Sunday, October 27, 2013


The temperature at present being minus two degrees, with a rather brisk breeze to boot, my busking days for 2013 are numbered.
'Tis time, perhaps, to set myself side an ev'ning flick'ring flame, don my Westchester velvet smoking jacket, puff on my philosopher's pipe (see blog entry, THE PHILOSOPHER'S PIPE:  WHEN A FELLER NEEDS A FRIEND -- June 29th, 2013), occasionally pat that English Cocker Spaniel so snuggled at my my feet, whilst I sip drams of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, and contemplate my mercantile busking accomplishments, all of which in preparation for the coming busking Spring.  

Here is what I'm thinking.

Everybody wants to be somebody.  Everybody is the subject of impression.  Everybody is trying to impress everybody.  In fact, success in social any relationship, be it at work or at play, relies on the art of impression. 

And I am no different.  I am an individual.  There is only one of me.  I want to be like Mic Christopher and Glen Hansard when they were buskers (pictured).  Strumming on the sidewalks, I do realize the value of that first impression.  I do believe the quintessential busker to be that guy or girl with a guitar and harpoon. I strive to be that guy.  I strum; I harp; I sing.  I am not unlike every other busker with the same presentation, and therefore, it is not an easy job presenting a positive first impression that distinguishes me from the other thrummers in the busking nation.

Radical in their time, the early impressionist painters violated the academic rules painting.  Impressionist painters constructed their pictures from freely brushed, short, thick strokes of bright and vibrant colors.  A first glance at one of their paintings revealed bold eye sensations without a lot of detail.   

The impressionist busker can be compared.

The forest is essential, the trees incidental (William F. Reese).  Just as the short and thick strokes of an artist’s brush are quite similar to the short and thick strums of a busker’s guitar, a busker can violate the academic rules of music, just as the impressionist painters did by not putting detail to canvas.

Details to time count and particular notes are not essential to the busker, just as the linear details of subject matter were not essential to the impressionist painter.  It is like strumming rhythm guitar, rather than plucking the strings for lead guitar.  Lead guitarists use few or no chords in any particular song; whereas, the foundation of any particular song is reliant upon the rhythmic chords provided by the rhythm guitarist.  While the lead plays out the melody, the rhythm provides the groove.  The lead produces details, while the rhythmic guitarist enriches the overall quality of the song.  In a band both guitar roles are equally important.  As a solitary folk busker, it is only the rhythm that counts (pun intended).

I strive to be that guy, that quintessential street busker, presenting to be an authentic and attractive individual performer.  To successfully do this, I’ve created five self-mands for myself:

  • First, I must know myself.  Anyone can be a chameleon busker.  Anyone can be vanilla.  On the color scale, I am probably chocolate.  Rainbow, for me, would be too much.  I want to be butterscotch.

  • Second, I must always be thoughtful. Any interaction I have with others while busking, I must focus and imagine my potential consumers’ view.  This means I must make eye contact. If I’ve eyes to the ground, I present apathy or defeat.  If I stare I present arrogance and confrontation.  If I give a long dreamy look, I present sexual interest and flirtation.   Any look, other than that of accepted acknowledgement, will certainly give the wrong impression.

  • Third, I must master my emotions.  Even though I may not be hale and hardy, I must present that I am.  Even when someone heckles, or offers some addlepated cheesy advice, emotional restraint is a must.  Nothing creates a negative impression faster than an inappropriate outburst.

  • Fourth, I must always acquiesce to the busker rules of etiquette, though other may not.  The rules and heuristics of busking are unwritten.  In the downtown square I’ve had keyboard player blow me out of my buskspot with his amplification.  At the Farmers Market, without so much as a nod of respect, I’ve had a country string quartet (The Binder Twines) set up practically right beside me.  During one folk festival two little violinists (accompanied by their parents) set up across the street from me.   Even though other buskers may not comply, I always must.

  • Fifth, I must strive to be dynamic.  I must always exude a positive energy, smile and make a friendly impression.  If I present that I am raddled, I should pack up my bag and go home.

Adhering to my self-mands combined with my empirical evidence, I strongly believe the symbiotic relationship between busker and consumer to be a positive social therapy. Over the years I have experimented with several different alterities.  I’ve been a drugstore cowboy; I’ve been a pan-drummer; I’ve been a didge player; I’m now a folk guitarist.  Whatever persona I’ve assumed, I have learned that a positive first impression is very necessary for busking success.  

And I must mention that these first impressions are always Aesopian in their nature.  For the consumer, being lightly entertained can only add a positive sprinkle to their day.   
For a busker, adding that dulcet sprinkle to someone’s day … can only produce more dulcet clinking in the guitar case.     


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