Music New York
Photographing a city of buskers
Union Square Subway Station, September 19, 2016. All photos ©William Meyers
In New York, music is ubiquitous. All sorts of people play all sorts of music at all times of the day and night, and in every conceivable venue — not just concert halls, bars, and cabarets, but in the parks, subways, streets, schools, churches, synagogues, and, of course, in the privacy of their homes. My project Music New York, from which these photographs are drawn, explores the ways in which New Yorkers encounter music. As such, it deals with musicians, audiences, venues and, in a few images, symbolic manifestations. The project’s theme is the variety and ubiquity of musical engagement in the city, not celebrity or any particular genre.
The pictures here are of buskers, musicians performing in public, mostly to make money, but sometimes simply for the pleasure of playing to an audience. The music ranges from sublime 15th-century polyphonic sacred a cappella motets to the intolerable cacophony of rhythms whacked out on plastic pails. The calibre ranges from truly professional to pathetic. There is a great democracy in all of this as the right to perform is open to all musicians and the right to listen to all passers-by; the latter also have the equally important right to ignore. At a time when most music is heard in one electronic format or another, buskers preserve the tradition of live music.
Union Square Subway Station, February 28, 2011.
Times Square Subway Station, October 4, 2011.
East 86th Street at Lexington Avenue, October 31, 2010
Straus Park, Upper West Side, May 24, 2017
Washington Square Park, September 10, 2017.
190 Street Station, Fort Tryon Park, June 28, 2017