If you've been to an event at the Belk or Knight theaters in the last couple of years, you may be able to guess the group I mean: That gaggle of brass players who squawk and bleat as soon as the first patron hits the sidewalk after a show.
You may just have had your spirit lifted by "Les Miserables" or your soul plumbed by a Mahler symphony. You may be lost in your thoughts or in conversation with a friend. They couldn't care less. As soon as they see anyone who might give them a dollar, they split the air with tuneless roaring.
I love jazz: My collection stretches from Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis, with a hundred stops in between. But this bunch doesn't play jazz: They simply make sounds. Their repertoire includes nothing that's quiet, nothing that's slow, nothing that sounds like variations on any kind of theme, nothing that has a tinge of melody. They simply smash away at drums and blast us with brass.
I asked someone familiar with city busking rules how this could go on night after night, and she told me the group doesn't need to apply for a noise permit, as long as they don't amplify their instruments. (Someone making half as much noise with an amp would have to get a permit. Go figure.) As long as they don't stand on private property -- which they're careful not to do -- nothing but a formal complaint with the police would dispel them, and even then they'd probably show up the next day.
Patrons are used to them by now, the way one gets used to an ingrown toenail that occasionally flares up. Most people simply pass them by, collars shrugged up over their ears to avoid the rain of sound. (Though you can't avoid them by leaving the Belk via a side door; they're audible through every part of the lobby.)
I'll be at the season-ending Charlotte Symphony concert tonight, listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. I already dread the moment I'll walk away from this sublime music, trying to absorb the last echoes, and be confronted by the brassy screeching. I'll try to remember the sentiment expressed in the final Ode to Joy: "Alle menschen werden bruder," or "All men will be brothers." But I'm likelier to be thinking about its opening line: "O freunde, nicht diese tone." Oh, friends, not THESE sounds!