Happy City Series: Listening Cities

Listening.  I’ve been learning a lot about that recently, especially in how I listen to others and listen to my own inner dialogue.   I’m more aware in working with communities, and design collaboration how listening plays such a big role in design.  Listening is also how we learn.   I’ve enjoying listening to lectures of late.  So a “listening city” on the flip side is a “talking city” where people can express views, hear public talks, have forums for expression.  Also to learn I have to ask a lot of questions, especially as a try to find myself in a new city.  So perhaps a “listening city” is also one that is always questioning – questioning our decision makers, communities, and designers.

But back to the point –

Listening in the happiness book actually references listening to music. This I also enjoy.  I love live music, and I can’t wait for summer in New York just for the music scene.


Central Park - 1/5/10

A “Listening City” ought to have busking.

I remember seeing signed buskers initiatives and designated areas in London, UK.

I remember the story of a famous violinist who dressed up as a busker.  (Via Washington Post(2007) – “I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute”)

I know the buskers in Brisbane as regular un-named characters.  Like the old guy who plays the sax, with his guide dog by his side, who sits near the Myer Centre all the time.  And the steel drum guy who is always up near the Treasury Casino.

I ‘ve discovered bands on the street.  Early this year, I bought the EP of these girls, Avabeere, when they were performing in the Queen St Mall.   I heard it drifting from the Wintergarden and struck me enough to stay, listen and pay the $12.

I enjoy the diversity of buskers on the New York subway.  There was acapella group of 4 African American men, that moved through the cars, singing Motown, a paper bag to collect money, and tapping a book to keep time.  I gave them a $1.  There was a guy also on the subway playing a didgeridoo.  I gave him money mostly on some sentimental Australian connection (…plus I got taught how to play it once, and it’s hard, so mad respect for anyone who can play it!)    And once there was lady singing opera songs.

In addition, music events, festivals and concerts in outdoor spaces is also a must for a “Listening City”.  I was impressed at the stages of Montreal Jazz Festival, been to great shows at the Riverstage in Brisbane and I enjoyed the dance parties at PS1 MOMA, New York.  (Listening Cities, must inherently link to “Dancing Cities”)


Brandy's - 24/4/10

A “Listening City” ought to also have diversity in venues – indoor and outdoor.  As well as the infrastructure of creative industries and music production, like studios. My roomie runs a non-profit studio to support local acts, as like most creative arts, cheap space is always a concern and this group provides a service to ensure cheap space still exists.

In Brisbane, I sense the indie live music scene is still in the Valley.   Though it was a big deal because of disturbance to residential uses that were coming from dance clubs, as inner city Brisbane was changing, and introduction of “Entertainment Precinct” to try to address sound proofing issues.   It has changed over the years, and gets known as increasingly dangerous for drunken brawling etc.    Last night I found myself visiting a piano bar, a very New York thing to do apparently.  Brandy’s, a small intimate venue, where people sing along to Elton John, Beatles, and he even did “Waltzing Matilda” as our ANZAC Day theme.   Adam, visiting from Sydney commented how you’d never see this in the Valley – the bar of this size and vibe.  True to say,  it really is the music that sets it apart.  Though people are drinking there is a relaxed environment – no aggression as seen in the Valley.  How can you get aggressive when singing along to the Beatles?

Happy music makes for happy people.

Music does change moods, and spaces.


One thought on “Happy City Series: Listening Cities

  1. Michelle says:

    When you get to NYC in the summer – look for the ‘Saw Lady’ – she plays the musical saw in the subway: http://www.sawlady.com/blog – I think you will enjoy her performance. Have you ever listened to a musical saw?

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