Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Subway Soundtrack V

The MBTA has delayed plans to crack down on and restrict buskers performing on the city's public transportation platforms. Citing security concerns, the MBTA intends to limit live subway music to acoustic instruments -- no amplifiers, no drums, no brass, and no woodwinds. Additionally, the plans call for buskers to be "neat in appearance," wear photo ID, and pay $25 for an annual performance permit.

Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman, has said that the musicians drown out the public address system and that "if people can't hear those messages, then we have a problem." Critics of the new rules countered that no one can understand the messages, which at times are muffled and distorted, even when musicians aren't playing.

It's true. I think the solution to the problem, if there is a problem, is to ensure that the MBTA's PA system works well first. I can never understand what the agents are saying when the system is used, and it's not because of buskers. The speakers sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons even when a station is dead silent. Musicians such as Tracy Chapman who got their start in the subway are speaking up against the proposal. As did Roland Tumble last night at Park Street. Tumble's one of my favorite performers, and if the plan goes into effect, I'll miss his grouchiness and beautiful blues guitar.

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