Buskers vs. Headphones: A Strange Interface

On days when I work at SFPL, I get off the train at Civic Center station and make my way down the long, fluorescent-lit hallway to my preferred exit.  Along this route I usually see and hear a busking musician plying his (or, less frequently, her) trade.  As one might expect, there are a variety of musical styles represented and the musicianship ranges from execrable to excellent.  What makes the experience particularly interesting for me is to hear how the busker’s singing or playing blends with whatever I’m listening to on my headphones.  I never let the headphone volume totally overpower ambient sound, so there’s always some kind of overlap.  Yesterday’s listening experience combined one of the better buskers — a country singer/guitarist with an amazingly pure, strong high tenor voice — and “Interface,” from the Heldon album of the same title.  What a combination! Over Heldon’s steady, ominous electronic pulse and clattering percussion (~4:30 or so) floated this angelic major-mode singing that somehow perfectly meshed with (and utterly transformed) the former’s rhythmic droning.  Unfortunately I can’t really describe it further, but suffice it to say it was one of the most pleasant “busker vs. headphones” combinations I’ve heard so far.

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