Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subways of New York

By Susie J. Tanenbaum | Go to book overview

6
Sounds and Silence: Regulating Subway Music

Let me present two statements. The first is an excerpt from the TA regulations:

Non-transit uses are non-commercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following non-transit uses are authorized and permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities . . . : public speaking; distribution of written non-commercial materials; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations; solicitation for charitable, religious or political causes. 1

The second is from testimony delivered at the public hearings held before these regulations were adopted:

The issue is not safety, nor is it obstruction of pedestrian traffic, nor is it noise. It is merely a matter of accepting a reality of New York's wonderfully creative and enterprising spirit. 2

The legal status of freelance subway music became a point of contention in the 1980s, embedded in a larger debate about the status of free expression in public space. This chapter traces the debate, focusing on the major turning points: the People v. Manning case in 1985, the TA Experimental Guidelines in 1987, the TA proposal of new rules together with the remarkable public hearings on them in 1989, and

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