Next stop: piano music

Classical music is something I never totally learned to appreciate. I can’t put the right composer with the right tune and know very little about instruments. Besides the fact that it just wasn’t really included in my upbringing, it requires a certain amount of patience that I just don’t seem to have.

Every now and then when I’m making a long journey by car I may switch past a classical music station and linger for a couple of minutes, especially if it’s a hectic part of the route and the tune is chilled out. Even though I do enjoy these moments, in the end I always switch back to more mainstream channels.

image

A phenomenon that has slowly been creeping into public spaces in Holland (and I’m sure elsewhere as well) are pianos. They are popping up on trainstations and I must admit I absolutely love it!

It’s really interesting to sit and watch what happens around these pianos. Not just for the musical moments that spontaneously erupt but it’s also really fascinating from a behavioral / anthropological / psychological point of view.

People stop and sit down within hearing distance, but without getting too close. Are they avoiding contact or are they merely choosing a careful approach, to not startle the musician? I can imagine the person playing must feel very self-conscious anyhow, displaying their skills in such a public space. And then after the first person has given it a try, and has played some small melody, more people often follow. It’s really all very interesting to watch. These areas become bubbles of peace in rush hour chaos.

In the Hague it is often an extra treat as the players sometimes turn out to be very talented musicians, as the academy of music is situated nearby. I made a couple of videos of dudes playing pianos there in the last couple of weeks but to my own frustration the format of the videos on my phone are not  being accepted by wordpress…. I hope to convert them later on, but luckily I did find a video of the exact piano on the Hague Central I walk past every day with a perfect illustration of what I mean:

As you see, they are all sorts of people and it just really changes the mood of the place. Isn’t it wonderful?

And somewhat related is this youtube video I’d like to share, that stole my heart a couple of years back:

And then there is the homeless guy that went viral a while back with his rendition of “Come sail away”  by Styx.

So I guess, even a classical music knucklehead as myself can learn to appreciate the genre this way. I applaud the talent of those brave enough to change the mood of such a hectic space. I thank them for this and realize now that I should show them my appreciation next time they stop me in my tracks with their nutritional music.

And I guess I owe some governmental organization a big thank you as well, for making this possible and providing our public spaces with these pianos. Bedankt!

What a difference a morning makes

Any one who has been to Holland knows it is a very organized country. Maybe even over-organized. Both the Dutch weather and landscape are quite predictable, as is our infrastructure. Every thing really works quite well all though you would never believe it if you heard my fellow countrymen complaining about the train delays every day.

In some countries they wouldn’t bother to put out an announcement about a delay unless it is several hours overdue. In Holland we organize our days up to the minute which means a 5 minute delay is a big deal.

Den Haag zonesMy job is located right in between two train stations, being The Hague Central and the Hague Holland Spoor. This means I have the luxury of being able to choose which route I take to work each morning and no delay ever really affects my plans for the day. All though I love the variety I always end up regretting it when I decide to start up my day by getting out at the central station. I’ll tell you why.

In the map provided above you can see the two stations marked in red and the area that I work in marked in green. If I choose to walk from the central station I walk through an area with a lot of high government buildings and offices. This is roughly the area marked in yellow. The shops and lunchrooms on these blocks are well adjusted to the many men and women in fancy suits that come buy for a quick coffee or more elaborate lunchmeeting. Wifi and superfoods all around…

People tend to be in a hurry here, and tight deadlines make for short fuses, I guess. When the train pulls in, people squeeze to the door and start pressing on the “open” button even before the train has come to a full stop. When the door opens the rush begins, in quite an unapologetic way. They push their way to the public-transport-check-out-scanners in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way and then click clack click clack their shiny shoes onwards towards their desks. I imagine their is a picture of their children there to remind themselves why they do this every day and some sort of inspirational card on eye-level as motivation.

I am not often in a hurry. On the one side that is because I always get up quite early and on the other side it is because my job doesn’t require me to be in at a very specific time. I also just don’t enjoy the feeling and try to avoid it as much as possible. If fate makes it so that on some morning I end up arriving at Den Haag Centraal station it is what I consider to a bad start of my day, because even though I am not in a hurry myself, the frantic atmosphere there does get to me.

It’s hard to explain how the sound of someone walking can spike someone else’s stress levels. I don’t see the person behind me. I don’t know where they are going or anything else about them. Just the sound of high heels in this determined, short-interval kind of way makes me want to turn around and slap them…. or trip them… or maybe give them a massage and help them relax. It varies. 😉

And there’s not just that one person behind me. They’re all over the place! Some are already getting their caffeine fix (and maybe a muffin) at their favorite coffee house. Some are smoking one last cig before entering the office building. Some are on bikes or even skateboards. And in that little moment in time I am one of them. One of the tiny little insignificant ants pouring out of the ant-hill that is the station. Following the flow. Walking, going, clicking, clacking. No eye contact allowed.

And then there is the other station; Den Haag Holland Spoor, on the other side of the city center. This side of town is more of a residential area (the blue areas in the map above) and some might even consider it to be a bad neighborhood (all though it’s definitely much better than it used to be). It is an area where a lot of immigrants live and the shops and restaurants illustrate this as well. People don’t rush here. They give you their blessings when you sneeze. There might even be some eye contact and an apology when you bump into someone. Either that, or you could get stabbed… at least that’s what people tell me… But I’m hoping that only happens to people with karma issues.

As soon as I walk out of this station and cross the street I am pretty much the only person walking there. The Turkish baker is already open as are the fruit and vegetable stalls. The hair dressers (for all types of hair) are usually still closed when I walk by but the occasional one might be open for the early cabbies or what not.

Sometimes I walk past the mosque where some activity might be taking place depending on the day of the week or time of year. Then I walk through China town where smells, colors and alphabet change again. Everything is still closed. The only shoes you hear are mine. I can also choose to walk another route that takes me past a park and an urban garden area. The last part takes me past the red light district where it is always surprisingly busy…

And then I arrive at work; completely chilled out but very much awake.