Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pearls Before Breakfast

If a world class musician played world class music at a subway stop in the DC morning rush hour how many people would stop? This was put to the test.
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?
More than the story this is some great reporting on the meaning of art. The writer also wrote about The Great Zucchini in The Peekaboo Paradox in a somewhat similar style.
The show lasted 35 minutes, and when it was over, an initially skeptical Don Cox forked over a check without complaint. The fee was $300. It was the first of four shows the Great Zucchini would do that Saturday, each at the same price. The following day, there were four more. This was a typical weekend.

Do the math, if you can handle the results. This unmarried, 35-year-old community college dropout makes more than $100,000 a year, with a two-day workweek. Not bad for a complete idiot.


Anonymous said...

I love the buskers in the NYC subway - unlike in the Bell experiment subway musicians in NYC
often draw people's attention, even though people are rushing in the subway. I also follow
the blog of one of the buskers and she posted about the Joshua Bell article but from her
unique point of view. You might find it interesting:

rjnagle said...

Great article. Check out the interview with the journalist about the article too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this article. Buskers is something I've never heard about - in its *present* context. Sure, I've seen the corner one-man band act, etc., but hadn't heard that *professional* musicians & vocal artists were taking up this fantastic habit. And thanks to your post, I've gone to The Saw Lady's blog and learned a whole lot more. My Mom used to say, "You learn something new everyday" and she's right, especially so now with the 'net bloggers. Wow. A two-fer in one sitting. :) Thanks for an excellent read and referral.

Now I must go tell Antioch Chamber Ensemble, previous ensemble-in-residence at Trinity Church in Manhattan, that they're going about it the hard way. They should have just continued with their outdoor NYC neighborhood concerts!


Gary said...

In Europe, buskers are pretty common. I thought the articles were interesting for the writing, the subjects and the the stories they told. A great deal of planning was involved with the DC subway bit, the Washington Post was afraid they would have crowd control problems.