[Editor’s Note: this is the second part of a two part series exploring Central Park as a group of musicians make their way through the park. See the first part]
Winter or summer, fall or spring, the park will always attract people. They come to for a number of reasons. But a big part of Central Park is the music. People are always playing music and music is heard from almost any area in the park. So, a stranger enters the park to see the music.
She enters the park and continues, not knowing what she’ll see. She comes to a fork in the road and makes a left, unsure of where she is heading. She comes to a set of benches and takes a seat for a moment. Suddenly, she hears strumming behind her. She turns to see a man with a guitar gently strumming and singing along. A few people have gathered to watch him play. They appear to be enjoying his music. She smiles as he plays for the people and as the song ends, the stranger stands. She has seen what she wanted at this spot. It’s time to find a new place, so she continues down the path.
A ways further down the path, she comes to another choice; continue straight or make a turn. She decides to make the turn and continue down the path, around the bend. She follows the path to a small stairway, leading to a stone pavilion in the middle of the park. She walks down the stone stairs and at the bottom, there is a large group gathered watching some kind of a performance. She gets a closer look. It is an oriental couple, dressed in what appear to be opera dresses, playing violins and singing. It is some form of a prayer and meditation event that they doing. They are doing it more so for themselves, but they have attracted a crowd. The stranger stays to watch for a while, for this is one of the most unique things she has ever seen. When they finish the song, the crowd cheers and she leaves, carrying on her way, to find her new destination.
She’s continues out of the pavilion and into a plaza. After some moment, she looks to the notices a man playing a steel drum. She walks over to see him. Then, a couple comes over and begins dancing to the man’s music. A crowd appears around him and just like that, a crowd is enjoying the steel drums music. However, it is not a large crowd, maybe fifteen people at most. The man finishes and the couple stops dancing. Every claps and some people give loose change to the steel drum man. The stranger smiles and continues on her way, out of the plaza.
Once out of the plaza, she walks over the bridge and sees a small group of people, what appear to be college students playing guitars and singing. She watches from a distance, because they have a camera and are filming. There is another couple watching them from a distance as well. But most people just pass by the group, turning their head for a moment to look at them and then carrying on. The camera appears to be pushing people away. But they music is still pretty and so, the stranger listens. When the students finish, they begin packing up their things. And so the stranger leaves and starts towards an exit of the park.
As she makes her way towards an exit, she notices the largest crowd she’s seen all day watching something. However, it is not gentle or authentic music like she has seen and heard all day. It is modern techno music. And there are people dancing to it. The largest crowd all day is gathered around the most mainstream music that has been played all day in the park.
That is what people want to see. Most people in New York have shaped themselves to a status quo. And they must follow this status quo. They live in a mainstream way and will not look to new, authentic and innovative ideas, sounds and performances. They will simply accept what the majority accepts, because they are not looking for authenticity; they are looking for acceptance.
Those who stopped to listen to the authentic music and sounds; they are the people that stand out. And those playing it and singing it and creating it; they are the irregulars; they are the rebels; they are the unorthodox; they are the Bohemian
Filming “Performing the streets” I was very focused on how the music would affect the space. Living near New York, I’ve seen my fair share of street musicians and I was curious how “Performing the Streets” would be able to do it differently. Surprisingly enough, the overall interactions with the public were positive. People were excited to see a group of younger musicians playing in the park, and I think it rose from the inherent attraction Central Park has for flaneurs, but also the bohemian-esque tone of the musicians. They weren’t doing this music for anyone but themselves, and I think this greatly set them apart from other performance. We picked locations that, while not secluded, could be avoided if you didn’t want to experience the music. This allowed people to only engage in the performance if they wanted to. Additionally, we weren’t looking for money or tips as many other performers do, and it allowed people to look beyond the performance as something being sold and more as something that is worth searching out. Ultimately this project was a success in my mind, and showed me that public performance can be done in a non-obtrusive way