Sunday, August 2, 2015

Street Music

Friday's Washington Post has an article about a group of street musicians who play at 15th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW, by the northeast corner of the Treasury Building. The short version is that tourists love them and that persons whose offices are in earshot wish they would go away.I guess that the former is true. On Friday, I saw a blond boy of about 10, certainly a tourist, doing what looked a creditable job on the tambourine beside them. I expect that the latter is true also. The lawyers at Skadden, Arp are paid a good deal for the ability to bring concentrated thought on legal matters, and music, however good, must distract them.

My own office is out of earshot of them, Still, they have affected my lunchtime walks. I don't care to walk within six feet of a vigorous man's trumpet  or trombone with unprotected ear, and I think it rude to walk past with my hands over my ears. More than one intended walk around the White House (well, the Executive Compound) has turned into a walk up New York Avenue. Proficient though they are, I would like them better someplace I could give them a wider berth.

Charles Babbage did not care for street musicians, and spent a good deal of time and energy trying to keep them away. It seems that he made himself at least conspicuous, maybe a figure of fun, in doing so. A database administrator I knew got into a fistfight with a street vendor over the volume of the latter's portable stereo. Though less fit than the vendor, he didn't suffer much visible damage, and the vendor was arrested, though not held in custody long. The next morning he was at his table to turn up the volume as the DBA went past.


  1. Sound is increasingly a symptom of bad mannered times. I'm surprised by the number of times I've been disturbed in the street recently by people walking along listening to sound devices that they make no attempt to keep to themselves. They don't use headphones, just expect everyone else to put up with whatever they have chosen to listen to. Thin end of the wedge

    1. Headphones are more popular, I think, than they were thirty years ago. I suppose that I hear less noise from boom boxes than I did, though of course many more cell phone conversations that I'd like to skip.