You know what brings people together?
Well, lots of things (think: food, celebrations, trips to Italy, etc.). But I actually had an answer in mind, hence the rhetorical question: music! Music has an indescribable power like no other. Mere notes of a song can take a person back to a time or place, a memory. Not a lot of things in this world have that sort of power, this I know. And while I had known music holds the power of transportation, I had never thought of it as a commonality among people. Until last night.
I was sitting along the edge of the sidewalk on Ponte Vecchio (a bridge in Florence over the Arno River lined with markets, music, and people), eating generous helpings of gelato with my professor/mentor/Florentine culture extraordinaire, Rachel, and a couple of my roommates after yet another busy day taking in the culture of Italy.
A major part of the Italian culture, it seems, is music. Everywhere. Often in the form of street artists. While this isn’t a common occurrence in the U.S., I’ve seen plenty of Italians share their musical abilities in the week I’ve been in Florence. Actually, from what I can tell, it seems more than a few attempt to make a living from sharing their talents with the public; it’s impressive (so much so that it deserves a blog post of its own, but I digress). One of these very impressive, very talented street artists happened to be performing while our little group was sitting and enjoying our gelato, and they were drawing in quite a crowd.
Depending on the artist, very few or as many as several dozen will stand, watch, and listen to the performer. This artist was of the sort that drew in several dozen. And they performed Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to do it. In all honesty, a fairly large crowd had already gathered—this musical group (a violin player and cellist—who doesn’t love a good string duo?) was very, very compelling. But once the opening notes of Valli’s musical hit began, more and more people on the bridge paused to listen. The chorus of the song is really what tied everything together; when the time came, “I love you, baby” was chanted with gusto throughout the audience. It was then my professor speculated the size of the crowd and the origins of everyone in it. That’s when something clicked for me.
We all have our differences—it makes us human, very human. A lot of people realize this, so when we discover commonalities among ourselves and our family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, we become pleasantly surprised. In this instance, I was pleasantly surprised—that so many people knew Valli’s song, enjoyed it, and sang along to it, despite language barriers. I found the concept mind-blowing in that moment; despite all we humans have to divides us, we’re not so different that we can’t enjoy a catchy love song together. It was amazing to experience.
Sometimes, it’s truly the little things in life that are the most spectacular, the most enlightening. And sometimes, you need to travel overseas to be reminded of that.