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Article about Joshua Bell trying busking

Related thread:
violinist on the metro (17)


GUEST,Marion 09 Apr 07 - 03:23 PM
Jim Lad 09 Apr 07 - 03:39 PM
Stilly River Sage 09 Apr 07 - 04:03 PM
alanabit 09 Apr 07 - 04:08 PM
Wesley S 09 Apr 07 - 04:19 PM
Zhenya 09 Apr 07 - 04:28 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 09 Apr 07 - 04:30 PM
Wesley S 09 Apr 07 - 04:40 PM
DannyC 09 Apr 07 - 04:43 PM
Barry Finn 09 Apr 07 - 04:44 PM
Jim Lad 09 Apr 07 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,meself 09 Apr 07 - 04:52 PM
Gulliver 09 Apr 07 - 08:31 PM
GUEST,Reggie Miles 09 Apr 07 - 08:58 PM
GUEST 09 Apr 07 - 09:53 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 09 Apr 07 - 10:16 PM
Zhenya 09 Apr 07 - 11:43 PM
Linda Goodman Zebooker 09 Apr 07 - 11:59 PM
Jim Lad 10 Apr 07 - 04:03 AM
leeneia 10 Apr 07 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 09:48 AM
Jim Lad 10 Apr 07 - 10:02 AM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 10:06 AM
Jim Lad 10 Apr 07 - 10:14 AM
Stilly River Sage 10 Apr 07 - 10:24 AM
Jim Lad 10 Apr 07 - 10:34 AM
leeneia 10 Apr 07 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,crazy little woman 10 Apr 07 - 11:26 AM
Jim Lad 10 Apr 07 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 10 Apr 07 - 04:30 PM
Zhenya 10 Apr 07 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,Val 10 Apr 07 - 06:54 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 10 Apr 07 - 08:07 PM
Stilly River Sage 10 Apr 07 - 09:02 PM
GUEST,reggie miles 10 Apr 07 - 10:22 PM
GUEST,meself 10 Apr 07 - 11:00 PM
Ron Davies 11 Apr 07 - 07:20 AM
GUEST,Marion 11 Apr 07 - 04:28 PM
Wesley S 11 Apr 07 - 04:47 PM
GUEST,reggie miles 11 Apr 07 - 08:12 PM
leeneia 12 Apr 07 - 10:13 AM
GUEST,meself 12 Apr 07 - 10:24 AM
Stewart 13 Apr 07 - 04:08 PM
Jim Lad 13 Apr 07 - 04:15 PM
Stewart 13 Apr 07 - 04:41 PM
Jim Lad 13 Apr 07 - 05:01 PM
GUEST,meself 13 Apr 07 - 05:09 PM
Jim Lad 13 Apr 07 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,meself 13 Apr 07 - 09:35 PM
EBarnacle 13 Apr 07 - 09:51 PM
Zhenya 13 Apr 07 - 10:03 PM
Willie-O 13 Apr 07 - 10:55 PM
Marion 14 Apr 07 - 03:02 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 14 Apr 07 - 11:38 AM
The Sandman 14 Apr 07 - 04:49 PM
Stringsinger 14 Apr 07 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,meself 14 Apr 07 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,petr 18 Apr 07 - 08:50 PM
Jim Lad 18 Apr 07 - 09:15 PM
GUEST,meself 18 Apr 07 - 09:42 PM
Stephen L. Rich 18 Apr 07 - 10:05 PM
michaelr 19 Apr 07 - 08:50 PM
Stilly River Sage 19 Apr 07 - 11:21 PM
Stilly River Sage 19 Apr 07 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,petr 20 Apr 07 - 04:51 PM
balladeer 20 Apr 07 - 08:47 PM
Jim Dixon 01 Jul 08 - 02:41 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 01 Jul 08 - 03:03 PM
Cool Beans 01 Jul 08 - 04:53 PM
Mark Ross 02 Jul 08 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Jul 08 - 11:40 AM
Jess A 02 Jul 08 - 12:58 PM
alanabit 02 Jul 08 - 01:19 PM
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Subject: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 03:23 PM

Here's an article about Josha Bell (concert violinist) going incognito as a busker:

link


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 03:39 PM

Excellent piece. I can honestly say that I would have given the man $2 and would have arrived earlier the next day. Of this, I am certain!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:03 PM

Depressing, isn't it? I've stopped many times in NYC to listen to street musicians and watch performers. It's one of the things I look forward to when going to New York. Perhaps if he had been in the station at 59th St. under Columbus Circle in Manhattan, the response would have been different.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: alanabit
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:08 PM

Here's Klaus von Wrochen, another violinist. He was formerly known under that name, when he played for the Boston and LA Philharmonic Orchestras. About thirty-five years ago he dropped out, to become the protest singer Klaus der Geiger. (He still plays a mean Paganini too, when the occasion demands it).
Josha Bell is undoubtedly a superb violinist. Being a superb musician is no bar to being great busker, but here you can see a pretty graphic illustration of the difference between the two professions!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:19 PM

Spoiler alert.....

I wonder if most of the Mudcatters who busk {I've never done it} would consider $32.00 a good haul for 45 minutes?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Zhenya
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:28 PM

It's an interesting article. But in all fairness to people, they should have tried this on a Sunday afternoon, when people had more choice about staying to listen or not.

Regardless of what you think about whether Americans are too rushed, the reality is that most people have to support themselves by working, and have to be at work at a certain time, no matter how much they'd like to stop and listen to the music. Many people were probably cutting it close on their commute, often to make time in their life for family, sleep and other important things. Many of these people really didn't have the option to stop and listen without being late for an appt. or work, and jeopardizing themselves in some way, or inconveniencing other people who were expecting them.

I've seen crowds gathered around buskers at NYC subway stations if they're good, and I believe that would have happened in this situation, if it was at an appropriate point of day. Even the evening rush hour would have made more sense. But if this was set up so people really could take advantage of it and listen, then the Washington Post couldn't have printed this fairly condescending article.

P.S. This article is also assuming that everyone should love classical music, and violin in particular. Some people just don't. (I play fiddle by the way, so I'm playing devil's advocate with my own instrument here.)


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:30 PM

Great piece. He'd probably have done better at lunch hour.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:40 PM

Hmmm.....

If he were to average 32 dollars per hour - say 45 minutes on and a 15 minute break - that would add up to 256 dollars per day. Or 1,280 per 5 day week.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: DannyC
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:43 PM

He's lucky that Gorman and Maggie Barry's ghosts weren't on the corner across the way. Their presence would have ensured that he'd've gone home broke. Those high brows smugly going into the subways (taking a taxi to the station for feck's sake) for a bit of slumming is a classist insult.

"Oh, haw haw haw - nudge nudge, some actual music with value was being presented --- oh , aren't we so superior? --- why didn't more of the workaday smucks schlepping to their jobs stop to kiss our a$$ ?!?"


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Barry Finn
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:44 PM

Thanks for the thread & link guest Marion, amazing.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:48 PM

Wesley: No. That's "Pan handler's" wages in the right location/time etc. but that is another debate. Before eight o'clock in the morning, people on their way to work, not selling product.... he did okay. Many buskers will pull a stunt like that just to pay for breakfast & lunch. Then the real busking begins.
I'm no fan of classical music either but when someone turns their fiddle into a violin, I listen,
I love the fiddle too, by the way!
Jim


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 04:52 PM

If I found out I'd paid a couple of my hard-earned bucks to some rich kid who was just playing games, I'd - I'd - I'd -

Hmmm. Not sure what I'd do.

Sign me,
Guy Who's Done a Lot of Busking In His Day (or: GWDALOBIHD)

PS: Besides, $32 in 45 min. isn't bad for workaday busking. What's the beef?


"Great piece."

Yes, I've always been partial to Bach myself.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Gulliver
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 08:31 PM

Interesting and thanks for posting. I thought the article was too long. Bad time for busking--I too would have rushed by on my way to WORK.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,Reggie Miles
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 08:58 PM

I thought that it was interesting to hear the views of the shoe shine woman from Brazil, Edna Souza.

"If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here."

I've spoken with other folks from south of the border and the other side of the pond who have made similar comments about the reactions of people in those countries to music and musicians who busk. Emillio, a fellow busker at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, has engaged me in conversation on more than one occasion about the differences between Americans and his fellow countrymen. He makes the same point regarding how well musicians are treated in his country. He's dismayed at how little attention is paid to those who offer entertainment via busking in the U.S. He told me that he revisits his country to be with his own people periodically. He said he does this as a means to rediscover himself when he finds that his soul has been negatively altered by his time he has spent living in America.

It made me wonder why this woman was so anti-music in this country. I wondered if her soul had been irrevocably altered by the time she spent here. Perhaps she needed to revisit her country to reacquaint herself with the spirit of her people.

Edna Souza is from Brazil. She's been shining shoes at L'Enfant Plaza for six years, and she's had her fill of street musicians there; when they play, she can't hear her customers, and that's bad for business. So she fights.

Souza points to the dividing line between the Metro property, at the top of the escalator, and the arcade, which is under control of the management company that runs the mall. Sometimes, Souza says, a musician will stand on the Metro side, sometimes on the mall side. Either way, she's got him. On her speed dial, she has phone numbers for both the mall cops and the Metro cops. The musicians seldom last long.

What about Joshua Bell?

He was too loud, too, Souza says...


I was very disturbed by the fact that this woman was calling the authorities and getting musicians tossed out of the area. It sounds like this action used as a means of monopolizing the area for her shine business. An immigrant squelching the opportunities of those who are in this country trying to create a living for themselves. It's odd that this woman would come to this country seeking opportunities to better herself and in the process actively engage in denying others of the same opportunity.

Musicians still show up from time to time, and they still tick off Edna Souza.

It sounds like this woman needs to find another line of work, or at least needs to migrate to a place with her shoe shine business where buskers are not going to disturb her. This whole scene about the complaining business person is something that I've had to confront for years while trying to busk. Whether the volume factor is really an issue or not, there are many like this woman who seek to use buskers as their own personal scapegoats for everything that is wrong in their lives. They eagerly point their fingers in our direction whenever something isn't going their way and proclaim our attempts at providing entertainment in this manner is the source of all of their unpleasant circumstances and misery. It's an old saw.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 09:53 PM

Another dismal report - from the underground.

Tune-In, Turn-On, and Drop-Out.

More than a handful (past 100 years) of virtuoso - (fields beyond music) may "hear the voices" and harken to siren's-song.

Since you, MARION have discovered him. It is appointed, to you, to rescue him. Take is all your life and all your resouces...you Marion have harkened to his call in the wilderness of empires.

Marion - you are now well - you have trod the same pathes - minister and heal one of kindred.

Beckon the Call - or sleep restles.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 10:16 PM

One possibility that hasn't been considered is that the public is more musically savvy than we think. Everyone knows real musicians play gigs in bars until 2:00 AM and then wind down for a couple of hours. Anyone who can play a violin at 8:00 AM and doesn't look like he's nursing a hangover is obviously just a wannabe. Who's gonna want to waste their money giving it to some amateur who can't even get a regular gig? The pros are still at home in bed at that hour.


(The loud clicking sound you just heard was my tongue being removed from my cheek.)


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Zhenya
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 11:43 PM

Bee-dubya-ell- That's not always true! My fiddle teacher used to play at an Irish session that started very late and ran all night, and he would first be coming home at 8 A.M.!

This article has ticked me off since I saw the post earlier today. Even if someone rushes by at any time during the week and ignores a busker, how do you know their reason? Maybe they're rushing to get to their child's violin recital! Maybe they usually do stop to hear buskers and really enjoy that, but this one time they can't. Just because a specific person doesn't stop at a particular time to hear a particular musician, doesn't tell you anything about their knowledge of and respect for music or musicians.

By the way, lengthy discussions of this article have appeared today on just about every music site I regularly look at - the Irish ones, fiddle ones, etc. It certainly caught people's attention.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Linda Goodman Zebooker
Date: 09 Apr 07 - 11:59 PM

At the Bethesda (DC suburb) Metro stop we like our trumpet player. He's there every morning. He's certainly no Joshua Bell, but he gives a lift to our spirits. Usually we only linger half a minute, but then can sing along as we go down the very long escalator.

Mostly he plays hymns, sometimes jazz, sometimes Bossa Nova. He's not always in tune, but has a good sound. A few times, I've decided to learn certain pieces after hearing him play them that morning. I always try to have time to give him something, especially if I'm carrying my guitar. Some extra if it's just before a holiday.

One morning the police decided to stop him because they said he was in the wrong part of the station. (The Metro part, where playing for money isn't allowed, rather than the public part where it is) They fined him $50. In two minutes we all chipped in and paid his fine back.

--Linda


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 04:03 AM

Zhenya: What I gleaned from the article was that it was an experiment. vis. What would happen if a great player who happens not to be a busker, played at a great location at the wrong time? Something like that & I did give up on the article about half way down the page.
The experiment was a success in that they carried it out as they had intended and the results are just what they are. I agree that you cannot assign reasons to each individual's response but I don't think that's what they did.
They simply did it and watched.
Another experiment I would like to see would be for the gentleman to play the same spot, every morning for a month or until he can raise his earnings to $100/hr.
He'd soon change his tune.
That adagio from Platoon comes to mind. A morning prayer for the mindless masses if ever I heard one.

(Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber)


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: leeneia
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:12 AM

I skimmed the article and soon began to feel manipulated. I feel the entire plan was to make the people of Washington look like philistines in order to get free publicity for Joshua Bell.

What sensible person would busk at 8 am on a January day in the Northern hemisphere? Who would choose an audience of people hurrying to work?

Zhenya was right when she said it should have been tried on a Sunday afternoon.

What kind of musician pre-arranges with a reporter to write up his discouraging performance?

In my opinion, it's 90% media hooey, and it was way too long.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:48 AM

That just about sums it up, all right.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:02 AM

leeneia: Same subject, different players. I was heading to the Dentist's early one morning & passed two, fairly scruffy, young men, trying to hand out "Free" coffee to people as they hurried by. I refused mine.
That evening they were in the news. This was their first day of a Cross Canada "Random Acts of Kindness" tour.
Tell me, Is there anyone here, foolish enough to take a cup of coffee from two dirty strangers?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:06 AM

"Scruffy"?! Are you sure they weren't folksingers?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:14 AM

Heh, Heh!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:24 AM

Leenia, if you'd read more closely perhaps you wouldn't have felt so put upon. They understood the experiment was flawed. There were several points to be proved in that article, and you've demonstrated one of them. People can't be bothered to look closely sometimes, can they?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:34 AM

Stilly River Sage: Well now; The article itself begins with a short paragraph and a video to watch. Time spent, about 3 minutes. After the video you supposedly then go on to read a very long article which, although fairly well written, is in a narrow column and doesn't make any real points to keep the reader's interest.
Like I said. I gave up 1/2 way down the page but did scroll to the end to see how much money they made.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: leeneia
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:21 AM

It's harder for me to read long texts on the screen than in a book. I wonder if that is true for most people.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,crazy little woman
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:26 AM

archy the cockroach (who in his previous life was a vers libre poet) summed it up well. One day he had an encounter with another creature, perhaps a rat, perhaps a cricket, and they did not agree on some matter. archy wrote

   and so we parted, each one feeling superior to the other,
   and is that not after all the desideratum of all social
   intercourse?

Keep in mind that archy worked in a newspaper office.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:29 AM

In a book, you can see the bottom of the page.
This being said. The experiment wasn't flawed. They chose to put certain flaws in place with regards to busking. In that respect, the experiment was as they had intended it should be.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 04:30 PM

Yes, it was a longer read than I am accustomed to devoting my time to. I was also suspecting that it could simply be a clever means to advertise Bell's work. Congrats to his publicist if that's the case. After finding out how far afield this article has traveled, I'd say that the advertising idea worked like a charm.

Since I've been busking a lot more these days I found that the article made some very good points about this activity, busking. I too was surprised by the outcome, but the conditions and surroundings were purposely setup to be less than ideal for this experiment. Still, I was able to see many parallels in this story to my own experiences of performing on the street.

I don't pretend to have the world renowned skill that Bell has. I've not played for crowned heads. Nor has anyone offered my talents national awards or accolades. Like Bell's experience, I've had far more folks pass me by than stop to listen.

My instruments could not be valued as being worth millions, except perhaps to someone who obviously has a few screws loose. Nor were they crafted by someone considered to be a master at the peak of his skills. Rather, I happily tell anyone who inquires the story of how I, a total hack, made my guitar out of junk that I found at garage sales. Then, there's my preoccupation with trying to make music with my hand saw. It's no Stradivarius either. Though there is a Swedish maker of saws (Sandvik) that has named their 'musical' saw after that famous maker.

Unlike Bell, I was never offered special schooling or training since the age of four by my parents. My talents were never nurtured by years of the best teachers in the field. Instead, I've only been self taught in any of my musical pursuits. There just doesn't seem to be any saw instructors listed in the Yellow Pages. Nor could I find any help listed there regarding how to make a guitar out of junk gleaned from swap meets and garage sales.

Nevertheless, I feel as though both Bell and I draw from the same pool of inspiration. We each play the music that we've been drawn to explore as passionately as we can. We each play to the best our ability with our respective instruments or implements, as the case may be.

Though I may never play to audiences who stifle their coughs until I've finished playing my songs, or perform in the most impressive halls in the land, I've performed for very respectful listeners, and in some wonderful rooms. I've had entire rooms full of noisy attendees fall to a hush when they've heard me.

I guess you never can tell what kind of experiments may be happening right under your nose or who'll be playing the next set in that crowded subway station or busy marketplace street corner. Who knows? Maybe one day Josh will be waiting in line behind me for a spot to play on the street. I'll keep my eyes peeled for the violin player who hops out of the cab.

Saw ya later, Reg


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Zhenya
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 05:31 PM

The first time around, I read a good portion of the article in full, about 3/4, before I started skimming to the end because it was so long. I just took a quick look at it again after reading some more of people's comments.

The gist of the experiment seemed to be whether people would recognize artistic genius out of context. I don't think this experiment proved it one way or the other. The problem wasn't that people wouldn't stop, but that they couldn't stop, without being late and causing adverse consequences for themselves.

Perhaps the experimenters did it at rush hour because they figured the crowds would be bigger. But if they really wanted to test people's reactions out of context, doing it on the weekend would have made more sense.

Overall, I felt the tone was very elitist and patronizing, and that's what I disliked about the article. There was really no attempt to be understanding of the pressures on people that might have influenced their behavior.

If people did know in advance that someone would be playing, once or repeatedly, they very well might want and be able to arrange their schedules to listen for awhile. But coming upon it suddenly, this probably truly wasn't an option for many people.

Zhenya

P.S. I don't think anyone commented yet on how the reliability (Not!) of mass transit may have figured into people's decisions not to stop.

P.P.S. Nice touch! The ad on the bottom of my page right now is for Joshua Bell Ringtones. (Perhaps some of those rushing commuters had JB on their cells!)


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 06:54 PM

This "experiment" (I would prefer to label it "exhibition") was far too limited to clearly support any particular conclusion. Too many variables to make any definitive connection between cause & effect.

That being said, however, it DOES serve to stimulate thought and introspection in the individual reader, and thus somewhat to society as a whole. That, in my opinion, is ONE of the purposes of ART. (If it's necessary to have a discussion on "what is Art", let's take that to another thread). Was there commercial sponsorship connected with this Art (both the public performance and the article)? Probably so. Does commercial sponsorship of Art reduce it's value to the public? (THAT is also a topic for another thread)

I personally think the datum that was particularly significant (or at least interesting to me) was the relatively small number of people who appeared to even acknowledge the player. Maybe not stopping to listen, maybe not paying, but at least making it apparent that they were aware of live music being performed. It's still not possible to draw a conclusion from that, but I suggest a couple of ideas to consider:

1. Those people at that time were so wrapped up in their own business (by necessity or habit) that they ignore anything in their surroundings that does not require response or action. A lesson would be to consider if YOU (editorial/generic You) do that, and whether it is a good habit for you to maintain.

2. We have become so used to music/muzak/background noise surrounding us that we don't pay much attention to "unsolicited" live music. A lesson here would be to try being more aware of all your surroundings, and to look for the beauty and art that might have been previously missed. And also to note how your surroundings are sometimes structured specifically to manipulate your feelings (there has been a lot of money paid to tailor background music in commercial spaces to invoke a desired response in visitors - getting shoppers to spend more money in the mall, for example).

To paraphrase an idea set forth in the article: How do we know it's Good Art unless it's surrounded by an impressive frame & hung in a museum? The corallary question becomes How do we know it's Good Music unless it's packaged in some standardized manner? ("We" in this case is the "general public" - aka the "great unwashed masses", not the educated, erudite, and esteemed readers of Mudcat and their ilk)

Val


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 08:07 PM

I would point out to those who have complained about the length of the article that it's from the Sunday edition of The Washington Post and that human interest stories in Sunday papers almost always run longer than they would any other day of the week. People generally take a more leisurely approach to the newspaper on Sunday.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:02 PM

The little viewer screens informed me that my download speed was not up to that technology, resulting in an unsatisfactory viewing arrangement. So it didn't even let me try to view them. I did, however, manage to listen to about half of the performance from a different system before the feed began blinking out and finally died.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:22 PM

My present occupation, being street musician, makes me thankful for any article in any paper that draws the public's attention to the activity, especially one that has even the slightest hint of a positive message in support of folks who offer entertainment in this way. If this piece causes any commuters or passersby anywhere to take just a little more time during their busy travels to pause and acknowledge any of the art taking place casually around them, then it has, imho, helped the efforts of those who choose to offer their various artforms in this manner. If this article and display, experiment or exhibition, call it what you will, has prompted any discussion that might cause folks to ponder or contemplate the activity of busking, and their role in it, in a more positive light, then, again imho, the efforts of those who carried out this project, whatever their real intentions might have been, have produced something very worthwhile.

That said, I believe that it has helped to shine a lot more light on the subject of busking. Further, I see that it has prompted many to discuss with one another the idea of sharing entertainment in this casual way. It has created a dialog. And if it accomplishes nothing more than that, then it has contributed a greatly to the cause of each busker. I don't think that I've ever received a better donation in my open guitar case or upturned hat.

Was it a cheap stunt thought up by an even cheaper PR firm to advertise someone who really needs no help in that area. Maybe so, but if so, then I'd say it was a fair trade given the good it may ultimately do those who busk.

I've written a number of songs that address many of the subjects covered in this article. They are byproducts of having been involved with street entertainment for many years. I'm thinkin this article may hold another.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 11:00 PM

Don't like to be a spoil-sport, but - I think you've got pretty high hopes for what that article will accomplish. But then, buskers need their high hopes!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 07:20 AM

I loved the article. Of course I also love classical music--including the pieces Bell played. I take the Washington Metro every day. And I would have definitely stopped to listen--for quite a while. And I do stop to listen to solo buskers--if the instrument is acoustic--which hardly ever happens.

But there are all sorts of factors involved here beyond loving good music.

Among other things, it depends on your office situation. If you have a boss who will make your life difficult if you arrive 15 minutes late, even good music probably won't make you stop. I'm lucky enough to have flexibility--but many are not. And probably the vast majority of commuters, as noted earlier, plan their trip tightly scheduled.

And even I might well have left no money---since I usually don't carry any at all--just a flash pass and work ID--money is at work.

The dice were loaded by the Post against commuters.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 04:28 PM

Hi folks, and thanks for your responses.

I thought this was the experiment's most interesting finding:

"There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."

I did think it was very strange though, that the "expert help" they consulted about how much attention and money Bell could hope to draw was an orchestra's music director, who apparently just pulled numbers out of his ass. Why would they expect him to have the slightest idea? Why didn't they find a real busker and ask, "How much do you think an excellent classical violinist could make playing solo at such a place and time?"

Also, I think the article would have benefited from having the Metro rentacops show up and bully him a bit or try to confiscate the violin. That would have made good video.

Removing tongue from cheek... Marion


Marion


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Wesley S
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 04:47 PM

"Also, I think the article would have benefited from having the Metro rentacops show up and bully him a bit or try to confiscate the violin. That would have made good video."

Sounds like a good premise for Candid Camera. Or Punked.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 08:12 PM

Marion,

I've managed to attract many more folks than poor Joshua via my efforts at busking here at the Pike Place Market. Admittedly though, I don't try to play during hours when folks are not likely to be able to stop and listen. And this is probably a much more conducive setting than the subway entrance that he was performing in.

I've seen the same reaction in the audiences that I've tried to entertain here on the streets. It's interesting to see how intently these little ones try to view what I'm doing even as they're being taken away with mom or dad.

A while back I was commenting about this particular phenomena to some of the folks in the Market. I was speaking to some craft folks about it who responded by saying that they see parents doing the same thing with their children when they pass by their booths. That made me feel a little less like an untouchable.

I think the sweetest scenes, that only occasionally happen as I play, are when some of these tots are allowed to enjoy what I'm doing. Then, without being prompted, they decide to dance along to my saw or guitar playing. One such scene took place recently where one tiny child began to dance all by herself. It was sweeter than anything I've ever seen in my life. It was so incredibly magical and beautiful that I began to realize that anything I was doing, via my attempts to entertain, paled by comparison. This reaction was so attractive to so many of the adults passing by that within moments many had gathered to view her.

Another young girl, just a little older than the first, happened by with her mom. Without hesitation she walked over and took the first girl by the hands and they both began to dance together. I could hardly keep my mind focused on what I was doing. I just wanted to stop and take in the wonderous spectacle that was playing out just a couple of feet away in front of me. They both danced so exquisitely that for those few brief moments it was as if the gates of heaven had opened up right there before me as I sat playing my saw and two angels had descended to offer me a small taste of what lay beyond those pearly gates.

Everyone there was, as I, totally enraptured as we watched. It was as if we had caught a glimpse of what true joy was. At that moment nothing else in the world mattered except the utterly amazing vision of innocence and bliss being expressed by these two ambassadors of our forgotten youth.

I didn't want it to end. I wasn't certain how long it could continue. If I could have, I would have had it last forever. I began to wish that someone had captured the moment on film. But it all happened so spontaneously that I think everyone who witnessed it were, as I, unable to to do anything but stand transfixed by it.

Afterwards, I thought that, if I ever felt the least bit down about anything in my life, all I would need to do is to replay a video of those few moments and I would instantly be transformed by having had the chance to view it again. Beauty is such a precious treasure. I feel privileged to have been able to witness it unfold as it did for me on that day. Moments like that are far more valuable a gift than anything that I've ever received as a monetary donation and for me make busking a very worthwhile endeavor.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: leeneia
Date: 12 Apr 07 - 10:13 AM

People who work get tired of others wanting their money. I don't have the statistics at hand, but here in America, most people are seriously in debt just to live, but real income has gone up very little in many years.

When I go to the corner deli and wait on myself, there's a tip jar. When I pull up to a red light, there's a panhandler. When I go to a free concert, there's a basket. I can answer the phone and find a solicitor at the other end. The newspaper carries charity ads with heart-rending photographs, but I wonder if the paper checked their bona fides. (I doubt it, for reasons I needn't go into here.)

I went to the Colorado Renfest. It was $16 just to walk in. Then every musician I encountered wanted money. I found out later that their hourly rate was twice mine.

Sometimes (and 8 am on a winter weekday will be one of those times) people just want to be left alone.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 12 Apr 07 - 10:24 AM

On the other hand, take a look around you at the kind of garbage a lot of people are deliberately spending their hard-earned money on. There seem to be an awful lot of people out there spending an awful lot of money on things other than survival.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stewart
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 04:08 PM

Reggie, that was very touching. I wish I could have been there to witness the magic.

On a slightly different vein, I am in the process of booking 16 music stage spots for a local community festival. We had a meeting with the chamber of commerce group recently where I presented a tentative list ranging from folk to bluegrass, Brazilian drumming, African jazz, Klezmer, Celtic, Latin, jug band, and you-name-it. A twenty-something yuppie button-down wannabe jr. executive twerp protested at length that there was absolutely nothing there that would remotely interest his age group - "where's the rap and the hard rock?" he said. I just hope he grows out of that stage and finds something more that he can enjoy.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 04:15 PM

That's the reason why so many folk festivals are "Folk" no more.
As soon as you try to please everyone, we're out of place.
Wait a minute.... what does this have to do with that eejit playing his fiddle at the railway station?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stewart
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 04:41 PM

"what does this have to do with that eejit playing his fiddle at the railway station?"

Nothing perhaps, but he may be indicative of the many who quickly walked by the "eejit playing his fiddle."

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 05:01 PM

Stewart: I suppose. Funny thing. I didn't realize it was you and I'm sitting here listening to your mp3s as I write!!! Great stuff. Just finished e-mailing you about them.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 05:09 PM

Stewart: Pay no attention to Jim - he's a known trouble-maker!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Lad
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 06:00 PM

Nobody knows me!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 09:35 PM

See what I mean?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: EBarnacle
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 09:51 PM

There was also a segment on this on National Public Radio on Wednesday or Thursday.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Zhenya
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 10:03 PM

I'm curious - Did the Washington Post get any letters to the editor about this - and if so, how did sentiment run?


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Willie-O
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 10:55 PM

Interesting, but the article is not about busking. And frankly will do nothing for busking as a trade.

The elitist Wash. Post tone was quite anathemic to we humble purveyors of unsolicited tonality--that was part of their point, that no one expects street musicians to be "worthwhile". All the better for their experiment.

"Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?"

The moral mathematics indeed. What a load of pretentious crap. If they really wanted to look at busking, they should have asked the classical conductor, and a couple of experienced street violinists, how he would do--and tried more than one locale/time (a difficult time and place like this one, and compare it with one suggested by a working street musician as a likely moneymaker). Ah, but then he would have done much better and the expose of DC's cultural Philistines would have been ruined.

Oh, and I kind of liked the woman that did a "financial analysis" of Bell's situation. I think I've met her--haven't we all? Likewise the shoeshine lady with the cops on her speed-dial.
Cheers
Bill


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Marion
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 03:02 AM

Thanks for the story, Reggie.

Willie-O, I agree that the writer has a snotty view towards real buskers - perhaps best evidenced by the conspicuous lack of quotes from buskers, when he appears to have interviewed everybody else he could think of.

However, I expect that this article will have some positive effect for real buskers, despite the writer's bias. It may not be many people, and it may not be lasting, but there will be some people who read this article and take it as a reminder to stop and smell the roses... with the result that they will be more likely to take note of the next busker they see.

For example, one of the poems that intermittently appears on Toronto's subways is this:

Elegy for the Gift (Elegy for the Light)

Sometimes, when the subway car
comes briefly out of the tunnel,
we don't look up, miss the light.
And it's as though, inattentive,
we'd never had that moment
of brightness. A life may be full
of such small losses, or full,
equally, of small, dense gifts:
the child on that same car
dipping her face into her mother's;
that perfect regard.

(I can't read my own writing where I copied down the poet's name: it's Rhea Tregebou, or something like it. And the title I have above is correct, though it looks like I can't remember and offered two versions....)

Anyway, whenever I see this poem, I for one start looking out the window more and looking for other "small dense gifts" more. So, I expect that the Post article will have a similar effect.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 11:38 AM

It's rather unusual for me to have so many wonderful moments, or at least moments that capture my attention as the previous one I described. Perhaps, like the commuters and passersby, I too become so absorbed in my own task, my performance with my instrument, to really take note of the reaction that my presence is having on those around me. Like Joshua, I can get very involved with my music making.

As there are many distractions to contend with while playing on the street, I often close my eyes to concentrate on what I'm trying to present. Flexing 213 razor sharp spring steel teeth betwixt your knees, with the pointy parts mere millimeters away from body parts I hold near and dear, demands that kind of careful undivided attention. Lest my clammy grip should slip and divide something that might not grow back! Yikes! Even my bottleneck blues slidin' is hard to present in that environment without focusing on my presentation and that often means closing my eyes to what is playing out around me.

I'm certain that I miss a lot of moments due to this. I've been approached by listeners who note this and comment to me about what I am missing. They always mention the looks on the faces of those who are watching as I play my saw. Yesturday, one woman's comment was, "Astounding!" Afterward, she claimed, with a huge smile on her face, to be an international musical saw authority. That my playing was able to evoke such a positive and jovial response makes this activity such a joy to present.

One more very sweet scene took place yesterday. A group of little ones, numbering perhaps twenty, approached me as I was finishing one of my bottleneck blues songs on my homemade Nobro guitar. They were with several adults who were escorting them around the Market. I offered to play them a melody on my saw and inquired as to what they would enjoy hearing me play. One of the smallest boys asked for the A-B-C song, one of my most requested songs by children of that age. I looked up while playing to see and hear him quietly singing along.

Then one of the adults requested that I play it once more. As I did she and all of the rest of the children and adults joined me in a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I really enjoy those moments when groups like this choose to join me and sing along. You see it change the feeling of everyone in the surrounding area. Others stop and watch and smiles are on everyone's faces as they partake in the moment.

I was very surprised to then get a request from one of the smallest girls, who wanted to hear me play Over The Rainbow. Usually I reserve my rendition of this one for older audiences and play a long version of it. I've never regarded this song as one that very small children might be familiar with. I now know how mistaken I was in that assumption. I played an abreviated version of just the first two verses and to my surprise, once again, the entire assembled group of children and adults all began to spontaneously sing along. What a great way to start a day!


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 04:49 PM

Fascinating,as a professional musician who has also busked frequently.,Itoo have had interesting responses,a fiver from Ronnie Drew,from Jimmy Crowley a couple of punts,and an anonymous well wisher,who said your really good you should try singing in clubs.
this video will cheer the heart of all good performers who dont get their correct dues whilst busking,Bell however is more than good,his playing is superlative.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stringsinger
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 05:46 PM

My opinion is that this is a sad testament to what people consider important in this country. Had he been in Europe it might have been a whole 'nother deal. The children knew, however, before they have an appreciation knocked out of them.

I believe I would have stood transfixed and found a way to stay a while. But I'm not part of the work-a-day world where chasing the buck to survive is a priority. I don't make much money but I know what's important to me. Of course, I am a musician so that makes some difference.

I think that what this experiment says is that it's more about the environmental set-up then it is about the actual music being played. So much of what the American public deems important in the world of music is extra-musical. Sometimes the music is the least important. I think of all the first night opera goers many of who would take a nap but they paid so much for their tickets.

Mostly, it's a sad commentary on the musical education in the US. A majority of listeners are not educated enough to know quality music when they hear it.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 05:54 PM

" I think of all the first night opera goers many of who would take a nap but they paid so much for their tickets."

Reminds of a line I liked from Frank magazine (satirical news & gossip), in its early days: "Sinead O'Connor was spotted having a very expensive nap at Les Miserables on Friday night."


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Subject: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass by
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 18 Apr 07 - 08:50 PM

so what happens when world famous classical violinist busks..

here


I guess anyone who has ever busked can relate to that..


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Subject: RE: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass by
From: Jim Lad
Date: 18 Apr 07 - 09:15 PM

Somebody tell him/her.


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Subject: RE: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass by
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 18 Apr 07 - 09:42 PM

No, you.


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Subject: RE: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass by
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 18 Apr 07 - 10:05 PM

Now, if he could just learn to juggle oranges with his feet while he plays the fiddle he Might get some attention.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass
From: michaelr
Date: 19 Apr 07 - 08:50 PM

Duplicate thread.
    [threads combined. -Joe Offer-]


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Subject: RE: Review: Joshua Bell busks, - most people pass by
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 19 Apr 07 - 11:21 PM

petr

On April 9, "Article about Joshua Bell trying busking " was started and has been active a lot since then.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 19 Apr 07 - 11:23 PM

They did a story about this on NPR over the weekend, interviewing the writers. I think it was On the Media that played it.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 04:51 PM

sorry Imissed the earlier thread, I even did a search ..

The interesting thing I thought was -. Most of those who stopped and listened seemed to have some kind of music background

The bit about the children is interesting as well..
Ive most enjoyed busking myself when kids stop and listen and start dancing I agree with the above post those are priceless moments..

Funny thing is I was playing in the kitchen last night and when I stopped my two year old daughter - who was dancing around the corner and went yaay - more? Of course it was not that long ago that shed start crying everytime I picked up the fiddle and my wife sat down at the piano (it meant that she would have less attention for a while)

I do agree the article may be a bit patronizing, but there is a bit of truth - to its primary point - we're often so caught up that we dont stop to smell the roses.. I know that people only have so much time to get to the office ..but not even looking to acknowledge the musician?

it reminded me of a moment last year when I was driving --and in a hurry to get some job over to a customer-- I happened to glance to my left and just beside the highway I spotted two eagles that came together at that moment and grasped talons and tumbled to the ground - and I swear were going to hit the ground but just broke up in time and flew apart.. The whole episode only took 2-3 seconds, but it changed the rest of the day for me - and I felt blessed at witnessing that.

immediately I looked around at all the traffic around me and no one seemed to have noticed it.. They were all staring straight ahead and on their cellphones...


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: balladeer
Date: 20 Apr 07 - 08:47 PM

Yes, it's very disturbing that so few turned to listen, but for the most part I believe those are not people without souls, but people who feel they have lost their freedom to choose.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 02:41 PM

Here's an astonishing coincidence. Joshua Bell was not the first famous violinist to try this stunt. Jacques Gordon did it in Chicago in 1930. And neither Joshua Bell nor Gene Weingarten—the Washington Post reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his article about Bell—knew about it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/24/AR2008062401153.html


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 03:03 PM

This item reminds me of Joni Mitchell's great song "For Free". See lyrics below

For Free (Joni Mitchell)

I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood
And he played real good
On his clarinet, for free

Now me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
Ive got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if youre a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their t.v.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony...
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Cool Beans
Date: 01 Jul 08 - 04:53 PM

Wow. Thanks for the update, Jim. I teach that story to my journalism students at Michigan State. Now I have a little extra to teach next semester.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Mark Ross
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 10:51 AM

FOR FREE was written about Richie, a blind clarinet player who busked on the streets of Manhattan. When someone stole his clarinet I gave him the one that I had played in Junior High School(and hadn't touched in 5 or 6 years).

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 11:40 AM

Good show, Mark.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jess A
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 12:58 PM

wow. as a fiddler and one time busker I'm interested in this kind of thread and started reading from the top - was fascinated by the original article, was delighted by the follow up article that Jim just posted the link to.
I've often wanted to do some research in to the psychology of busking... sure there's a PhD thesis in there somewhere... but academia lost its sparkle for me a long time ago. If anybody does know of any research on such things though I'd love to read about it.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 01:19 PM

Dave and Patti Campbell's book "Passing the Hat" was written about the US busking scene in the eighties. I don't know whether it is still in print. They travelled a lot and spoke to a lot of really good buskers, who did a variety of shows. I know that Professor Washboard (Scott) and Doctor Harmonica (Lance Wakely) were among them.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 08:04 PM

I just happened to remember that nearly the same experiment has been performed in the literary world. Doris Lessing was already a famous novelist—practically anything she wrote was guaranteed to be a best seller. Then she submitted 2 manuscripts to her own publisher anonymously (using the pseudonym "Jane Somers"). Not only did her publisher not recognize her style, but they rejected the books! She did find another publisher, but the books languished far below the "best seller" category, until she revealed who she was. Then they brought out new editions under her real name—you can guess the result.

Here's one blogger's commentary: When Doris Lessing Became Jane Somers… and another's: Doris Lessing as Jane Somers.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Ron Davies
Date: 02 Jul 08 - 11:23 PM

Thanks so much, Jim and Mark, for those insights--that followup article was fascinating, and it's good to know the story of "For Free"-- there's even a Mudcat connection.   That sort of thing is the best of Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Article about Joshua Bell trying busking
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 03 Jul 08 - 09:14 PM

There was a long interview, either on Diane Rehm or Terry Gross' Fresh Air about the Doris Lessing experiment. I wouldn't be surprised if there is also one on Charlie Rose's site.

SRS


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