Are you allowed to listen to someone drumming with paint buckets on the subway during the nine days?

So I was standing at the 34th Street station the other day, waiting for the Q train, when I met a couple of subway drummers. I’m sure many New Yorkers out there know what I’m referring to – those people who drum with paintbuckets and paintbrushes on the subway platforms.

Anyway, I’ve seen this couple before, but this time their drum set was a bit more elaborate. They had six paintbucket units. By units I mean that they stacked some paintbuckets on top of each other in order to get a different sounds, with a total of 6 units of stacked buckets. There were three upturned units and 3 that wee right-side-up. They had about six different paintbrushes, all of different lengths and thicknesses. 

I was enjoying the drumming it suddenly dawned on me that it was the nine days. It also then dawned on me that I had eaten meat for lunch because I had forgotten and was now perhaps violating another issur – listening to live music. Of course I don’t think I was expected to plug my ears up, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t have stood so close to them and watched them attentively the way I had been doing.

I’m still not sure whether to think of the drum buckets as music. Would halacha classify the buckets as musical instruments? The science behind this drumset is the same science as behind real drums. Does the drumming not count as music because buckets don’t normally serve the purpose of making music? Does using buckets instead of actual drum constitute some form of a shinui? Then again, is the issue whether or not the paintbuckets are halachically classified as musical instruments, or is the issue whether or not the sounds that emanate from them are halachically classified as music? 

I was busy debating this when my train arrived. Perhaps it was a sign that Hashem did not want me to continue listening to the drummers. In any case I gave them a buck. They were pretty talented.


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  1. * s(b.) says:

    Hey, thanks for the compliment in the comments on Hesh’s Tisha B’Av post. That means a lot.

    Posted 10 years, 9 months ago

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