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Humanities 2017, 6(3), 67; doi:10.3390/h6030067

Improvised Performances: Urban Ethnography and the Creative Tactics of Montreal’s Metro Buskers

Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada
Received: 24 June 2017 / Revised: 21 August 2017 / Accepted: 25 August 2017 / Published: 30 August 2017
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Abstract

Buskers—street performers—evince the creative tactics of self-conscious agents who are both produced by and productive of the social and material conditions within which they carry out their practices. In this article, I discuss my ethnographic research among buskers in Montreal’s underground transit system—the metro—and examine their highly variable and improvisational practices (musical and spatial). I detail how buskers work with and against the constraints and possibilities posed by the material characteristics of those spaces (especially in terms of acoustics) as well as formal regulations and prevailing social norms. This suggests understanding busking as a relational process of “cobbling together” that is never entirely fixed or bounded, but dispersed and always in-the-making. Further, I demonstrate how the research process in this context is itself a creative, improvisational approach, guided as much by the conditions at hand as by an overarching research design. By drawing parallels between the busker-performer and my role as researcher and creative producer, particularly in my use of audio-visual production, I argue that ethnographic research is, itself, a form of assemblaging, of bricolage—an embodied, relational process that involves multiple participants (human and material) of varying influences, bound together by the tactical activities of the researcher. View Full-Text
Keywords: busker; performance; improvisation; assemblage; spatial practices; materiality; embodiment; ethnography; audiovisual production busker; performance; improvisation; assemblage; spatial practices; materiality; embodiment; ethnography; audiovisual production
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Wees, N. Improvised Performances: Urban Ethnography and the Creative Tactics of Montreal’s Metro Buskers. Humanities 2017, 6, 67.

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