Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Music in the Streets

I think the world would be a better place if there were more instruments… everywhere.  Remember when Buffalo commissioned painted statues of buffalos to be placed throughout the city? Or how Chicago put ping-pong tables in public areas?  Or in coastal tourist towns, where brightly painted and themed Adirondack chairs can be found on the beach and the boardwalk?  Lets do that with music.

Brightly painted lockers installed on the sidewalk, holding a guitar or a bass, or a harmonica, a recorder, bongos, a tambourine, violins, anything really, chained discreetly to prevent theft without compromising playability, perhaps a little donation box to keep the project well maintained. Just imagine, walking down the street with a song stuck in your head, and there you are: everything you need to stop for a minute, jam out “Rocky Raccoon,” and continue on your day.  Instead of bottling up frustrations and anxieties, or releasing them with anger on your friends and neighbors, you just lean against a streetlight and strum out your feelings.

What a sense of community it could create! All those other people you pass every day are no longer nameless drones, but potential bandmates.  The next Phish or Motion City Soundtrack might be four or five strangers who just happen to pass by the corner of Elmwood and Utica at the same time.  The cultural fusion could astound: a Latino drumbeat with blues harmonica, some indie rock chords over a jazz bass line, and a freestyle rap accented by a classically trained violinist. It would be music truly born in and of Buffalo; the soundtrack from our city’s melting pot.

It may seem insignificant, but I seriously believe that if we all could just stop and play or sing or dance, if only for a moment, with new people we’ve never met, out in public for the world to see, we might live a little better.  Ours is now a world where no one gets the benefit of the doubt, where people walk the streets apprehensively, listening to a little voice in their heads saying, “he might be dangerous.  She might try to rob me. This isn’t my neighborhood: I don’t trust it.” Nothing could assuage those fears like seeing those same strangers in a circle, smiling, tapping their feet and singing along.

And it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know how to play an instrument, we’ll help you learn.  Besides, anyone can shake a tambourine or bang a drum.  If you don’t know the words, you can hum until you figure them out.  Just cross the street and join in: if you can talk, you can sing, and if you can walk, you can dance.