May 16, 2008 at 6:14 PMSeems that everyone is taking up a street corner with a fiddle these days, and it's not just the beat-up, duct-taped old fiddle cases set out to collect donations, but also a few plush velvet-lined ones.
Journalists certainly have seemed to take an interest in the subject. Most recently, Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez wrote a book about a homeless and schizophrenic busker, a Juilliard-trained musician whom he found playing on the streets in skid row with a 2inged violin. The book is called The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, and it's already being made into a movie starring Jamie Foxx.
And who can forget, a year ago, when Joshua Bell went busking during morning rush-hour in Washington D.C. on a kind of dare from Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his story about Josh's experiment. Our favorite 40-year-old violin hero (besides me, right? ;) made $59, plus he made everyone turn blue in the face talking about it.
Yesterday Debra Wade wrote a lovely blog about the subject, which made me think even more about busking. Put simply, busking is performing at its most elemental level: get out the instrument and go. What do you play? Whatever comes to mind. Whatever comes to mind depends on everything you've ever studied and heard, not to mention what your environment asks of you. If a three-year-old toddles up to you, perhaps it's "Pop Goes the Weasel." Or perhaps someone comes up and requests "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or "Happy Birthday," and so you just play it by ear. Maybe you've been studying some solo Bach, or a virtuoso piece, so you just air it out. Maybe you just played your virtuoso piece and need some filler, so you play all of Suzuki Book 3 because it's just still there in your brain.
I love hearing live music in such a spontaneous way. My favorite rendition of the slow movement of the Bach Double was when I heard a couple of students playing it in Aspen during a summer sunset, outside an ice cream shop, their cases open for donations. No doubt they were students at the summer festival, and they were clearly enjoying playing in this informal and unofficial setting. Funny how a one-time experience can prove more indelible than a recording heard hundreds of times.
Have you ever tried busking? To be honest, I haven't. I'm thinking I should!
Vote in our poll, and tell us about your experiences: (BTW in this poll, if you busk on a regular basis, you can mark two choices, that you busk regularly and also the number of times.)
Perhaps the best part were the American tourists taking pictures of us (if only they knew we're true Chicagoans...)!
After a very difficult semester of undergrad, this is what is took to help me love playing the violin again. It was redeeming to play what I wanted to play, rather than what I was required to play. I experienced a new freedom of learning music by ear.
You know--music is truth and others appreciate.
How could they not ?
Tradition counts and attempts thereof will NOT go unnoticed by the public.
Your heart and soul are bared to the bone.
Busking is the oldest of musical professions and will,hopefully,continue in future and this is very good !!!
Give others a chance to release themselves from daily drudgery of their
attempts at living.
Be humble in your gifts,play your very best..Make your violin sing as a voice sings--that is WHY we are here !!!
True story- One night Eugene came to visit me, took my violin (actually one of his being loaned to me) and played through the Tchaikovsky and several other pieces. It was a lot of fun.
Another night, Steven Tyler came up to me (from Aerosmith) and talked to me for a while.
And another day Israel Baker came up to me, listened for awhile, and invited me to his house. I took a few lessons from him as a result. What a great player, Israel Baker.
I don't busk much anymore, but I still miss it. I felt very alive, very free, very at home on the street playing. More comfortable than the stage for me. Unfortunate perhaps, but true.
Now, I live in a different city, and there are plenty of really good buskers all over the city! I think it's great!
Just a few weeks ago my niece and her friend busked on a holiday in Hilversum, the Netherlands. (I think it was the queen's birthday or something.) They got a big kick out of making about 80 Euros...which was significantly more than Josh Bell got at the train station! :-D
English is not my mother tongue, so, of course, from time to time, there are words or expressions that I don't understand. "Busking" was such a word. I took a look at what Laurie Niles had written, and soon I understood that this is exactly what I'm doing.
I live in Strasbourg, France and a Friday afternoon, July 27, 2007, after much hesitation and investigation, where to play, I finally took my violin with the hope that I will perform well and earn some money. I had found a relatively long street without cars in the very center, where I guessed the acoustic would be reasonable. But, most importantly, where people could listen while slowly walking and shopping without stopping. The idea that a group of people might stop for listening didn't attract me at all. It just made me terrified.
When I came to my chosen spot, I was deeply concentrated and said to myself that I will be very disappointed, if I don't go through with this now. I did, and it didn't pass many bars of playing, before I felt well, and after some pieces very well.
Today, ten months later, I'm happy that I began the beginning. It gives sense to my violinplaying after restarting in September 2006. I communicate better with people while playing music than in my French, but that doesn't say very much. Nevertheless, I meet friendliness, generosity and enjoy compliments for my performing. I get questions about my mainly classical repertoire, popular melodies and some Jewish songs.
And all the children. My youngest listeners, at least in age. They are my greatest joy! They never stop to look like being hypnotized. Hardly able to walk yet, in the presence of their parents, I keep telling the small children that playing the violin is very good. Don't wait! But, other instruments will do, as well.
There is much more to tell about busking. Perhaps, I'll write a blog about it.
It's cold and rain hanging in the air, so I devote some time for writing this. No subway in Strasbourg, and none to expect, even if the demand from an outdoor violinist like me is high.
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