Accepted Paper:

Underground assemblages: space, practice and encounter among Montreal's metro musicians  


Nick Wees (University of Victoria)

Paper short abstract:

Based on my ethnographic research, I show the lived experiences of Montreal metro buskers (street performers) to be less of an identity, profession or autonomous subject-position than an assemblage-act at the convergence of multiple lines of urban flow, suggesting ‘scene’ as a process of becoming.

Paper long abstract:

Based on my recent ethnographic research among Montreal's metro buskers ('street' performers), I demonstrate the highly variable motives, practices, and impacts on passersby of these urban public performers, and argue against thinking of the busker as an identity, profession or even autonomous subject-position. Rather, by examining the ephemeral, improvisatory and context-dependent practices of metro buskers, I propose seeing the busker as an assemblage-act, at the convergence of multiple lines of urban flow. I focus on buskers' sensory and affective experiences, on their musical, spatial and social practices, and on the ways that performer and space are co-productive, especially in terms of sonic experience. Further, I detail how, by arresting, or rerouting the social and sensorial flow of commuters' experience, metro buskers can have a transformative effect, creatively reclaiming everyday spaces and fostering moments of social encounter and exchange - suggesting a notion of 'scene' as a process of becoming - one that, like music itself, is both spatial and temporal. Both the metro system proper and the busker within it can be understood as temporal, spatial-material assemblaging processes - ones that are transitory, in transit and (potentially) transformative, and from which the researcher is not isolated. My use of video as participatory research method underscores the entanglement of the ethnographer in the site, subject, and process of fieldwork. Moreover, the (unanticipated) trajectories opened up by the editing process and online viewing and sharing of a series of short video clips, pushes the 'scene' of the metro busker into ever expanding directions.

Panel MB-SAR02
Scenes of sensual ethnographic encounters, scenes of resistance, performative and transitory music scenes (IUAES Commission on Music, Dance, Performative Practices and Sound)