Dear nameless Liacouras guitar player:
No, the stunning, off-putting silence that you hear from passersby does not mean that they cannot hear you, and that you need to sing the same third of Radiohead’s “High and Dry” that you warble at us every day even louder. It means, quite frankly, that very few Temple students enjoy your carefully chosen set list, and simply believe that, if they ignore you, you will blissfully fade away into the ether.
I’m speaking for the populace of Main Campus as a whole here when I say that we do not just have an issue with you, good sir. What is your name, by the way? Is it Todd? You look like a Todd.
This fall, more than any other semester that I’ve been a part of here at Temple, has been overrun with outdoor “performances,” varying from your aforementioned guitar antics, to unsolicited four-person dubstep raves, and even inexplicable drum-only covers of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” that sound far less like fully-fledged pop songs and far more like wholehearted attempts to summon Cthulhu out from under the Bell Tower itself. It has been a rough semester on many eardrums.
In choosing such a public venue for your “art,” you have brought a level of deserved scrutiny upon yourself that you may not be prepared for. While I admire your bravery in the face of an unwitting audience, ramming your music down our ears each and every day is not helping your cause. “Expressing yourself” is one thing, but forcing your thoughts and opinions on the public is another entirely.
For example, I enjoy writing, and often post things for the public to see online. Do I go so far as to read my own essays out loud to every stranger I see? No, because I don’t believe that every human being on campus needs to hear my thoughts and agree with me. That’s arrogant, and may be why so many of us are angered by your public concerts.
Secondly, we, as a society, look up to and are attracted to musicians because they are impossibly “cool” without any perceived effort. I am attracted to Beyoncé because I wholeheartedly believe that she’s actually one of Aphrodite’s illegitimate children that escaped Mount Olympus, creates pop songs via magic and never has to exercise. Jay-Z is cool because he’s apparently so gifted that he doesn’t even have to write his own lyrics down.
The musicians you all look up to don’t publicly care about their craft whatsoever, but pushing your music on us unwillingly like a melodic Jehovah’s Witness proves that you care far too much, and it’s infuriating.
Moreover, what makes musicians attractive and admirable is their creativity, originality and sheer dedication to their craft. Placing a “four on the floor” beat under the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song requires none of these things, and it’s why we aren’t receptive to most of your performances. It takes actual commitment to memorize Wes Montgomery songs on the guitar. Learning the chords to a Counting Crows song merely takes fingers.
Far too many amateur musicians foolishly believe that “regular folk” find stringed instruments to be some sort of arcane witchcraft, and that learning how to use basic power chords properly somehow turns you into a god among men. This implies that we — the public — are stupid and uninformed, and it’s insulting.
While traveling through the Netherlands this summer, I encountered one of the finest groups of street performers I’ve ever witnessed. It was a five-part jazz band with members all roughly in their early 20s. They were seemingly just goofing around in public on a Saturday evening in a public square next to a pharmacy. But they were incredible. Their guitarist played scales that I could barely understand, their saxophonist had true soul and their drummer had the touch of a man twice his age. They displayed talent that could only come from years of practice and sweat, and earned my spare euros that night.
Maybe one day, you can too.
Jerry Iannelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.