Gritty, Subterranean Music

Oct 25, 2012 2:48pm

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Marlon Krieger has traveled the globe as a photographer and filmmaker, deftly illuminating life and culture half a world away.

Over the past few years, the intrepid New York artist has snapped revealing images in far-flung places, from Haiti to China, Morocco to Cuba, occasionally finding himself in harm’s way to capture his prey. His most recent project took him and his partner, Annalisa Iadicicco, to Peru for a months-long film project to document the role that education plays in providing opportunities to the oppressed.

Yet for all his worldly travels and global adventures, Krieger found inspiration for his latest project much closer to home: aiming his lens at the gritty, subterranean music scene inside New York City subways.

“I was hoping to show the underground music scene in a different light,” says Krieger, a German native who moved to the U.S. as a child. “I wanted to expose the subway stations and platforms as the stages they are.”

The result is “Underground,” an engaging short film on New York’s subway musicians, modern troubadours who perform on platforms, mezzanines, and even trains rattling through the city. The film draws on dozens of stills and interviews with musicians to explore both the vibrant culture as well as the intricate class politics of subway music.

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“I was hearing music underground as rich and exciting as in any New York hot spot,” Krieger explains. “The public, however, mostly breezed by, noticing people asking for money rather than hearing the music they were playing, unable to see or hear the artistry because of the environment and situation in which they found it.”

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The film and the photography serve as a kind of guided tour through a world populated by creative artists and in some cases true visionaries. Snaking through gritty subway platforms, the film manages to introduce a spirited cast of characters and free spirits whose fearless adventures reveal a world that millions of us pass through every day yet barely understand or even acknowledge.

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“The energy, the architecture, the heat and coldness, the acoustics and the people that choose and love to play underground makes for an incredibly rich and unpredictable experience,” Krieger adds. “Isn’t that what underground music is all about?”

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