Friday, January 24, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 4

Watch A Busker Perform 

This week I doubled my 52 Dates for Writers instructions and watched TWO buskers entertain the streets of Melbourne on a cool Sunday afternoon. 

Charged to heighten my awareness of physical descriptions, I wondered how street performers might fit into my olde worlde blog and photos. 

But I had no reason to worry. Drawn to the corner of Swanston and Burke by the smooth notes of a trumpeter and his guitar playing partner, we were entertained by Newsie style musicians in suspenders, vest and caps. Yes, my buskers came dressed worthy of an Ink Dots photo. 

Soon enough, I found my spot on a bench, and under a Melbourne lamp post and flurry of scorched leaves from our recent heatwave... I sat to watch. 

I watched the way these musicians wordlessly worked their syncopation and showered the street in toe tapping beats.

With hardly a pause, they moved from set to set, sometimes lost in their music, other times focused on the growing crowd.

Passersby stalled and then stopped to enjoy the polished performance, the unexpected gift of something splendid to savour on their way to some other place. Many stood still. Others, with less inhibitions, let the music take hold. 

Captured by the rhythms, the very young, and the most disadvantaged, danced as far as their mothers' arm or wheelchairs allowed. In return, the buskers bounced in time with their tune and nodded their thanks for every spinning coin that landed in the open lid of their guitar case. 

It may have ended there, if I'd not stayed to hear more. If I'd not allowed my author eyes and ears to roam further along the road. I heard it, before I saw it. The ding of the tram's bell on its way across the busy intersection. Its whoosh, its cheery clatter. Iconic Melbourne sounds against another fresh gust of yesterday's dead leaves. 

And then the change in tempo, when our busking friends noticed a man grab one of their cds without the exchange of coins. The way they protected their endeavours, the way they didn't let someone walk away with their art. The way another man in the crowd turned his back and admonished them over his shoulder, 'Let him have one, ya mugs.' 

But the buskers didn't miss a beat. They'd already given us something for nothing. A taste of their creation. And while their eyes sparkled when a new fan paid for their music, their eyes snapped a warning to those who thought they might help themselves. 

I arrived on my author date thinking I'd observe the strict physical description of my busking challenge. But I saw more than I expected. 

I took in the crowd. The smiles. The street. The breeze. The leaf on my shoe. And then beyond. To emotions, and threats and altercations. The way faces darkened, even while chords continued to strum. The way crowds moved away when the fiddle made way for voices. The softening in the buskers' shoulders when I stopped to thank them for their music. 

I saw beyond what we think musicians sharing their passion looks like. To artists who aren't afraid to put a price to their art. Who demand a price for their work. And that's something the writer in me mulled over on my walk away from the corner where the music still echoed in major and minor keys.