In our society today, music can be something that is both unifying and divisive, a medium of artistic expression subjectively absorbed by each one of us differently. When it comes to listening to music, particularly aboard transit, general etiquette tells us that that it belongs in our own ears– hence, earphones are always a rule of thumb, as codified in Metro’s code of passenger conduct. After all, it’s irritating to be forced to listen to someone else’s playlist during your 7am commute, especially when that someone doesn’t share your taste in music.
Live music, however, seems to incite a different response. Of course, I’m not referring to that passenger humming loudly under their breath or singing along with their iPod out of tune. I’m talking about planned or even unplanned events, where a group of people will bust out an impromptu jam session, and to everyone’s pleasant surprise, they may sound pretty good. We’ve already seen some manifestation of this on Link when Hollow Earth Radio organized live music performances on several train trips last year.
This old well-known video from Paris shows the a cappella group Naturally 7 performing such an impromptu piece, clearly staged and planned beforehand but not seemingly publicized to general public. While the performance is well received by the vast majority of the subway riders by the end of the video, you can’t help but notice the man in black who has his back turned toward the group, clearly uninterested or perhaps irritated by such a disruption in his commute.
As transit riders, it’s inevitable that we’ll find ourselves empathizing either with the applauding crowd or the man in black. Of course, sometimes it depends on our mood. One bad day at work might warrant a nice undisturbed commute home, whereas a good day might warmly receive such end-of-the-day festivities. Other times, if the performance is outstanding, a bad day might be turned around, and few of us can complain about that.
On the whole, it seems that music in public spaces, particularly aboard transit, can be edifying, with a select few who will beg to differ. It would be interesting the hear your opinions on this, though– are musical performances on transit something to be cherished or disdained?