The unreality of subway music

I couldn’t part ways with her performance; it made waiting on the platform sublime like the blue in the ocean.

Always in a hurry to get home, I get off the train and walk towards the stairs. At my back is an older gentleman, a bit hunched over, playing the clarinet. I look back, and smile, thinking how fitting it is for the night to make an escape from the rudimentary work life. I glide up the stairs, still hearing the remnants of music. The sound follows until it disappears in the length of the hallway.


I’ve heard the sounds of the kora, the zampoña, the erhu, the saw, and the violin played by real people. It’s never the same instrument or the same effect. Somehow the music invents a sensation or gives power to one hidden below the surface.The Mexican Banda with the fiery accordion plays, and the melancholy voice lifts me from numbness. Suddenly the randomness of life that often befuddles us makes logical sense at the hands of these musicians. They make life have humor and zeal. They hop from one wagon to the next, and don’t we all do that? It just takes a bit of accordion-playing to realize it.

When I’m at my worst, frustrated, and in a fury to make it somewhere, there’s a show waiting at the center of the platform. Gimagua (Identical twins), was one day playing on Lexington. I was waiting for the N, and the crowds kept piling; the N was a no-show for the late rush hour. The guitars kept going, and it appears they were being professionally filmed. I stood watching, and thinking I could be dancing to this flamenco, Afro-Cuban and rumba inspired rhythm. I stopped caring about the train, and my thoughts blended with the strumming and the enticing dance.

After the summer’s stubbornness, there was much breeze, but down in the subway it still felt clammy. I heard it from afar, coming down to wait for a train, a girl playing violin with all intent and emotion. I stood there as everyone else, memorized, that she would grant us with the chance to hear classical music of another era. I couldn’t part ways with her performance; it made waiting on the platform sublime like the blue in the ocean.

There are quiet days, when you have yourself to reflect. Down the empty gray hallway, I walk, asking about the dilemma of opposite paths. If I go this way, I shall… and so forth. But what if…? And there, out of the corner of your eye, there’s a guy wearing a hat, playing the saxophone– creeping up smoothly to the solitude of the evening. The saxophonist is playing for me, it seems, as there is no one else around. The melody makes way for courage, and the noise of my heels makes an emphatic gesture to face the unknown. I should just go and give it a chance…

~You still feel it: the unreality of music in tight corners.