New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, February 08, 2010

World of Gray

If you want to experience the gritty side of New York City, ride the subway - the ultimate tesl of will, fortitude and tolerance. Better yet, try it on a hot summer day, where the non-air-conditioned subway platforms are suffocatingly hot and virtually intolerable.
And it is gray.

You can spend your time waiting on the platforms by reading or, perhaps, observing your surroundings in various shades of gray - the concrete, chewing gum, or perhaps the charcoal gray of the subway tracks themselves and the occasional rat in camouflage gray.
In this world of gray, we have brightly lit subway cars, each with its own captive audience trapped for periods of time in steel boxes, subject to all and any who want to sell goods, rant, beg, preach, or perform in any number of ways.

The appearance of singers is met with a variety of responses. Some riders, bored with the everyday grind, welcome music as a pleasant break from the monotony. Others, perhaps engaged in reading, listening to music of their own, or just enjoying some "quiet" time, resent the intrusion, analogous to cigarette smoke in public/common spaces.

And, of course, there is the issue of quality and selection. There is no standard of quality for subway entertainment, and unlike any other media delivery system, it can't be turned off or the music selection changed.

I found the a cappella group in the photo to have been much better than average. However, I had the feeling that I was in the minority who enjoyed this band of wandering minstrels, who timed their routine, moving from car to car after each number and collecting money. Perhaps I was just in the right mood at the right time, because for a moment, I found a little relief in a world of gray...

Note: For a hysterical bit by comedian Lewis Black on gray days, go here.


Three Rivers, Michigan said...

Nice portraits of the singers, I love how you have caught all three faces. They look happy. The man sitting to the left looks crabby. I wouldn't have thought to compare singing to cigarette smoke!
Three Rivers Daily Photo

Gold Coast College said...

They really love what they're doing. If they're really much better than average, this trip is not so boring at all..

Chuck Pefley said...

They look much better than average, for sure. I find reasonably well done performances in public settings such as this to be a welcome diversion. Sometimes you can run into the most amazing artists in the subway system ... NYC, London, Milan, Rome ... I'm always intrigued by street musicians. That kind of exposure takes chutzpa and lots of it!

Ginger said...

great picture. I love your blog! believe i have seen these guys on this very train line. they are good and have put a smile on my face, but it's true you have to be in the right mood at the right time to appreciate it.

after a long day at a taxing job, a throbbing headache, another hour plus and many transfers ahead before i made it home, i wasn't always welcoming such musical intrusions in a tight space. but speaking to michigan's comment, my reaction (and guy on the left's facial expression) doesn't make me (or him) a crab, nor does it mean i wish for the expulsion of subway train performers. they are an icon, best appreciated by tourists, and by new yorkers who aren't slaves to the daily grind out of necessity.

something else to consider that makes this phenomena awkward is that when the performers put out their hats, cups, paper bags (whatever collection method they use that day) there is a moment of pressure for those riders who enjoyed the music, but didn't ask for it, don't have their money at the ready and aren't comfortable pulling out our wallets on a crowded subway. must we then avoid eye contact and refrain from tapping our feet in appreciation for fear that we'll offend if we don't offer a monetary token of gratitude? they aren't doing this for smiles!

Ted and Lori said...

I think I heard these guys when we were there in January. Everything you wrote was true; they certainly brightened up a dreary day.

Caity said...

I think I've seen these guys before too. The best part was the guy traveling with them, who, once they kept walking joked about how bad they are! What a good friend. I enjoyed the style of music and all, but I will admit, I didn't think they were top notch. Kudos though for their effort of breaking up the monotony and lighting up the mood.

Elephi Pelephi said...

I've seen these guys performing outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are very good.