The Unexpected Joy of a Copenhagen Metro Commute (video)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 6:03am

The Unexpected Joy of a Copenhagen Metro Commute (video)

Unexpected joy. It's a subset of a feeling that many of us prize but haven't quite defined. Programming our live events space during On Being's first year of independence, I've been thinking a good deal about how to create space for this elevated sensation. And I'm remembering back, thinking about all the wonderful flash mobs I've watched over and over, especially this very quiet scene on the Copenhagen Metro in 2012.

The Sjællands Symfoniorkester, aka the Copenhagen Phil, created a feeling of unexpected joy for the quiet commuters of Denmark (check out the woman's expression at the 1:05 mark in the video) by playing Grieg's “Peer Gynt.” But, how to capture the expressions and the fidelity of the sound? That's where the brilliance of audio technicians from Radio Klassisk comes in:

"The Copenhagen Metro is very quiet and the recording you hear is where the train is standing still. That's why the recording you hear is so clean and crisp — and the sound is actually surprisingly good in the Copenhagen metro. We did this deliberately because we feel that a good sound experience is vital when trying to portray the actual experience that day. Further to the main recording, when the train was standing still, the recordings from the cameras was, as far as possible, mixed into the sound."

And for you audiophiles out there:

"I recorded the sound with XY Oktava MK-012 supercardioid microphones close to the soloists and a set of DPA 4060 omnidirectional microphones as overhead for the rest of the orchestra. For some of the closeup shots, the camera mikes (Sennheiser ME 66) was added."

Perhaps you could help me think along on what it means to create these experiences of unexpected joy. What might we do to give back to you and the larger community?


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Trent Gilliss

is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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I love the phrase unexpected joy for happenings like this. I love flash mobs. I read in the Star Tribune this weekend about two retired pastors who give free sailboat rides to people on Lake Calhoun in the summer, from late afternoon until sunset. One of them insists on sign-alongs and he loves children's song. How sweet would it be to stumble onto them on a sunny afternoon?

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Teresa, thanks so much for sharing. I will now be on the lookout (with my wife and two sons) for these retired pastors!

Enjoyed this thoroughly Trent - thank you for taking the time to share this. I'm contemplating ideas for unexpected joy whereby readers, followers of this blog, the podcast the program can contribute. Perhaps, for starters, crowdsource some more ideas and contributions on Twitter? Use #unexpectedjoy as the hash tag? You could solicit original thoughts, quotes, etc. as well as gather links to articles, vids, blogs etc.? Cheers!

Trent Gilliss's picture

Yes, it's a great idea, Peter. I see that the hash tag is already in the works and we could give it some heft. Perhaps you could kick it off, and I'd be glad to retweet. And move it forward in unexpected ways!

The wonder in the faces of the children feeds the soul. Watching the young man remove his headphones filled me with hope that this moment gave him appreciation of classical music. Like jazz, we get on at the beginning of the song and go along for the ride and are at times transformed by the experience. How lucky are they who ride the train.

Tears of joy!

Beautiful and so refreshing to see such positive reactions from all ages! I loved and enjoyed it so keep up the good works

this was beautiful. music adds so much to our lives. thanks for sharing.

thanks for all the joy and understanding you have brought me.

Delight...surprise...wonder...we don't experience enough of these gifts because we miss what is before us....we are just too busy...too hurried...too self absorbed....I so enjoyed the delight shared. Thanks!!!

Thank you for this. I am very grateful to have discovered it...

This looks great!! I ride the metro in Copenhagen quite often, and I think that some orchestral flash mobs just as this would add so much more life to the metro experience!! Love it!!!

Ahh, the morning spent in the company of women talking about spirituality capped off with Peer Gynt and joyful faces. It doesn't get much better than that! Thank you.


Trent and Krista make my week.

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So very kind of you to write, Alida. This made my day!

Hi Trent. This jewel of a newsletter is one of my greatest joys to receive each week. Such a rich read. As I read each piece, my spirit lifts as my confidence in mankind is bolstered. We read and hear so much sad news and cynical commentary. On Being serves as a reminder that there is so much more to life--many ah haa moments, unexpected joys and folks doing fascinating and noble things in the course of their everyday lives. I really like Peter M's idea about using twitter to spread the word on joy. I am not a regular twitter user but the chance to help spread the message about joy is exciting. I know from personal experience that joy is at our fingertips but it helps to be reminded through the stories of others.

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I couldn't agree more. One of the things so many of the readers and listeners have taught me is that it's vital that we aspire to be delighted -- and to delight others. It's a reciprocating community, and I'm glad to be part of it.

I found this flash mob absolutely delightful - and would have loved to have been there.

The sound of a small child's voice. A bird singing with abandon in the night. The loving faces of offspring. A favorite song in an unexpected time and place. For years I've understood the idea of joy as a reflection of consciousness of the presence of God in my life. These videos confirm that understanding. And since we can cultivate our consciousness of God, we can cultivate joy, in times of pain and adversity as in times of pleasure and plenty. God is good; joy is a gift to all humanity!.

Came upon the "flash mob" Copenhagen Phil video on FB. Stayed for the rest of the reading (and joy) on the blog page. Thank you. I am humbled, and awed at your inspiring works.

As you look at the commuters, shoulder-to-shoulder with the musicians, it becomes apparent that these people are not just physically connected but also spiritually connected through a very personal and direct offering of participation in the present moment. The unexpected joy, I think, comes from transforming a space where people are typically isolated into one where people are totally present and engaged in the offering of or the receiving of the music.

Thank you for making On Being an expected joy for me with each visit.

Yes, beautiful

I cried the first time I saw this 10 days ago and I have blurry eyes again on watching this morning. Such a beautiful rendition; such a wonderful series of moments in which people are brought together around this loveliness! You are doing a wonderful work to remind us that life is often good…that reminder is truly an unexpected joy!

Another poignant reminder of the innate wonder in and everywhere around us. This is the reason On Being has become a staple in my weekly listening! Unending gratitude to you, Christa and everyone on the On Being team for providing these lovely gems.

In the midst of so much discouraging world and national news it is an abundant blessing to have this place to come to.

What a wonderful feeling of peace of my own while listening to the beautiful music.. And I loved the smiles of the riders as they listened.

I'm going to be a bah humbug over this. On principle, I don't like it when people make use of a captive audience, like those who ride a subway. Naturally, for my taste, what I saw here was much preferable to the fire and brimstone preachers who sometimes intrude on my train, or the hip hop dancers who I always worry will accidentally hit me or someone else with their subway acrobatics.

But that is my taste, and even so, there could be people on that subway car who wanted to enjoy the quiet, or wanted to listen to the music they liked using headphones - which is what you should do on the subway out of respect for others. At least the loud subway preachers and the hip hop dancers usually do not occupy any of the available seats, as many in this orchestra did on that day.

Also, the main purpose of the subway is to get people to their jobs. So with so many musicians boarding the train for their look-at-me, lets-make-a-viral-video moment, I wonder whether some people got to work late that day because they had to let this filled train pass them and wait for the next one. So in sum, nice music for my taste, but that does not justify imposing on a captive audience, and their willingness to do that also makes me suspect that their motives were more about self promotion.

I hope your day improves.

What beautiful music ! What a lovely way to say Good Morning.Please do appreciate this wonderful joy breaking into ,the morning ride . It is truly wonderful. So sorry I am not there in person to enjoy it all. Greetings and THANK You from Ireland


Wouldn't it be great if this wasn't so rare? All of us could use a lift like this one. I would choose to walk past the park or ride the bus or visit the mall where this was happening regularly. Unexpected is great, I just wish I could find them when I'm feeling down or need a lift. :)

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful experience . Enjoyed by my self and the lucky people on the train.

Music makes us joyful. Music takes away sorrow. Music builds community. Music brings us closer together. MUSIC IS LOVE.

A lovely way to start the day...Thank you for sharing, Karen!

What a powerful experience...unexpected joy. Does any language have a word for this unique sensation? I've been thinking about the video, and sharing it, a lot this week. Could it be a full-body metaphor for God, or one's encounter with It/She/He? As a bonus, it has left me with a wonderful earworm. Thank you!

Lovely! I used to play violin and viola professionally -- and I think there is a big difference between being IN (surrounded by) the music and being out in the concert hall listening to it. I love these flash mobs because they give people the experience of being IN the music, and the result shows in the joy on their faces.

The smiles of people leaving the train really made my day! Really sweet, uplifting way to begin the day!!! I need to listen to it every morning....maybe I will! thank you!

Visitng Haiti frequently in our younger years felt we experienced more joy among the poorest of the poor than anywhere we have been. What is their secret? Not just Haiti but the many pockets of severe poverty around this world. Thanks for this one and the beautiful music and the even more beautiful faces. Thank you.

This was so beautiful. I needed this joy this morning. Thank you.

The joy and surprise on the people's faces was a real "lift"! The earbuds came out of ears! Thanks!

Thank you so much for touching into the heart space and for giving us the chance to pause and enjoy.

Beautiful. The world was a better place that day.

Several years ago, as I sat twiddling my thumbs and. Roll oping my eyes upward I e

Too short!

Now that's what I call a commute

so wonderful

It's 6 years later that I find this and am crying to find such kindness, talent, and beauty shared so altruistically. I don't know why I need it now, but appreciate it beyond words. Bringing beauty to life is apparently a timeless gift to humanity.

Sheer joy! Thank you.

What a beautiful antidote to "I can't breathe! I can't breathe" which haunts me frequently. Thank you!

Logging on to "on Being" is like stepping into a forest glade with babbling brook: always full, surprising, and delightful. Krista Tippet is a goddess of communication, truth-seeking, and beauty. This flash-mob video is an illustration of what she brings to the world through her inspiration. Thanks, Krista, and thanks to all the people who bring this all together - including this video, which gave me so much joy this morning.

And part of the beauty is the sharing with people who are at first strangers but who are linked with us through the experience, which is both solitary and communal. I love the expressions on faces in response to music and the sheer unexpectedness of it.

thank you for that! It reminded me of this flashmob in a Hamburg mall:

I was sitting here having my coffee and looking out at the morning fog lift over the lake - my own sanctuary - when I checked out the flash mob in Denmark and was greeted with a moment of such beauty, connection, and joy that it felt almost sacred. Thank you.

I think these moments come along anytime we experience something that reminds us of our humanity as we are participating in the machinery of daily life. Bringing that music to an unexpected place, the morning commute that is so dreary for so many people, seemed to remind people of something that somehow seemed forgotten in that moment.

Soothing for the soul.