Sunday, May 17, 2009

Street Music


Melbourne's streets thrum with music, art and life at all hours. It's one of the things I love about this city.

The other day, I walked with the crowd up the stairs from the train platform at Flinders St station, in the midst of a mystical musical landscape created by a busker sitting on his guitar amp caressing his strings. The guitar had a clean tone, and the sweetly haunting music cascaded down the steps and washed through the crowd.

As I neared the top of the steps, a voice like butter wove lyrics that were vaguely familiar....after a couple more steps the penny drops, and I marvel at his strangely sweet version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters". His music is like eating foie gras: it's oh-so-good, and it's oh-so fine... and you know there is a dark side to the pleasure you are indulging in the whole time.

I step onto the crosswalk and into the night, surreal now with his music fading into the background of moonlit
city streetscapes.

It happened so quickly - the time it takes to walk up a flight of stairs, through the train station turnstyle, and to the sidewalk. I have the presence of mind to flip a $2 coin into his open guitar case, but not to stop and take a photo; though my guess is that would have diminished the surrealism of the experience. The moment, and the feelings he evoked in me, are etched into my memory banks of Melbourne.

Walking around the streets of Melbourne, this kind of experience can happen at any time, so rich is the tapestry of buskers... I have seen child prodigies on pianos, flautists, guitarists, quartets, preachers, acrobats, jugglers, beatboxers, comedians, and freaks... some talented, some you would pay to shut them up...

The other day I read an article in the newpaper about Rupert Guenther, a Melbourne street-busker who honed his unique style of improvising classical music on his violin for five years, eeking out a living by playing music for passers-by.

He attended a masterclass in February at the renowned Julliard School in New York being given by Dr David Dolan, a professor at Guildhall and the Menuhin School. Dr Dolan was so impressed with Rupert that he suggested he audition in the UK at Guildhall's Centre for Classical Improvisation and Creative Performance. Rupert took his advice, and is now on his way to becoming an internationally acclaimed artist and teacher, like many of his alumni at the prestigous school.

Sounds like a screenplay in the making... I just love the creativity that just oozes from the pores of this city!



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  1. Melbourne sounds a lot like New York City. We have musicians in the streets and subways here, and like you said, they all have stories which are like a screenplay in the making. My favorite is the 'Saw Lady' who plays the musical saw in the subway. Again, I relate to what you said - the creativity just amazes me.

  2. thanks for the link to sawlady... what an incredible glimpse into the life of a street performer!

  3. you look like you are doing well! kudos to you...

  4. thanks for the quick glimpse of the city. I will always call Melbourne home!!