Friday Fun: Wynton Marsalis on the 'Mythic Significance' of Trains

Famed musician Wynton Marsalis recently spoke with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about the connections between music and transportation.
October 14, 2016, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Wynton Marsalis

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had a conversation with world-famous musician Wynton Marsalis about "how transportation has impacted his life and inspired his music." The resulting video is recommended viewing for advocates of music, trains, and civil rights.

Secretary Foxx starts the interview off by asking Marsalis how transportation, exemplified by a train, "sounds" in music.

Marsalis responds by sitting down to a piano and playing a blues shuffle, adding a train whistle to top off the riff. Marsalis goes on to say his music is full of "train shuffles," and describes how the train has both the incantation (the "whoo-whoo") and the percussion (the "kanugh-kanugh") of music.

Marsalis grew up between a railroad track and the Mississippi River, where he first learned that the "train has a mythic significance"—both metaphorical and literal significance, as he describes it. Marsalis also describes growing up with the signs of inequality as present in the pavement of the streets of his hometown.

When asked how transportation can help bring people together, Marsalis says access is the key, alongside hubs where people integrate and interact.

The video and the interview are part of the U.S Department of Transportation's #TranspoStory initiative.

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Published on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 in Facebook Video
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