CHICAGO – Somewhere above an Evanston parking lot, there’s the steady stream of music.
Until, after a few minutes of opening, finally silence.
The parking lot stops.
A moment later, the sound of the trombone fills the space.
Together they resonate, quietly, deeply, heavily, like Godzilla emerging from the nearby lake. Timothy Maines on the tenor trumpet. Alec Rich on the tuba. They stand next to their cars in the basement of the parking lot, their music playing from the structure, through the jogging track that circles the campus, through the sailing center, through an entrance to the campus. water, on the beaches. Heads lift off the covers. Neck crane. Is it brass? A jogger stops in front of the garage and crouched down to peek into the dark basement. He sees the small brass section and yells: “You sound great! “
“Thank you!” shouts Maines.
Rich puts his snorkel on the towel he spread on the garage floor and drinks his water bottle. Maines cradles his trombone and turns the sheet music over on the stand in front of him. They play here from time to time, sometimes solo, sometimes in duo or trio. You know, Rich says to Maines, nodding to the sheet music, the guy who wrote that, in the 1970s, he wrote music for a lot of porn movies. “You would always see his name in the credits. “
I am sitting nearby on a sidewalk and cannot pass this up without comment. “Who watches the credits of old porn films? ” I ask.
“The tuba players,” says Rich.
“OK, now an average bounce?” Maines asks, eager to continue.
“OK,” Rich says, and they start over.
A stone’s throw away, the towering Northwestern Bienen School of Music building is cold and protruding, like a glassed-in cruise ship taking up too much room in a picturesque harbor. It houses studios, rehearsal rooms, concert halls. And yet, since the pandemic, for many music students here, the real place to practice is outdoors, in parking lots near campus.
The first time I heard music in a garage was right after confinement, in March 2020. I was walking in the early morning and heard the whine of a string bow. He was coming from the south garage. For much of the past year, its doors were closed. You could go in and out freely, so I went in and rolled, and up, and up, and somewhere towards the third level, in the otherwise empty garage, I saw the source: a student on a stool next to his car, playing a cello. I continued up, and on the next floor, a trumpeter. They played on different floors to avoid stepping on each other’s toes.
Once I heard them coming from the garages, it seemed like I heard them every day.
As the weather cooled, their scales, flourishes, strings and sudden French horn blows came less frequently. And yet, it never quite finished. Every now and then, if you hit it right, the workouts continued, exiting the parking lot next to the Visitor Center and the basement garage next to the journalism school. It was far from unique, of course: last year, across the country, as concert halls and indoor spaces closed, school choirs and garage orchestras and city symphonies came together. are gathered inside the car parks. (Not to mention, musicians never needed a pandemic as an excuse to play outside.)
Still, finding an impromptu audience for an impromptu concert is a bit like seeing a buck standing by the side of the road: it’s unremarkable, but you can’t help but slow down and admire. This is indeed one of the most beautiful by-products of the pandemic. Better yet, even as the health crisis in this country ends, even with universities on hiatus, the garage practice is a modest gift that continues to give.
Northwestern music graduate students Timothy Maines and Alec Rich practice in a parking lot on June 22 near the Northwestern Bienen School of Music in Evanston, Ill. Since the start of the pandemic, music students have used garages as practice spaces.