Busking has a long established heritage with an early form of the art evident in the itinerate singing lower clergyman known as ‘goliards’ who perpetually travelled in pursuit of written scriptures. The 11th century troubadours, and later, the wandering minstrels, many of which being in receipt of significant often prestigious patronage, are further examples of the form.
The term ‘busk’ in its truest form is the street performance of music. Today the term encompasses a wide variety of performance arts, including for example escapology, conjuring, juggling, and street theatre. If you have ever busked or watched a performance you will no doubt appreciate how the performance impacts on the space it occupies.
Couched predominant in Socioeconomics, the most prevalent thread in the academic literature on busking is centred on its transformative properties. Lily Maz (2016) for example reflects on the United Nations, habitats urban prosperity index, and suggests that busking ticks a significant number of the goals for urban regeneration ‘Place Making’ (design and management of public spaces). Kushner & Brooks (2000) take a economics stance, comparing the economic efficiency of ticketed performances to donation reliant street performances.
Besides a wide range of buskers anecdotal tales, memoirs, diaries, and a rather limited list of repetitious tips and tricks, which include tips like “say thank you”; there is little formal research which informs the advancement of the art of busking itself. Of the few performance centric works currently evident to me, Sally Harrison-Pepper as the author of the book ‘Drawing a Circle in a Square’ (2010) is credited for producing one of the first scholarly works which document and analyse street performance. Her theatre centric work is drawn from a 4 year observational study of performances in Washington Square Park New York City.
Unlike Harrison-Peppers (2010) work, this study takes the stance of performer as researcher, and is framed around the street performance of music, and specifically solo performances (‘one man band’) and explores crafting an optimal performance as performer during a performance.
Study Umbrella Aim
‘BUSK Music’ is a practice-based reflective research endeavour, based on a performer as researcher approach to the study of busking.
This study aims to : explore the interactions and relationships between presentation, repertoire, performance, space and audience as experienced and manipulated by the performer during a performance.
Phase 1 (Performance and Presentation)
While the identified aspects and interplay between presentation, repertoire, performance, space and audience will be considered across the entire study, the focus in phase 1 will be on performance, visual presentation and fixed repertoire of known songs (covers).
Stafford Town Centre is the studies initial site of interest, and will be the primary location where performances will be studied and developed. The performance in this initial phase is exclusively a seated solo musical performance, incorporating simultaneous voice, electro-acoustic guitar including effects and percussion (a custom built Cajon which now includes – bass, snare drum, Casaba; as well as a hi hat cymbal and tambourine).
Researching through ‘doing’, this study is couched in principles of ‘practice as research’ with an eye on the ephemeral nature of performance and the absence of perpetuity. The cognate processing of performances draws initially upon the theories of situation awareness and the reflective practicum. Performances will be developed, video recorded and annotated, this will be accompanied by a performance blog and analysis of data captured from audience interventions during the performance in the form of structured questioning (facilitated by a third party).
Lily Maz (2016) The Positive Impact of Busking on Cities [online]. [cited November2016] <http://www.slate.com/id/2102086/>.
R.J.Kushner&J. Brooks (2000) The One-man Band by the Quick Lunch Stand: Modeling Audience Response to Street Performance. Journal of Cultural Economics; Feb 2000; 24, 1; ABI/INFORM Global p.65
Harrison-Pepper, S. (2010) – Drawing a Circle in a Square.
Endsley, M.R. (2000a) Direct measurement of situation awareness: validity and use of SAGAT. In: Endsley, M.R. and Garland, D.J. (eds.) Situation awareness analysis and measurement. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp.147-173.
Endsley, M.R. (2000b) Preface. In: Endsley, M.R. and Garland, D.J. (eds.) Situation awareness analysis and measurement. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp.xi- xv.
Endsley, M.R. (2000c) Theoretical underpinnings of situation awareness: a critical review. In: Endsley, M.R. and Garland, D.J. (eds.) Situation awareness analysis and measurement. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp.3-32.
Endsley, M.R., Bolte, B. and Jones, D.G. (2003) Designing for situation awareness – an approach to user-centred design. London: Taylor and Francis.
Endsley, M.R. and Garland, D. J. (2000) Situation awareness analysis and measurement. London: London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Schon, D. (1987a) Educating the reflective practitioner – toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. UK: Jossey Bass.