World Class Background Noise

May 23, 2011

There probably are some better places to be a “street musician” than in the NYC subway system.  But when I went back home last week and saw the variety of performing artists and the quality of their music – I can’t imagine there are many.

I use the term “street” very loosely.  Here you are really below the street – in the netherworld of the underground. The belly of the beast.

Where else can you find an audience of tens of thousands every day.

Unfortunately, most passers-by are not in the mood to be an audience.  They are in a hurry, they don’t stop.

And, 0f course there is competition for their focus and attention.

But, it is never so cold in the winter that you can’t play.  And it never rains on you. And, you can play pretty much anything – any genre, style, volume, playing ability – and no one is going to complain.

When I was a kid, commuting by subway to JHS in Brooklyn or Music and Art HS in Manhattan, you would see all sorts of musicians — they played in the subway cars… walking through as the subway bounced through the tunnels… playing trumpet or saxophone… with a cup for tips attached.  There also were the deaf-mutes handing out cards that explained sign language, and gathering them up if you didn’t pay for them.  Or the guy with no legs on a dolly… pushing himself through the cars begging.  Musicians were just one part of the show.

Now the musicians are fixed, and licensed, and have banners. It doesn’t seem as though that helps them attract an audience.

And they still have problems being heard… because of the noise of the people and trains all around.

The music is playing everywhere but nobody hears it.

Because their minds are too busy to appreciate what is happening around them in the now.

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