Sunday, January 31, 2010

New York: Day 5: The Music of the Subway

Today was not my most well-planned day... the good news is that there is plenty of things to do on the next trip. My flight back to Cleveland is at a weird time that, combined with the fact that nothing opened before 11 today meant that I didn't really do anything.

A car is picking me up from the hotel headed for La Guardia at 1:30... I had wanted to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art but my rapidly declining cold-weather endurance combined with the fact that at best I would have 90 minutes in the museum before needing to return to the hotel and check out I decided to make that a "next trip" visit.

I started this morning by riding the 1 Train from Times Square/42nd up to the Bronx and back. While riding I closed my eyes and heard a symphony: A punctuated pizzicato rhythm starts in the bases and is echoed by the first, violins then the violas. The cellos repeat the line, which is echoed by the second violins -- circling the rider from left to right. Percussion lets out a thump, followed by a thump while a lone flutist plays three notes of different lengths; a second flute joins the first somewhere between the second and third notes creating a harmonic relationship. This structure repeats while a horn sounds, and sounds again. A sustained note, then ends.

The strings build, from the violins up to create a fervent excitement of accelerating tempo. A sustained note is played by the bases, while the other strings slow to a stop, and return to the pizzicato from earlier. A sharp note comes from the woodwinds, and percussion signals the thump-stop of the train. A din is heard from the mixed voices outside the car, a descending chord his heard to warn of the impending departure and the symphony repeats, building then falling, and either repeating or ending as the rider continues or exits.

That's what I heard in the subway.


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