Busking-What is it? Why is it important?

12Feb10

Busking, also call street performing, is performing in a public place for voluntary donations. In Minneapolis, buskers are usually musicians playing on Nicollet Mall or in Dinkytown. In other parts of the world, though, buskers entertain with a wide variety of arts: juggling, painting, sidewalk chalk, living statues, mimes, fortune tellers, magicians, and dancers.

In one of my first meetings with my advisor, Marc, I mentioned my hesitation in using the word busking as a way to describe the temporary, unexpected nature of the performances I envision being housed in my proposed structure. The connotations of busking or street performing in the US are often negative and confused with opinions about the homeless, shysters, criminals and alcoholics. With unspoken feelings about these issues coloring feelings toward buskers, is it any wonder that I have shied away from the term until now?

After further consideration and research, though, the term is apt and helps to significantly narrow the site and brief for the project. It certainly didn’t hurt that mere days after discussing busking with Marc, my conversation with Joe Chvala revealed that Flying Foot Forum is considering busking as a way to offset costs for an international performance. After recovering from the surprise of having my reticence bout busking blown out of the Chvala’s independent embrace of its potential, I decided that, yes, busking is good.

Why is it good? How does it narrow my project’s scope? First of all, it dramatically changes the definition of temporary. If you’re popping up on a street corner, fast deployment is paramount. Second, transportation of the structure is necessary. It must break down into packages that can be put on an airplane: 50lbs, duffel bag dimensions. It must also be able to be transported around a city. Designing the transit case will not likely be part of the final product for me, but its bulk and size are elements to be taken into consideration. The size of the deployed structure will be affected by the packed size; how big can a duffel-sized object get? Busking can be done by groups of people, but most often, in my personal viewing experience, and in Flying Feet-Percussion Project, it’s done by solos, duos or trios.

For more information on busking, check out the links below.

For a recent, excellent, in-depth discussion of the busking culture of Manchester, UK. http://theshriekingviolets.blogspot.com/2010/01/city-as-stage-busking-culture-in.html

http://www.buskersadvocates.org/saalocations.html

http://www.buskercentral.com/

An 2006 piece on the Minneapolis busking scene, including short video clips. http://ww2.startribune.com/static/street_musicians/streetsdb_content.html

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