Monday, June 4, 2007

What would you do?

If you live in, near, or have visited a "large" city chances are you have ridden said cities "transit" system. In the transit system underground you have probably heard someone playing a guitar or what have you.

What do you do when you hear the music? Do you just keep walking, do you stop and listen? Do you slow down and toss some change, or even a dollar in the case set at the performers feet?

What if the performer was a big name in their genre? What if the performer was using a 3.5 million dollar instrument?

The Wasington Post did a quick study on rush hour day. It was a Friday, before 8am on a January morning. The performer would play 6 pieces of music over the next 40+ minutes to close to 1100 commuters.

The total haul for his efforts? $32.00.

The whole effort was video taped and the performer later watched and said the hardest part to watch was the moment each piece ended. No applause, no nothing. The peformer would just start up again, almost embarrased.

The songs played "Chaconne" from J.S.Bach's Partita No.2 in D minor. This piece is considered one of the most difficult to master and runs over 14 minutes long.

Six minutes into the above song the performer gets his first person to stop. They slow, and lean against the wall and listen.

Next was "Ave Maria" from Franz Schubert. Upon conclusion it was greeted with silence.

During this part of the story it is told that where the performer stands is near the top of an escilator that takes over one minute to go from bottom to top (if they stand only) thus getting a fair amount of music. He has the second person stop to listen. As this person stands for just 3 minutes close to 100 people just pass by. For the first time ever, the listener leaves the performer some money.

Each time a child would walk past they would bend and twist as to see where the music was coming from. During this time a lottery/newpaper kiosic was heavily trafficed. When asked later one man said he could remember each of the 10 daily numbers he played and that the music he heard sounded like "What the string band played on the Titanic". When told he didn't give notice to one of the best musicians on the world he laughs and says "Will he play around here again?". The response was "yes" but you'd better hope you win the lottery to afford the ticket.

I thought this story was amazing. Part of me always feel like we are on camera at all times, so you have to wonder how to act. Now will every single guitar player I see in our local subway get change from me? Probably not..but I might slow down and at least listen for a second.

Also, I didn't know the peformers name either, or the classical pieces chances are in the hustle and bustle I might have just walked right on past as well. The performer playing a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius? Joshua Bell

Here is his Wikipedia Entry

Also a direct link to this blog entry is here


At Monday, June 04, 2007 10:55:00 AM , Blogger Jocular Schlemiel said...

I see performers almost every day in various subway stations in Boston.

The Kenmore Square T-Stop has a semi-bald guy with dreads coming out of the sides playing the clarinet before every single Sox game.

The Red line at Park St always has some sort of musician. One time, there was this middle-aged guy (probably in his 50s) with a headset-microphone singing "Toxic" by Britney Spears. That is about as bad as it gets.

At Monday, June 04, 2007 8:14:00 PM , Blogger The Guinness Tooth said...

I read this a couple of months ago, and have made an effort to check out buskers ever since. Although, to be honest, I don't care enough about classical to give a damn who was playing in the subway.

At Wednesday, June 06, 2007 12:11:00 PM , Blogger Jenny G said...

That guy's crazy to take a $3.5 million Stradavarius into the subway!


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