recent faves were a group of teenagers that were like a mini-marching band. They had a tuba, two trumpets, two saxes, drums and trombone and they sounded great.

Bob Fingerman said...

"I gave her a dollar."

Art and commerce meet.

My subway experiences of late seem to involve stepping over and around other people's vomit. Maybe they heard renditions of "Ave Maria" that were less polished.

Oh, and rats. I think it's getting way worse down there. Not pre-Giuliani worse, but bad enough.