NYC-ARTS

S2020 E498 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: June 25, 2020

Please enjoy our library of current episodes available to stream while NYC-Arts is on hiatus for the summer. Explore the MTA’s Music Under New York program and meet some of the musicians involved: Stiletta, a pop vocal group; Iain Forrest, an electric cellist; Martina Bruno, the Angel of NY and an opera singer; and Marc Mueller, known as StreetMule. We look forward to our return in the fall!

AIRED: June 25, 2020 | 0:27:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Coming up,

"Music Under New York,"

a special edition of "NYC-Arts."

>> ♪ Rockin' with Stiletta, and

we're takin' the floor ♪

♪ Yeah, we do it a cappella,

leave 'em begging for more ♪

>> The MTA's music program has

been bringing diverse performers

into the transit system since

1985.

[ Mid-tempo cello plays ]

[ Upbeat exotic music plays ]

♪♪

From Times Square

to Atlantic Avenue,

you never know what music

might greet you on your commute.

>> [ Singing opera music ]

>>[Indistinct] on track 3.

>> [ Beatboxing ]

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts"

is made possible in part

by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by

Swann Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction Galleries --

we have a different way

of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books

and fine art since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening. I'm Paula Zahn.

Welcome to a special edition

of "NYC-Arts."

Tonight, we explore

the Metropolitan Transportation

Authority's musical side.

Since 1985,

the MTA's

Music Under New York program

has been bringing performers

into the transit system.

While musicians can perform

in the subway

without joining the program,

those who do are able

to book prime locations

and stations in transit hubs

throughout the five boroughs.

Every year,

the MTA holds auditions

in Grand Central Terminal

to select the next group

of diverse performers.

As a result, you never know

what music might greet you

on your commute.

♪♪

Now let's meet

some of the musicians

on the MTA's roster.

Stiletta,

an all-female a cappella

and beatboxing group.

>> ♪ Get into the beat now

♪ It's bound to explode

>> [ Beatboxing ]

>> ♪ Here it comes, oh

♪ Oh

>> Iain Forrest, known as

"Eyeglasses" --

an electric cellist

and aspiring eye doctor.

[ Coldplay's "Viva la Vida"

plays ]

♪♪

>> Martina Bruno,

"The Angel of New York" --

an opera singer

and divinity student.

>> ♪...precious did that grace

appear ♪

>> And Mark Mueller,

known as "StreetMule,"

who has dual careers

as an architect

and street musician.

[ Upbeat exotic music plays ]

♪♪

From Times Square

to Atlantic Avenue,

we follow their performances

and see the subway

through their eyes --

not only as a transit system,

but as a home for the arts.

>> [ Beatboxing ]

>> In the early and mid '80s,

the New York subway

and much of the MTA system

was on the brink of collapse.

Things were falling apart,

and the MTA began an effort

to turn it around

to bring the system back.

Part of turning that around

was to bring art, both visual

and performing, to the customers

to say, "Here, we're here, we

care about you,

and we're gonna make this

a great place, a great journey."

In 1985,

the MTA founded

Arts for Transit.

So, at the same time,

Music Under New York had existed

as a pilot program.

And so it was formalized

immediately to also become

one of the arts

and design programs.

>> Through Music Under New York,

we have over 350

individuals and groups

that perform about 7,500

annual performances

in the transit system.

We have 30 designated

Music Under New York locations.

The roster consists

of a whole range of musicians,

and they are reflective of the

people and the cultures

of New York City.

>> ♪Requiem ♪

>> We have an audition each year

in the spring.

It's held in

Grand Central Terminal, and we

schedule a full day of

performances.

♪♪

During the audition,

we have a panel of 30 judges

that represent

the music industry.

All of the judges

have a score sheet that score

each of the 70 performers

on quality, variety,

and appropriateness

for the transit environment.

♪♪

At the end of the day,

we gather the score sheets,

tally the scores,

and we notify the musicians

as to whether they received

a top score

and become part of the

Music Under New York program.

When they join, they're

given a banner,

which identifies them with

Music Under New York.

>> Through the identity,

through the logo,

through the ability

to sort of schedule to be

in a place on a frequent basis,

you establish a rapport

with the customers.

I think the most

rewarding thing

about being part of the team

that brings music to the public

is that the public loves it.

They immediately knew that

this was being done for them,

that they were the audience.

>> [ Singing opera music ]

>> You like to experience

and engage in that journey,

in music and art.

They allow that, they allow us

to connect.

♪♪

>> Pumped.

[ Laughter ]

>> ♪ Get up

>> ♪ Get up

>> ♪ Get up

>> ♪ Get down

>> ♪ Get pumped

>> [ Beatboxing ]

>> When I moved to

New York City,

I had this vision that I wanted

this fierce, strong,

feminine girl group

that incorporated

both a cappella music

and choreography and dance,

and so that's how I came up

with the idea for Stiletta.

>> [ Vocalizing ]

>> ♪ You and

♪ I am

♪ A-R-R-I-V-E-D

♪ I've arrived

♪ 1, 2, 3...

>> I came up with the idea

of the stiletto heel,

which is extremely feminine,

obviously, and also

a stiletto is a knife.

So it's both feminine

and fierce.

♪ ...how this thing goes

♪ You run and tell your friends

that you're leaving me ♪

♪ You say they don't see what

you see in me ♪

♪ You wait a couple months, then

you gon' see ♪

♪ You'll never find nobody

better than me ♪

♪ Ha

♪ Lockdown

♪ Your love locked down

>> We perform at

the Times Square-42nd Street

station a lot, and you get

tourists, you get commuters,

you get crazy people --

you get everybody.

And it's really, really fun.

And it's always a trip.

>> [ Vocalizing ]

>> People will stop, and they'll

stand and watch our entire set,

which is like an hour long.

>> We are @StilettaNYC.

>> Our main goal -- and not

just in the music that we pick,

but in just who we are as

people --

is to inspire our audiences

and uplift women and empower

women.

>> ♪ I used to compromise, I had

no voice ♪

♪ I tried to imitate, that was

my choice ♪

♪ But now this vanity is takin'

over me ♪

♪ It's all I've got today, just

makin' noise ♪

>> We have an original song

called "Get Pumped."

It's just about basically

getting up and dancing

and just feeling good about

yourself and wearing high heels.

>> ♪ Stomp your heels and

strut ♪

>> Our arrangements are

very specific to our own sound.

>> ♪ Get high, get high

♪ Get low, get low

♪ Get into the beat now

♪ It's bound to explode

>> [ Beatboxing ]

>> ♪ Here it comes

>> MC Beats is a huge part of

why we sound the way that we do.

>> I am the vocal percussionist

and beatboxer of the group.

[ Beatboxing ]

2012 was the first time

I went

to the world championships.

So at that point, I was

beatboxing a couple years, and I

ended up

placing third in the world.

[ Beatboxing ]

Shortly after Judy found me

and I started doing a cappella,

and that's been my main focus

since then.

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> Thank you so much.

>> People are like, you know,

"Unplug the radio," or stuff

like that, because they really

thought we had

tracks underneath us.

We never do.

It's always live, and it's

always all six of us doing

it.

>> [ Vocalizing ]

>> ♪ Oh

>> ♪ Yes

[ All vocalizing ]

>> Since we started performing

in MUNY, we've gotten

so much tighter --

so many hours after hours

after hours of singing

together in that subway.

It's made our group really,

really grow.

>> ♪ Let me take you there

>> It seems like, in that moment

when the six of us

are finally together,

it's like...

even though there's all this

chaos around

and you never know what's gonna

happen and you never know

what you're going to get,

it's like our sense of calm.

>> [ Vocalizing ]

>> Being in the subway

kind of forces you

to acknowledge what's

immediately in front of you.

>> ♪ You need a good girl to

blow your mi-i-nd ♪

>> [ Imitates explosion ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Electric cello music plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

>> I started cello

in fourth grade

when our music teacher came

around for instruments.

So I picked up the cello,

and I played the first note,

which was a really low,

resonant note,

and I just loved the sound

of it, that bass note.

But after high school,

me and a friend,

we actually went out to the

streets of Washington, D.C., and

we started

playing contemporary songs.

And I remember the reaction

of people

walking past on the streets.

It struck me like, "Hey,

this can be really something

special here."

>> After college, I moved up

here to New York City area

for medical school

at Mount Sinai.

And one of the things

that drew me to New York City

was obviously the culture

that we have with the arts.

That's when I looked up MUNY,

Music Under New York,

and I found out they had

a whole audition process --

sent them an application,

did the audition.

♪♪

And, thankfully,

everything worked out.

And the reason why I chose

"Eyeglasses"

is because of two reasons.

I want to be an ophthalmologist.

I want help people see better,

specifically kids who have lost

their vision at a young age.

The second reason, which is

a bit more lighthearted,

is that Beethoven,

he wrote a piece called

"Eyeglasses Duet."

When musicians sat down

and read the sheet music

in front of them,

there were so many notes on it,

it was such a tricky,

difficult piece to play,

that the only way musicians

could read the music

is if they wore really,

really strong glasses.

So I absolutely love

the story behind that.

I took inspiration from that.

[ Cello tuning, feedback ]

So, I play the electric cello,

and it's the exact same four

strings as an acoustic cello.

The only difference is

they stuck a little pickup

inside the electric cello

so it can be amplified,

so it's louder.

[ Cello plays Coldplay's

"Viva la Vida" ]

So, what I love to do

is also use a looper.

So, essentially, what I do is

I'll play a bass

part, percussion part,

a harmony part on the cello,

and then I can loop that segment

over and over again.

So it essentially comes down

to I'm playing

9 or 10 different cello

parts at the same time.

So it just opens up

a lot of doors

as to what I can do musically.

[ Cello plays Coldplay's

"Viva la Vida" plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

So, unfortunately, there's not

much sheet music out there

for, like, nine cellos to play,

like, pop songs or rock songs.

So, yeah, oftentimes

I'll just hear a song

on the radio or on Spotify.

And then once I've listened

to a couple of times,

I kind of extrapolate it out

and try to create, you know,

a cello rendition of it.

♪♪

♪♪

Amongst all that kind of, like,

chaotic energy, of

people, you know, bustling

and crowds moving,

I think the best part of that

is just seeing how the music

impacts these people who,

you know, are either

have their headphones on,

just watching their phone,

trying to get from point

A to point B

as quickly as possible,

and then just seeing them

being able to stop,

just enjoy the moment

for what it is.

♪♪

In medicine and music,

you really have to connect

with the human being sitting in

front of you.

Helping uplift them with music,

I find it actually makes me

a better medical student

and hopefully a better doctor

down the road, too.

♪♪

♪♪

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you, guys.

Thank you so much.

>> ♪L'amour est un oiseau

rebelle ♪

♪Que nul ne peut apprivoiser ♪

♪Et c'est bien en vain qu'on

l'appelle ♪

♪S'il lui convient de

refuser ♪

I know how it is to work

in the morning

and the hustle and bustle.

One day, I heard a little girl

sing,

and it really touched my heart.

It made a difference in my day.

And so I was like, you know,

"Maybe I could do that

for other people."

I had just graduated college,

and I was like, "What am I

gonna do with my life?

Eh, let me help people out

while I figure it out."

And so, one day,

there was this lady.

She came up to me really,

really upset.

"[ New York accent ] You know,

you have

a beautiful voice, honey.

You sound just like an angel.

What are you doing down here?"

[ Laughs ]

[ Normal voice ] And I was like,

"I want to be an angel."

♪ How gracious did that grace

appear ♪

I decided to take this

seriously at some point

and not just moonlight.

I was tired of getting harassed

by the cops, and becoming part

of MUNY allowed me to have a

schedule,

and then I could really keep

that schedule, that structure.

So right now I am

at Yale Divinity School,

where I will be

getting my MDiv.

I work as a chaplain.

I gig a lot.

And so that's how

I kind of balance everything.

♪Requiem ♪

I don't think

I would have ended up

at divinity school

if I didn't sing in the subway.

>> ♪Domine ♪

People are crying

and telling me all their issues,

and I wanted to be able

to be of service.

[ Singing opera music ]

>>Will be on track...

>> Every subway has its own

culture, which is kind of weird,

but it's true.

When you're in Grand Central,

there's a lot of

businesspeople,

but then people transiting,

and it's a very interesting mix.

I tend to do the goodies --

oldies but goodies.

I like to tap into the

collective consciousness of

New Yorkers.

[ Singing opera music ]

So it's like laden

in your subconscious, and people

usually act to things

that are very familiar.

[ Singing opera music ]

Whether it's Carmen or opera

or sacred music, I give my all.

I sing it because

it's a communion with you,

with the person who's listening.

It humbles me because I sing,

I worship.

♪Panis angelicus ♪

♪Fit panis hominum ♪

But I just want them to know

that they heard an angel

and they're not alone.

♪ Amen

♪ Amen

Singing in the subway,

it could be very chaotic but

very beautiful at the same time.

That's New York City.

♪Humilis ♪

[ Exotic music plays ]

♪♪

>> When I was a little kid,

I would drum myself to sleep

by putting my ear

to the mattress

and playing the mattress.

And then I would hum to it.

What I'm doing now is not

really much different than that.

♪♪

I came up with the name

StreetMule because I play so

much on the street and in the

subway, and it is,

in a sense, a shortened version

of my last name.

♪♪

I decided to audition

for my solo act

because I wanted to be able to

express myself on my own time.

This program speaks

of a love and diversity

and expression for being whoever

and whatever you want to be.

And the New Yorkers eat it up.

I love New York for that.

And I love the program

for that.

♪♪

People ask me all the time

what this music is,

and I tell them, "It's sweaty."

What I'm trying to do is provide

the people that see me

with 15 seconds of energy.

The sound is more of an idea

of the New York City diaspora,

of people coming together

from all over the world

and finding something new.

♪♪

I consider really everything

an instrument.

There's hand drums

like the Middle Eastern

hand drum, which is a darbuka or

a doumbek...

and then acajón,

which is a Peruvian rhythm box.

And then I play

a plastic wind tube.

That could be a PVC pipe,

a fiberglass tube,

or an actual didgeridoo --

and then percussion on my hands

and on my feet, as well.

It's a whole balancing act.

♪♪

Atlantic-Pacific in Brooklyn

is a great spot

for all my local people.

It sounds really great.

♪♪

It kind of looks like a trumpet.

The sound is compressed a bit,

but then it opens up.

And so for my sound, it just

kind of billows out like that.

♪♪

I play to the pulse of

the location that I'm playing

in.

I find that

my creativity is best

in the moment.

In the subway,

the moment to entice somebody

to come by and stop even

or just slow down is so short

that I've learned to slide

in and out of different time

signatures and moods.

So I'm flexible

as far as what I'm doing.

And that has, I think, helped

my rhythm experience

because I've become more agile

with my gear, basically.

♪♪

The best thing for me

is when I see a child,

and because they are so much

in the moment, the people

that are watching or the adults,

they'll realize that that's the

point of playing street music.

♪♪

Put down the technology

and just dance.

Connect. That's all.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Whoo!

>> Alright, baby.

♪♪

>> Thank you for joining us

this evening.

We hope, the next time

you're in the subway,

you'll follow the music

and discover something new.

I'm Paula Zahn. Good night.

Hope you'll join us next time.

>> To enjoy more of your

favorite segments on "NYC-Arts,"

visit our website

at NYC-Arts.org.

♪♪

>> Leonard, what a privilege

to be able to sit down

and talk with you.

>> I love being here

with you too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment

to take nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven, the curator

of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> The "Cardboard Guitar" is the

very first of that moment of

realization.

>> Suddenly, you come and

present something, and you get

applause.

Great, you know?

[ Upbeat classical music plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

>> And by

Swann Auction Galleries.

>> Swann Auction Galleries --

we have a different way

of looking at auctions,

offering vintage books

and fine art since 1941,

working to combine knowledge

with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong

collector, a first-time buyer,

or looking to sell, information

at swanngalleries.com.

STREAM NYC-ARTS ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv