Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's Not the Subway Crowd, It's Joshua Bell

An anonymous commenter tipped me off to a response to the Joshua Bell story blogged by Natalia Paruz, a New York subway saw musician:
The thing is Joshua Bell is a great violinist but he doesn’t know how to busk. There are violinists who are not even close to being as good as he is (such as Jim Grasec or Lorenzo LaRock), yet they get crowds to stop and listen to them. It’s because when you play on the street you can’t approach it as if you are playing on a stage. Busking is an art form of its own. You need to be as good a musician as to audition for any stage gig (the competition over permits is fierce) but in addition to that you have to relate to the audience and be a real people’s person. You can’t hide behind your instrument and just play, with an invisible wall between you and the audience, the way a stage performance is conducted. In busking you use the passers by as if they were paint and your music is the paint brush - your goal is to create a collective work of art with the people, in the space, in the moment with you and the music.
Link (beware of sound). Incidentally, busking, a term I had never heard before because I'm not British or a busker, is the subject of an excellent movie I just saw at the Philadelphia Film Festival, Once. I recommend it whenever it is actually released.

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