Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Power of Music

A strange thing happened to me on the train journey home from work this afternoon. I was sitting there, quietly reading The Fellowship of the Ring, studiously ignoring my fellow commuters, when a couple of guys entered the carriage. They would have been in their mid-twenties. One had a clarinet and the other a pair of bongos. Standing in the aisle, they then proceeded to enthusiastically play the theme from The Muppet Show. Naturally, everyone in the carriage stopped what they were doing and craned their necks to see this impromptu live music performance.

The musical pair went on for a couple of minutes, playing other lively tunes. You could see their passion for their music and the pleasure they got from entertaining the crowd. And their music affected me as well. It lifted me out of my hum-drum, groundhog-day reverie. The sound of the clarinet brought a smile to my face and the soft accompanying tapping of the bongos soothed my nerves. Their music made me happy.

And it wasn't only me. When the duo had finished their playing the whole carriage erupted into applause. Several people cried out "More! More!" The clarinet player laughingly told us that if we wanted more music then they would appreciate some monetary recompense. And so the clarinet player walked up and down the aisle while people fumbled for spare change to drop into his outstretched cap.

After the cap was full of coins they went on to play a haunting melody that was at times both funny and sad. The crowd of passengers, including myself, sat enthralled by the music. The performance continued on for several wonderful minutes. When they were finished, the pair thanked their audience and proceeded to the next carriage.

It was at that time that something else unusual happened. My fellow commuters were smiling, some were laughing, some were discussing the event with the person seated next to them. Strangers who had been grey, emotionless, cardboard cutouts to me not ten minutes prior, now appeared to be actual people. I now saw them in a different light. We had shared this odd musical experience together and, for a brief moment in time, were all somehow connected to each other.

Some people say music has a power; I think I witnessed it this afternoon.

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