Now that the sun is finally coming out in Seattle, it seems like everyone is outside soaking up the nice weather. It’s always fun to see the Seattle streets filling up with people in light summer clothes and bright summer smiles. Each year, I get especially excited to see all of the street performers and buskers who come outside to play music in sun. I think there’s something really special about the sense of community present in impromptu musical performances on the street or in local parks. Of course, there’s always a chance these people are just shamelessly exploiting the large crowds of happy sun-struck people for their money…but I like to think that most street performers have a much loftier goal in mind. I like to think maybe they do it to create a sense of community in the world; to remind people of the power of music in bringing people together. While some buskers may just be in it for the money, I think many of them are in it for the music. In fact, I have many friends among these street performers. I recently spoke with my friend Josh Baigelman, a 23-year-old college student who frequently performs both on the street and in music venues. He offered an enlightening perspective as to what makes street performing a spiritual, community-oriented pastime. “When I am performing on the street or in public places I am performing for everyone within hearing distance,” he told me. “I try to imagine sound waves as visual beams of light that are shooting from me in every direction. I focus on performing for the people within the bounds of those imaginary light beams.” Baigelman creates a wide range of music, including acoustic singer/songwriter material, experimental electronica and improvisational world fusion. His music features
lyrical themes about sustainability, creativity and interconnectedness. Baigelman’s music is introspective and ambient; he describes it as “soundscapey.” He incorporates a variety of rhythms and timbres to create a unique and often meditative sound. “I hope to convey cyclical patterns using rhythm, and often infuse spoken word or found sound into my work,” he said. When he is not performing on his acoustic guitar, he improvises on his djembe or didgeridoo. He said when he performs on these instruments, it “sounds like a trance, and I try to convey a feeling of becoming self-identified with the sound.” He feels music is one of the most powerful mediums through which he can share these meditative emotions with others who are going about their busy lives on the city streets. “I like to perform near street corners or bus stops where people listen long enough to contemplate,” he noted. Though Baigelman appreciates donations from people who enjoy his music, he doesn’t perform for the money. Instead, he voiced a much more powerful, spiritual reason for his performances: “I choose to perform for free, and in devotion to all living beings. It is a spiritual experience for me because I give myself over to the music as unique spirits who are communicating with the city. I am personally not performing, but the music is performing through me.” So perhaps the next time you see a busker on our Seattle streets, you might stop to reflect for a moment on the musical messages they are bringing to our sweet city. After all, each street performer has a story and each of them contributes to our community in his or her own unique way. “For me, busking is a devotional practice in which I devote myself to the love that threads humanity,” Baigelman said. “It is a meditation on contentedness, openness and the musical spirits.”
Maggie Molloy is a junior at Seattle University majoring in Journalism and Interdisciplinary Arts with Music Emphasis. She is particularly fond of classical, punk, ska and rockabilly music genres. Off campus, she enjoys swimming, practicing piano and working on corny jigsaw puzzles. Maggie wears frilly dresses every day of the week.