Image: Rebekah E. Raleigh
So last night, 8 pm, I'm waiting for the Red Line train at Clark and Division and a violin busker shares the tunnel with me and maybe two dozen others. A violin, which isn't so common. Typically, public transport entertainers brandish bruised guitars and the eager, intense, extroverted energy of youth. This one, though, he's middle-aged and reserved, economical in his movements. He sports a mullet, which also isn't common. Not anymore, not in Chicago, not on someone playing a violin. And he's wearing sneakers, unspoiled white ones that I suspect parted ways with box and tissue that very day.
The busker, he's playing something vaguely 19th century (restive, romantic), and he's good. Actually, really good, though his violin is shabby. I don't know violins, but I know this one doesn't sound right. And I don't know classical music (probably more than the average person, but not well enough). But I start wishing I'd paid attention when I was young, accompanying my parents to classical concerts. And right there and then that I hadn't "wasted" most of my adult life listening to "popular" music. Just because I want to know how later to locate that piece. The man's still playing when the train blusters in, and there's no time to ask. So I leave it and him on the platform. A lost fragment of sound in the city at night.
In the relative calm of the train car I think of a different song I heard earlier that day, a graceful song where the viola (did you think I'd say violin?--according to the liner notes it's in there too) limns the melody and threads through a flinty, measured, martial ratatatat and soft-bellied vocals. Another fragment, and one you can hold.
Tours - Venice Is Sinking
From Sorry About The Flowers (Amazon, iTunes).
Venice Is Sinking's Myspace