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Are they really listening?


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I think back to when I once sat by a riverside setting {in York] many years ago.  I was selling some artwork, and no one seemed to look much! 

I felt they thought being on the public streets that I was somehow down on luck, or even begging, however I had chosen to trial a period one summer to sell very commercial images to tourists [or at least try to]! I had paid a license to sell outdoors too so it was all officially sanctioned.

Then one day. I thought, to encourage people to stop and at least take more notice of me - I would take along my concertina and play a tune.  Which I did; and it worked a bit too. .At first, mostly from a man going by on a tourist boat [dressed up as a cat !].. But it did cause them to look a bit more at least.

What was I playing [musically] Handel's Water music of course [true]. 

But then I would almost guarantee if anyone was asked later on what that man was playing on that squeeze box, by the riverside in York, they would only guess, and probably say a Jig or Reel, or something more traditional in nature;  but possibly not the actual music itself!

So are they really listening, or just assuming by averages as to what music is possible on none standard instruments? 

 

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20 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

So are they really listening, or just assuming by averages as to what music is possible on none standard instruments? 

Good question!

My instrument of choice for the baroque and classical repertoire is the 5-string banjo; I use the Anglo more for romantic-period folk-songs, hymns, psalm tunes, etc.

Well, recently I sang a little serenade at a friend's birthday party, accompynying myself on the banjo. A couple of people were interested in the instrument, so I put it through its paces; specifically, my variations on the theme of the slow movement of Haydn's "Emperor" string quartet. As every schoolboy knows, this is the tune of the German national anthem. And I'm in Germany, and had a German audience. They said, "That's nice!" and I said, "You recognise it?" and they said, "Hmm! It's something Christmassy, isn't it?"

:unsure:

So I suppose, for some listeners, if it's not played by a military band before an international football match, it can't be the national anthem!

Cheers,

John

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IME…

In a random passer by situation…

unless they know/ recognize the song, they are not listening.

 

If you are not playing a song in the way they are used to hearing it, tempo, chord arrangement under the recognized melody they don’t recognize it.

 

by and large, to non musicians, if they don’t recognize what you are playing. They tune it out, as either background noise, noise, interrupting their phone call, conversation, lunch, walk, what ever. 
 

there will be some that Judge it as an obstacle, and inconvenience, but, they like your shoes, so they will toss you a buck. In the hopes that you will just stop or get out of their way.

 

unless.. you are REALLY good, or you are singing, or you are very attractive. OR, the individual in the audience has some musical experience and is able to listen, judge and appreciate or discount your work.

 

when in doubt… try either end of the spectrum… “pop goes the weasel”, “Popeye the sailorman” types.. or Brian Eno “music for airports” type stuff. If you get any reaction you’ll at least know if anybody, somebody is paying attention.

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1 hour ago, seanc said:

 

 

 

unless.. you are REALLY good, or you are singing, or you are very attractive. OR, the individual in the audience has some musical experience and is able to listen, judge and appreciate or discount your work

If none of the above apply, play for/with dancers!  They always listen....😊

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12 minutes ago, wunks said:

If none of the above apply, play for/with dancers!  They always listen....😊

Yes. 
But, at that point. Your playing while necessary, yet largely ignored. The focus is the people moving around.

 

I would offer this addendum though.
 

IF you play in the same spot at the same time. those people that passing by.  Once those strangers passing by start to recognize you through repetition of seeing you in the same place at the same time they will start to listen. As you stop being an obstacle and start being a familiar sight. You stop being an impediment and switch to becoming a feature and a fixture.

 

I am telling you… here in Boston we have lots of buskers in the subway. Many Berkelee and New England conservatory people. Fantastic musicians playing for change..  they are largely ignored.. but if a rumor is that the guy playing the cello is yo-yo ma… the crowd will stop whip out their cell phones and stay for the complete set. And all agree it is the best they ever heard.

 

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Most people in modern western society have little appreciation or understanding of music and don't really listen to it.  How many times have you heard someone say, "Ooh, I love this one," and then talk over it?

 

Music for many people is just wallpaper.  As a musician, you are trying to paint a picture, but all the audience sees is stripes.  Your lilting melody with subtly nuanced dynamics and a carefully crafted chordal accompaniment is often heard only as a rhythm.

 

I teach Morris dancing and have often encountered people who cannot identify the rhythm in a simple 6/8 or 4/4 tune without the aid of a drum beat.

 

As musicians, we may find this strange, but it is no different from me looking at an oil painting and seeing only the obvious subject ("I see picture of a man in a hat") rather than truly appreciating the light or perspective, or symbolism, or subtlety of the brush strokes.

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I've done some small venue performing including some busking, mostly pre-Woodstock, and experienced this sort of disgruntlement to the point of moving towards dance music.  Expecting folks to break ranks and take those long lonely steps towards the collection box has always been a tough sell.  All those seemingly obtuse passersby will instantly focus their attention on the transaction;  Is it bills?  How big?  Loose change?  Is there a thinly veiled sneer behind the busker's smile?  People are complex.  They'd sooner toss a buck to a clown or a jaunty hat  or even a monkey holding a can.  "I want to be taken seriously for my music!" and "If you're a serious musician, what you doing out in the street?" are not easily reconciled.  Some few can do it though, even without props.

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I live in Poland. Here, street musicians almost solely play on guitars, with an occasional diembe here and there and accordions played very badly by very insistent gipsy beggars. So, from the personal experience as a passer by, there are very few occasions to actually appreciate any skill. But at the same time such reality lifts any competent musician way above the background. Even after two decades I still remember a brass quintet performing frequently and solely for pleasure on a bus stop near Warsaw music school. I would deliberately miss a bus or two listening and watching their pure enjoyment. But - I’m an exception among my friends and family, who may sometimes toss a coin, but never stop.

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It reminds me of a famous "experiment" where Joshua Bell busked for passers-by in D.C. and virtually every single person ignored him, despite being arguably one of the most talented musicians on the planet:

 

 

There's also beautifully written article on this here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/pearls-before-breakfast-can-one-of-the-nations-great-musicians-cut-through-the-fog-of-a-dc-rush-hour-lets-find-out/2014/09/23/8a6d46da-4331-11e4-b47c-f5889e061e5f_story.html

 

So, (sadly) most people do not really listen at all!

Edited by chip
grammatical mistake
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I think that the problem in current society is that people are generally living life in hurried pace constantly; they do not stop to pause, to listen, to slow down in their lives.

Everything has to be done in tiny little bits of information.  More than ten seconds and they are bored and rarely concentrate!

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3 hours ago, chip said:

It reminds me of a famous "experiment" where Joshua Bell busked for passers-by in D.C. and virtually every single person ignored him, despite being arguably one of the most talented musicians on the 

 

So, (sadly) most people do not really listen at all!

So who's not paying attention to who?  These people are dancing their 9 to five dance....12,12,12,12..in their own dance hall! While the intruder takes no cue whatsoever from their efforts.  I'd wager if Josh struck up Marching through Georgia and called "Grand right 'n left through the hall!" now and then it would happen....😊

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On 8/19/2022 at 9:50 PM, chip said:

"experiment" where Joshua Bell busked for passers-by in D.C. and virtually every single person ignored him, despite being arguably one of the most talented musicians on the planet

Hmm ...

Now, if I wanted to empirically show whether or not an umbrella can keep me dry, what would I do? Right - put up my umbrella and hold it over me! But I also need water, and it's not raining, so what do I do? Right again - I jump into the deep end of a swimming-pool, and resurface with the empirical proof that an umbrella does NOT keep you dry!

Silly experiment?

IMO the experiment with the violin music is just as silly: here's someone playing a type of music that requires a concentration span of several minutes to listen to, but in a location that is a thoroughfare, located at a point where most passers-by are in a hurry to catch a train, and any who did stop would get jostled by those in a hurry. To put it rather unkindly, the action is an insult to both the composer of the music and the maker of the violin. Biblically: casting pearls before swine.

 

IMO, busking is not just playing any old kind of music in any old kind of public place. The art in busking is to have the right music at the right place at the right time. I believe the term "busking" was originally used to designate entertaining people in theatre and concert-hall queues, which were once a feature of large British cities every evening. The audience are just standing there, waiting to get in, and they're probably bored stiff, so when someone comes along and plays some nice music, or sings a light-hearted song, the queue is all ears. Some of them may actually appreciate the music, and be glad that their spouses can't drag them away, and may donate something.

Nowadays there are no theatre queues, but even in busy shopping centres there are spaces where the flow of shoppers slows down a little, and there are often benches or other seating facilities. This is quite a different scenario from a Metro entrance!

 

I remember one very good example of busking. It was during the intermission of a symphony concert in Stuttgart. It was summer, and many concert-goers took their intermission drink out to the terrrace in front of the hall entrance. And there stood five yong men with brass instruments, and played baroque arrangements very cleanly and with feeling. Now that's the kind of situation where your violinist might find appreciation for his technique and his instrument! (More like standing under the shower, instead of jumping into the pool, to test my umbrella!)

 

Cheers,

John

 

 

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When I asked my childhood friend who had gone on to be a published poet and creative writing professor for advice, he said it's about communication with your intended audience, not a showcase for your talents.  Drop the "I, me" for "we, us".  And this from another poet whom I can't recall......."Only connect.".   I believe this applies to all the Arts

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2 hours ago, wunks said:

he said it's about communication with your intended audience, not a showcase for your talents

Well, that statement seems to have been verified by that "experiment" with the Strad in the Metro!

Cheers,

John

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