A World of Struggle and Hope
May 25, 2011 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Expanding this to tracking them down and shooting them would be even better. One summer I worked in a shop outside which the same bloke would sit down every morning and proceed to play the theme from the Deer Hunter on his guitar over and over and over and over and over and over and over again till five in the afternoon. Polite requests for him to move or even just play something else were entirely ignored and it took a less than polite reminder regarding the fragility of stringed instruments before he gave it a rest. Even worse were the guys who set up with amps in the middle of the pedestrian centre and proceeded to rock out like they were at Knebworth, or the white suburban kids with the massive sound system who just blared out duff duff thumpy thumpy crap and hung around smoking and practising ersatz gang signs while hassling passersby for money. We never had a mime artist, but at least he would have been quiet. Personally I blame Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
posted by joannemullen at 1:59 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

But tell us how you *really* feel.
posted by flatluigi at 2:03 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like to reward buskers who play well. One time I even gave a violinist who was playing Telemann $10 or $20 to move closer to my table an at outdoor cafe.

It gives me this Randite thrill to think that I've bought their time and artistic expression. Like Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead, I use my money to force them to perform the art I dictate. And then I Shrug.
posted by orthogonality at 2:09 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

...plus they often make it hard to see the glossy posted advertisements and hear the muzak... How am I s'posed to enjoy my public space without 101 strings playing Billy Joel going on in the background?
posted by umberto at 2:10 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my little town, there are 3 buskers that I see regularly. There's the older woman who just hits a tambourine. There's the hippie kid who plays some kind of South American bowl. And there's the accordion-playing guy who wears a mask and a suit, in rainbow colors, who always reminds me of Garry Shider, probably only because it's a mask of a black man, with those wraparound shades. One day, walking post the old lady, I said to my roommate "Should I start blogging about the terrible buskers I see?" It would've been a Tumblr with short video clips. Fuckyeahbadbuskers.tumblr.com or something like that. (Feel free to steal the idea, anybody.)

Also, can the link be fixed? It's not hard for me to fix it on my own, of course, but still...
posted by knile at 2:12 AM on May 25, 2011

Is this the same project that was on the green ?
posted by Ideefixe at 2:39 AM on May 25, 2011

Ideefixe: "Is this the same project that was on the green ?"

Weird, I did a search for the URL and nothing came up for the green. Not sure that makes this post null and void though; the mods can decide that.
posted by bwg at 2:47 AM on May 25, 2011

I spent a couple months busking Rome back in '05. I worked as a hostel cleark during the daytime and stood in a small alcove of on the Scala di Spagna and picked guitar for two or three hours every night. Between improvements in tone, dexterity, and situational awareness, I grew a lot as a performer that summer, and it was a fun if perilous time. Folks like joannemullen are more common than you'd think, and they tend to think it's their right to shout throw things at musicians. I've gotta get to work now, but I'll post some more on this later. I've got one or two stories.
posted by The White Hat at 4:25 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Page Not Found!

Sorry, this page has been move or removed.

See someone already made them move on.
posted by three blind mice at 4:42 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Expanding this to tracking them down and shooting them would be even better.

Finally! I've been railing against buskers on the blue for about ten years now, and people react as if I'm advocating running over squirrels. Busking is one of those acts of urban selfishness -- like sitting on a subway seat with your legs spread so wide no one can take the seat to either side -- so clueless, so utterly blind to the needs or comfort of other people, that make you seriously entertain fantasies of death to the perpetrator, because you can't believe anyone so perfectly out of touch with other people's feelings is not a perfect horror in all other areas of his or her life. Urban life is made possible by courtesy and reciprocity, but when some massively selfish pig decides to take over the auditory space of a subway platform, street corner, or plaza, and force everyone -- willing or not -- to endure his or self-expression: well, that just an aural mugging. Tourists and dingbats think its cute to have some worthless fool blowing a saxophone on a street corner. But the rest of us don't need the additional music, thank you. The "music of the city" isn't busking, its the soundtrack jingles, tunes and symphonies, that play in our heads as we walk the streets and absorb the urban glory -- a subtle, personal soundtrack that the busker rudely explodes. (Oh yeah, and the argument that some indivivdual busker is "really good" doesn't hold water. All music sucks when I'm forced to listen to it when I don't want to.)
posted by Faze at 5:00 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hi all,
I'm the creator of TBP. In response to Joanne, I think you're right to be angry at the guitar guy, he sounds sucky. But there are a bunch of better ones out there to be found (those are a list of my favourites so far).

We're not advocating all types of busking or all types of busker, nor focusing on just the good ones. As we travel we're putting up exactly what we come across. And in 12 destinations, and 60 performers, we've only filmed the same type of act twice. It's a beautifully diverse world of free art out there, and some people spoil it for the rest. Unfortunately, those people are often the loudest and most pushy.

We went to Jaipur and filmed a slum full of artists. Everyone there was a magician or a puppeteer or a dancer or a musician; they'd all banded together to form a small hub of hope and culture. They're keeping Rajasthani traditions alive, too — it was a privilege to film them, and I couldn't be happier that there's a traditional mechanism to support these artists — busking.

So yeah, there's good and bad. But there's also a bit of the divine, too!
posted by omnigut at 5:10 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

faze I think you and joannemullen should spouse each other. It will rain on your union ceremony and with luck one of you might be gently glanced by lightening.
The streets and subways would be a sadder place without the street musicians
posted by adamvasco at 5:16 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

This list shows just how much more miserable the world would be without busking!
posted by omnigut at 5:49 AM on May 25, 2011

I used to normally be really irritated by Xylophone Man the times I visited Nottingham (my nearest big city when I was a teenager) who would plonk out semi-random notes on his toy glockenspiel in the middle of the main pedestrianised shopping street - never ever an actual tune just plonk, plonk plonk - plonk, plonk plonk - plonk, plonk plonk, all-notes sweep... over and over again until you thought you would go mad or managed to get out of earshot.

Then when he wasn't there any more I kinda missed him.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:02 AM on May 25, 2011

But tell us how you *really* feel.
posted by flatluigi at 2:03 AM on May 25 [1 favorite +] [!]

OK then. This started off in Projects a while back as like the worst job listing ever. These guys say essentially, we just inherited a bunch of money, and we would like to travel around the world...wait for it..."ahem...making a film..." about buskers.

They just wanted volunteers to you know, log their tapes, do their PR set up and run a website, do all their social media, schedule all their interviews, and oh yeah, you know, find them some buskers to film. Also they would like someone to set up some insurance for their gear. I mean. they come here like a coupla wankers hitting up MeFi to do like TWO paid positions for nothing. It's not like they want an intern, they want a damned mommy.

For all their talk about supporting musicians, there isnt plan one for paying the people they film, or even as much as spelling their name right. They went into this without much of a clue, and have frankly come across at every stage of it as immature posuers having a good time with some money their grandparents worked hard for, try to pass themselves off as artists

I like buskers, and I like the idea of them even more. Some, I'd just as soon throw a brick at, and others are just so stupid good it's beyond belief. I always, always, give even the worst of them whatever I got in my pocket, and I am 100% sure that money is going to do more to make their lives better, than these guys coming up with a couple of YouTube clips,

There is never going to be a finished film. None of the people they shoot video of is going to be better off because of it. They are simply traveling around the world as parasites on other peoples talent, having a great time, and tryin to pass it off as art before they come back broke with absolutely nothing of value, and move on to become the biggest slide show hit on the Rotarian circiuit in upstate somewhere.
posted by timsteil at 6:20 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well. This discussion certainly got derailed quickly.

"Urban selfishness" = doing what I don't approve of or enjoy.

Today I Learned how to make all the crabs come out on MeFi.
posted by Twang at 6:39 AM on May 25, 2011


Actually, Tim's got a point. We were (and still are) completely inexperienced going into this thing. And we've asked some pretty stupid things (like the post Tim's referring to) since the start; we didn't know how to put something like this together, what camera or audio set ups we needed, how to fund this kind of thing, how to log footage, how to best run a website and a hundred other things.

I don't know if it's ever going to be a finished film, nor whether what we end up with will be of value. But there are a couple of things I'd disagree with —

1) going into something without a clue isn't a bad thing
2) most of the buskers have so far refused money, and those who have asked for money we've paid (if we thought it was worth it). And in some situations, we've bought them school books and stationary instead of giving them money, when we've thought it best to do so.
3) this hasn't exactly been a "good time" yet. We're not sleeping much, working almost every hour we're awake and are physically exhausted almost every day. But it has been an amazing time.

Tim's got a good point, and we've all had our doubts from day one. I'm trying not to be too negative though, as like a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we believe it'll fail, it probably will!
posted by omnigut at 6:49 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: just an aural mugging.
posted by safetyfork at 7:06 AM on May 25, 2011

safetyfork: I think you mean MeFiMusic: just an aural mugging.
posted by hippybear at 7:48 AM on May 25, 2011

I cannot think about buskers without having Space Lady come to mind.
posted by hippybear at 7:50 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Today I Learned how to make all the crabs come out on MeFi.

The crabs come out at night. Mostly.
posted by SPrintF at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2011

I remembered the questions on AskMeFi, but I didn't actually post the link to get this post deleted. The filmmakers seem harmless enough, and if I had a nickle for every grandiose project that gets simplified or derailed during the course of filming, I'd have a lot of spare change.

When my son was a 1st grader and his sister a toddler, we took the subway in Manhattan (2nd Ave line?). Some terrible saxophonist was on our car, blasting out dischordant notes--the idea being people would pay him to go away. My daughter started to cry, and my kid went up to the guy and told him "Go away--you're scaring my sister and no one likes you!" Stunned silence and then some older lady asked me if I'd always raised my kids in the city.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm just lazy that way. :)

I cannot think about buskers in NYC without having Fear come to mind. But of course I am conflicted about them since homophobia and misogyny even as satire does not sit well with me though I do mostly love this song and it seems appropriate to the thread's nyc saxophone references.
posted by safetyfork at 8:34 AM on May 25, 2011

Don't come to Edmonton, Canada for quality busking. Go to the coasts for that. Edmonton buskers are bucket-smashers. They hit identical buckets and expect money. The buckets don't even have a different tone. And there's a guy who plays some sort of Asian erhu-like instrument that is so out of tune...yet people pay him, saying "I guess that's how it's supposed to sound."
posted by Khazk at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2011

I'm a licensed London Underground busker.

Busking is hard work. It's not a bad gig, if you know what you are doing, but it's not a good gig either. No matter how good you are, not matter what you play, not everyone is going to like your kind of music.

Then there are always people like some of the commenters above who simply fucking hate you for being there at all. Some of those people will quite happily tell you so to your face while you are playing. You have to develop a thick skin to carry on.

Fortunately, such people are a minority, and many people are generous.
posted by motty at 1:57 PM on May 25, 2011

"Well. This discussion certainly got derailed quickly." — I think this proves our point that everyone has a personal experience with buskers!
posted by omnigut at 6:32 PM on May 25, 2011

In Rome, there's this great street performer called Fingerini. I think he's usually at Piazza San Marco.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:04 AM on May 26, 2011

I can't help but wonder if you guys ever got that fleet of slaves you were looking for?
posted by Sara C. at 4:46 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

No fleet of slaves, but lots of people (the kind and the not so kind) willing to give us help and advice that has all contributed to us being in Asia, two and half months in, still filming, tired but enjoying ourselves, and trying to believe that if the negative-internet people met us in real life they wouldn't think we were so terrible.
posted by smythe82 at 10:40 PM on May 26, 2011

For what it's worth, I don't think you're terrible people, and I'm (sort of) glad your film (might be) getting made. And I certainly hope you're enjoying your vacation.

I'm just tired of so-called wannabe "producers" who think I should have to pay them to do my job.
posted by Sara C. at 9:07 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Omnigut, I cant make your life perfect but I can help you with this.. I can help you with this in maybe Arasbic, Farsi, or Dari. Find someone you trust and have them translate this. Really. Get out two $20 dollar American bills.

“My friend, I offer you this as a gesture of peace and not an insult to you. It is all I have to offer you for happiness to you and your family.” I am a traveler here. If you cannot offer me hospitality, then please offer me passage. And guidance. I believe we are friends, and god willing we meet and part as such..”

Take it as seriously as you want.
posted by timsteil at 9:52 PM on June 8, 2011

« Older Walking from the desert to the Great Lakes.   |   "It's not in the textbooks" Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments