Monday, February 23, 2009

Spontaneity through Metro Music: A Brief View of the True Heart of Paris

Upon disembarking from my train at the Chatelet metro stop, one of Paris’ busiest subway stations, lively music met my ears. As I drew closer, I could see a group of men and women set up against the wall in the station on the walkway between line 1 and line 4. Their diverse group of instruments including the marimba, cello, violin, drums, shakers and flute, succeeded in creating a diversion for the throngs of people walking by. Although I have seen many talented single artists play in the stations, a violinist at the Louvre-Rivoli, a guitarist at the Place d’Italie, the atmosphere generated by this group was unique.

Perhaps it was the bohemian, Jamaican style piece that provided the exotic touch needed to infiltrate the minds and hearts of the Parisians. There was an incredible energy in this group’s movements as their shaking, dancing and swaying added to the liveliness, despite the character of the chill and laid back piece they were playing. A twinkle in each of their eyes and the enjoyment that showed on their faces led me to believe that they were playing for more than just the coins that were being thrown in their empty guitar case.

Upon hearing the music, I felt a bubble of happiness rise within me, and I could tell that I was not the only one on which this music had such an effect. Not only were these musicians musically talented, their art completely transformed the metro station, creating a relaxed atmosphere and bringing to life the dimly lit walkways. In our orientation, we were told that it is culturally taboo to smile at those we don’t know, and this philosophy has been evident upon viewing the straight and focused faces of the Parisians on the metro. Yet, this group caused each and every individual who walked by to smile and even pause for a minute to enjoy the scene that was unfolding around them.

Although this group didn’t make use of the common musical devices such as crescendos and tempo changes normally deemed necessary to create an artistically divine piece, I did not feel that this was the time and place to do so. Compared to other performances, this music was all about touching people in the few seconds that they walked by. The volume, rhythm and beat of the piece provided a stark contrast from the rush and constant murmur present in the metro stops, and it was this juxtaposition that succeeded in capturing my attention.

To me, this music was just as exciting because of the reactions it elicited as it was because of the artistry that the musicians exhibited. It represented the "real" Paris, a vision that is often not consistent with the tourist and guidebook definition, but rather, one that emphasizes the diversity, energy, and vitality that contributes to the true heartbeat of Paris. The beauty of it was the spontaneity of the moment and making the most of the opportunity when it was least expected.

No comments:

Post a Comment