Roman Rhythm

The other day, I reunited with my roommates from Rome to watch some film footage of our travels through Italy. The screen flashed moving images of St. Peter’s and the coliseum, Villa Borghese and all that good stuff, but in between those traditional settings were chaotic snippets of street musicians.

In Rome they are everywhere –in piazzas, on street corners, on the steps of churches: accordion players, trumpeters, a pan pipe player, upright bassists, violinists, clarinetists, singers, keyboard players, guitarists, even a nose-flutist—musicians everywhere, some grand, some awful, some awful drunk.

Amongst my favorites was the down and dirty terrible trumpeter, who played the same damn song every day from his perch on the Ponte Sisto. His depressing lack of improvement over the weeks was somehow…inspiring. More than once I thought he was going to fly backwards into the Tiber with his soulful back-bending trumpet pull. He didn’t, he just kept playing that same song.

Another favorite of mine was the upright bassist and accordion player couple in Santa Maria in Trastevere. He pounded and pulled those strings and she pushed and pressed, and their swinging sing song music hopped around the piazza, gathering regular crowds. Once, a man in a black fedora passed by them, then backtracked and pulled out his clarinet. He tapped his foot a few times then joined right in.

Or there was the accordion player near the bus station. He played in a suit, standing very straight, with a nostalgic look on his face. Bus riders flitted past him blindly, but he remained unruffled, dreaming in music notes.

When the street musicians have all gone to sleep, the rest of the Romans make their own music. Outside of our apartment was a constant battery of partying Italians crooning and howling. Someone got a hold of a fog horn once. At 5am. I stuck my head out of the window to people-watch as a regular pastime. A band of British cricket players once passed from bar to bar booming their repertoire of drinking songs and downing a glassful before moving on.

I never once saw a concert in Rome, maybe I missed out. Maybe not.