Not Quite Elevator Music

20 Sep

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Last night I was riding the Subte (subway) headed towards Belgrano. The subway would be a great way to get around in Buenos Aires, except for the fact that they didn’t put much thought into it when they built it. Realistically, it serves only the centro, and the second you get farther out the lines end. To make matters worse, it stops running around 11 pm, and at 10 pm on weekends. In a city that never sleeps. But it only costs $1.10 ARG, so if you can get it to where you’re going, it’s a good deal.

The ride started off like you would expect–people rush in to find seats, the rest stand. The tracks bend and send passengers lurching into the walls. With not much else to do you look at people, the floor, and your eyes race from right to left as you look at the outside world as the train slows down at each stop. The noise of the tracks only interrupted by the occasional kid trying to sell something.

Suddenly two performers began to play, but it wasn’t the standard garbage cans or harmonica, whatever someone might usually play on a subway. Instead, it was classical guitar and a violin. I’m not going to lie and say I am knowledgeable in talent when it comes to the violin. But it sounded damn good to me. Accompanied by the classical guitar, it created a really nice sound and pleasurable ride on the subway, which as anyone who’s ever ridden one knows, they aren’t the best places to be.

So I wondered why these two performers, who to me it seemed had some talent, be playing on the subway for loose change rather than in a concert hall, a theater, or at the very least a cafe or club. Surely there’s some cafe out there that wouldn’t mind having the violin played while its guests drank coffee. Could it be that this city is so overflowing with musical talent that even skilled musicians simply have to work on the subway to get by? And the violin isn’t exactly an instrument that someone can just pick up on their own as a hobby. It takes years of practice and persistence to be good at it, which costs money. Belgrano is a more expensive neighborhood where rich people live, and I thought it was telling how the subway heading in that direction also came with classical music.

As nice as it was to hear the music on the train, it was a bit sad that it should come to that, playing a beautiful instrument like the violin on the subway. I hope those musicians can find a steadier place to perform and find success in their trip. I got off the subway at my stop and walked into the cold night trying to find my bearings. I was shivering and grinding my teeth, but the tune of the song was still in my head. At least they reached one person.


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