I don't have a video or audio clip to share but a week or so ago I was walking back to my motorcycle from a visit to Streetlight Records on the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz and there were three guys playing music on the sidewalk on an upright piano, stand up bass, and a snare with a high hat next to their ancient pickup truck in a metered parking spot and they sounded great! Pure music, free.
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I once heard a black man playing sax on Fifth Ave. in Midtown of New York City. Basically it was a neverending blues with a lot of improvising. Technically he was quite good though not great. But the music that was coming out of him was incredible - dark, poweful, intense and sophisticated. Very deep. It was late evening, not many people there, I was in fact the only one who was standing there for twenty minutes or so and listening. He kept playing, maybe for hours, and could be heard from far away. Great talent.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; obviously, he was playing the wrong music for that audience, and they were hoping he would quit screeching on that fiddle.
If he were Jean Luc Ponty, or Ray Nance; or maybe even one of those Blue Grass fiddlers like on "The Beverly Hill Billies", they might have stopped. For what is music from heaven to some, is noise to others.
He did not play that piece well. Had I been there I would've stopped but not for long. He is obviously a very good musician but probably just not used to playing on streets. As a result his performance made little impression. Besides, it was quite early in the morning, most people were not in the mood for a violin music.
Street musician in the Haight Ashbury. Although this beholder hears beauty, I don't expect everyone to hear what I hear; even the name "didgeridoo" is melodic.
While it is true that some greats spent time playing in the streets for a few coins, it is also true that non-musicians sometimes over-romanticize the notion of the starving musician. There is no question that there are talented musicians that have to resort to (sometimes they choose to) playing in the streets; occasionally we even hear a very talented one. But reality is that the if we are going to reserve the term "artist" for those who have achieved an extremely high level of proficiency (which is the only way that artistic expression on the highest level is possible) they are rarely heard playing in the streets. Playing or singing in a way that is heartfelt does not necessarily an artist make.
Lecture? Not at all; no interest in that. Obvious? Apparently not, based on your "truest artists" comment. Anyway, my intention was not to offend; simply engage.
So ok, I'll play: I've heard these guys a few times at midtown subway stations, and they KILL.
Call me crazy, but I don't know what else to call someone who puts down a hat and hopes someone puts money in it. Does everyone do that? Not where I live. Look - I know that they're good people just trying to make some money. That's ok, but how do they expect to ever make a living at something when they're willing to give it away for scraps people throw them? Next time you see a street musician, ask them if they want to play your private party. They'll say yes. Then ask them how much they want. You'll be very surprised at how much they think they're worth. Then ask them if they'll just put down a hat at the party like they're doing in the street. They'll say no. Ask them why not - they're playing for the hat in the street, why not at your party? Then maybe you'll both understand what I'm talking about.
Have to agree with Frogman on this one, Inna. Merely "playing from the heart" does not an artist make. There is SO much more to it than that, that is just the starting point. There are literally millions of people in the world who could play or sing in a heartfelt manner, but could never become a great artist. This is depressingly reminding me of one of the questions I am most asked by patrons of my orchestra I encounter on the street after a performance - "so what do you really do?"