My music collection is on my laptop; I took with me my tablet, with just 150 of my 3778 songs. Who knew 150 songs would come to feel like so few, repeated again and again over the headphones and through the slivers of speakers? It feels like so few when I keep skipping half of them, and going back to the same few. Lisa Mitchell, “Land Beyond the Front Door”. Mazzy Star’s droning shoe gazing rock each time the coach guides put on their music. The comfort of Nick Cave’s title track “Push the Sky Away” without the rest of the album.
Then there were the buskers. Both times we walked to the basilica in Florence, the electric violinist was waiting for us in the square. She was trying to be Andre Rieu; my wife, a violist, hates Andre Rieu. In the busker’s own version of soulfully (sentimentally) she would play those overfamiliar classical pieces, and then throw in renditions of pop songs like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a kind of interesting torture standing in the queue.
I wanted to reward the buskers I thought were good. Above the ruins of the Roman Forum, a handful of Italians were playing catchy songs in their own language. I went up to put a Euro in their plate; the lead singer put his arm around me, wanting to know where I was from, and dragged me back, insisting my wife take a photo of me with them. He put his hat on me. She took the photo; I went to put a couple of Euros in his plate and escape, but his voice changed – it was 10 Euros for a photo! He was insistent, angry. We started walking away quickly; it was an unpleasant encounter, left me cautious of the buskers.
A musical highlight. In Cinque Terra, walking one morning between Vernazza and Monterosso along the cliffs, glorious saxophone music floated toward us. We came around the corner and the player, a man of seventy, was standing on a rock above the narrow, isolated path. I should have given him so much more than I did.
The other musical highlight. Arriving in Rome after a long day’s bus ride, late at night we venture out for a walk to the Pantheon, right near where we were staying. As we come to the massive ancient edifice, the Cure’s “Charlotte Sometimes” is playing so loudly, so freshly, the moment is so enchanted, that I tell my wife, “They’re playing a concert, right now, outside the Pantheon – we’ve stumbled on a free Cure concert!”. It seemed the sort of thing Robert Smith might do, but it does sound a little far-fetched, writing it down. It wasn’t the Cure, it was a taxi driver on his break, with an excellent sound system and the door of his taxi open. It was still magical, beholding the ancient pillars against the night sky to the sound of my favourite band, an unlikely but befitting soundtrack.
Sometimes I’m dreaming
Where all the other people dance
Sometimes I’m dreaming