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Re: Do We Perceive Beauty in an Unexpected Context

I see a few different issues at play here.
1. as a society and individuals we don't build in the time to our schedules to allow for the unexpected. I have an hour's drive to work and I seldom leave an extra 20 or 30 min early to allow myself the time to stop and admire that hawk in the tree, or the sight of the ice breaking up in the river that I cross.

2. An entertainer, if he/she wants to achieve some level of success, you have to be sensitive to some of the needs of your prospective audience. It's really not fair to complain that people don't stop to listen when you know that they have trains and appointments to meet. There was a time in my life when I used to do a lot of busking and I can tell you that the subway at rush hour is just a bad choice as a location to play! As I'm sure that most here that have day jobs would concur, "I'm late because I stopped to listen to an incredible musician play at the subway stop" is just not an acceptable excuse to be late. For most us, our lives are ruled by the tyranny of time. As a busker I learned to play at farmers markets or craft shows, someplace where the majority of people are not restricted by schedules and appointments. In that situation being in a unexpected place can really work in your favour. I used to perform at a wood show where the vendors are selling wood working equipment, wood crafts and well.... wood..... I was approached by the organizer because he knew that I built my own dulcimers and so could talk with people about instrument building as well as playing the instrument and providing some musical entertainment. I sold over $4,000.00 in recordings and got several bookings out of that weekend. If I could have lined up even one show like that every couple of months I would still be doing it.

3. there is another issue here that I have observed and that is that the busker is not generally seen as an entertainer but as a beggar. I have stopped people and gave their change back to them when they just swoop past and drop some money in the basket without listening. I told them, I only want your payment for the music you have listened to, then you can decide what that music is worth. Several years ago I heard a commentary on the CBC radio that lumped buskers in with panhandlers and I sent them this as a response:

"I took great offence at the commentary on the six o'clock news cast this evening(march 5/ 97). I am a hammered dulcimer player (an ancient musical instrument) and most often make my living busking and selling my recordings to people on the street or at farmers markets etc. And while I do understand the point that was trying to be made; I do not appreciate that buskers are lumped together with panhandlers. LOOK IT UP; a busker is an entertainer who performs most often on the street or some other public area and is paid directly by those who appreciate their work by putting money into the hat. I regard this to be one of the most honest forms of entertainment because you only pay for what you enjoy. How many times have you paid your hard earned money to see a show or musician and ended up hating it? I and most other buskers that I know have worked hard for many years to bring our performance level to a place where it can be displayed in public, and see busking as a viable alternative to performing in bars or clubs. It also could be argued that we enhance the city by bringing our art directly to the people instead of keeping it only for those who can pay. a panhandler on the other hand is someone who begs; and though they may not be seen as having somthing to contribute, they should be given both our compassion and our respect. It wouldn't take to many more government cuts to put anyone that you or I know into that position. Anyone can end up as a panhandler but it takes years of hard work, dedication to your art and to a philosophy that art belongs to everyone to be a busker. So PLEASE do not confuse people by talking about buskers and beggers as if they are basicly the same."


Paul Haslem
Ontario, Canada

At 01:17 AM 2/20/2012, you wrote:
We've had so many thought provoking discussions here at Loopers Delight 
of the nicest runs in this site's history) lately, about philosophy.

Tonight. in an introspective mood,  I saw two things posted to Facebook:

I'll repost one here and one in the next email because they concern diffrerent topics.
I found one depressing and one inspiring but they both inspired meditation.


A man sat at a metro stationin Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?