• Bach in the Subways

    Bach in the Subways

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    Many people are scared of getting into the world of classical music, and this might be due to the stereotype of getting formally dressed and seated at the concert. However, no matter if you are a classical music fan or not, you might have heard of the great maestro JS Bach.

    Ten years ago, when I was studying at Columbia, I bought rush tickets at the Met Opera or student tickets at Carnegie Hall every week. As a classical music fan since childhood, the operas and concerts on Saturday nights were my greatest enjoyment. Especially when I met those opera stars and pianists I have been admiring for a long time, the exciting and touching feelings were always lingering even after their performances.

    One night around midnight, when New York City was snowy and the wind was blowing so heavily that the only thing I wanted was to go back home at the moment of stepping out of the library. When I went into the subway station, there was a sound of rising melody coming out of the station. I thought I was so tired that I heard it wrong, but I stopped for seconds and there was cello music coming from the station. I followed the music and walked down to the platform, and saw a man playing cello.

    He was sitting on a folding chair, wearing a black shirt and black pants.

    There was no stand and stage light, he held his cello with eyes closed. His shoulders sometimes moved forward and backward following the melodies. His left hand fingers were playing the strings up and down like ocean waves, and the fiddlestick in his right hand was moving on the strings like the wind blowing on the ocean. The wind blew, moved the strings, and created the most intriguing music on the New York Subway.

    There were not many people on the subway at that time. Some people passing by gave a glance to the cellist and then quickly walked away, and some stopped and listened. And some people took out their cell phones to record this rare scene.

    The cellist didn’t pay any attention to the surroundings. His music was classic and touching. There was no emotional showing off and no superfluous sadness. He kept playing. He brought the audience back to 17th century Italy. His music was like a noble man walking out from the grand Baroque palace, dressed in a silk white shirt and a red velvet cloak. The noble man had golden embroidery and pearl decorations on his cuffs. He walked out the magnificent palace in his heels. With a great attitude and elegant temperament, this noble man was steady and friendly, lively and charismatic.

    This is the magic of Bach’s.

    Even after hundreds of years, Bach is still able to make people obsessive, and attracts people with his beautiful music. No matter if it is men or women, young or elderly, noble or humble, and no matter if it is at the palace or a subway station, when there is Bach, there is music playing around.

    After some light melodies, the music slowed down, it seemed something came up into the noble man’s mind. After all, everyone would be brought back to their memories when hearing this beautiful music.

    No matter where you are, Bach always brings you back to the most glorious moment of history, and also, to your most valuable memory. Just like the noble man and his most romantic memory. The romance lit up the entire palace, like the music lit up your dream.

    Then the music became swift again. The noble man seemed to find something. He walked quickly, and passed the huge mural decorations of the hall. He walked through the marble floor and the luxury rooms. The music was brisk and delightful like the sound of pearls on the suit of the noble man collided with each other. The sounds resonated in the palace, composed into the captivating music.

    The noble man came to the palace gate. He opened the gate, letting the sunlight in. It was bright and dazzling. The whole palace looked even more magnificent in the shining golden rays. He saw the sunlight lit up the whole palace and the land. He knew: there will always be a whole new day.

    The music ended gracefully after ten minutes. The listeners applauded. The cellist put down the fiddlestick, and packed the cello quietly. I glanced at the small sign on the floor: Bach in the Subways. Maybe Bach was still alive. He was still recruiting musicians from this century to play for him, and attracting people to become his admirers. With his music, Bach still makes people obsessive in the snowy days after three hundred years.

    Bach in the subways.

    I believe the cellist playing in the subway was the court musician of Bach in the 21st century. And us, these passengers stopping for music, are the most modern fans of Bach.


    我還在紐約的時候,經常搶大都會歌劇院的rush ticket還有卡內基音樂廳的學生票,從小就是古典樂迷的我,週六晚上的一場歌劇或是音樂會,就是我在紐約最大最奢侈的享受,尤其當我目睹愛慕已久的歌劇明星或是鋼琴家時,那種興奮又感動的心情更是讓我在演出結束後,還經常徘徊在劇院附近,希望沈浸在更多音樂的氛圍中。










    音樂優雅地結束了,二十分鐘過去,聽眾紛紛給予掌聲與目光,大提琴家放下琴弓,安靜地站起身收拾樂器,我瞄到他放在地上的小牌子寫著: Bach in the Subways,或許,巴赫依舊活著,他依舊在現代招募所有信仰他的音樂家為他演奏,與所有仰慕他的樂迷傾聽每一場演出,巴赫就是這樣讓巴洛克音樂在四百年後的今天,在外頭冰天雪地的琉璃世界裡,依舊讓人心醉。

    Bach in the Subways,我相信,這位今天在地鐵演奏的音樂家,就是巴赫在現代的宮廷樂師,而我們,這些駐足聆聽的路人,就是巴赫最當代的樂迷。

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