Friday, April 13, 2007

It's where you play and what you play

I walked past an accordion player today in the Frankfurt Leipzigerstrasse U-Bahn station and recognized him as a street musician I had often seen in Budapest. Not a virtuoso by any measure, but an slightly above average street musician. I greeted him with my rudimentary Hungarian and he immediately stopped played My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean in order to chat a bit.

Given the recent discussion over the experiment with a world-famous violinist busking in Washington D.C. and not earning much with the Bach Chaconne, I was bold and asked how he was doing. He said that he was getting about 200 Euros for three hours playing (I noticed that he was pocketing the money that had landed in his case from time-to-time to conceal the true extent of his success from potential donors). Considering that Leipzigerstrasse is a lively neighborhood but definitely not the center of town, and playing in one of the two station entrances limited his potential audience to only half of the U-Bahn users, I think he was doing well. He also kept his repertoire to popular tunes, old fashioned accordion music that could be recognized, and appreciated for what they were worth, in a passing moment. The Bach Chaconne on the other hand, for all its qualities, is not something that can be really appreciated as passing-by music, as its character is inevitably tied-up with its masterly use of pacing over a substantial duration.

So, before we start to draw too many conclusions from the D.C. experiment, please consider the possibility that a city full of bureacrats, pundits, and politicos in a rush may just not be the best place to busk and, when busking, it may be wise to play repertoire that catches the customers sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny - I raninto the same busker (the 'Saw Lady'), too, once in Paris, then in NYC! They sure move around.
You might be interested inwhat she saidon her blog about the Joshua Bell thing, from a busker point of view: