**Foreword’s 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalist**
About The Book
Written by Heather Jacks and accompanied by an eleven-track vinyl record featuring the original music of a select number of participants, this 200-page art-style coffee table book measures 12’’ x 12’’ and weighs in at a whopping 8lbs. Putting the spotlight on the age-old profession of busking, Jacks also seeks to stem the tide of regulation intended to suffocate creative expression and take performers off the streets.
A limited-edition coffee table book, ‘The Noise Beneath the Apple®’, is a unique and vibrant study of the culture of street performance, its legitimacy in modern times and above all, an intimate look at thirty-five buskers throughout New York City. Released with an eleven-track vinyl record that was mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning mastering engineer Reuben Cohen, this book is a singular achievement and a one-of-a-kind tribute to the chaotic, beautiful and spirited world of busking.
Heather Jacks was raised on an Indian reservation in southeastern Oregon, until age fifteen. Jacks was the first ‘experimental exchange student’ to Australia with an organization called YFU, Youth for Understanding, where she spent 10.5 months in 1982. Once she returned, she received her B.A. from USF and followed that with two years of study at UC Davis. She has worked in the music industry in various capacities, since the eighties; radio, production, A&R, booking and most recently as a music journalist. She was recently named a finalist in the Book of the Year Award in the Performing Arts & Music category, for her multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple®, which was inspired by her love for street music, busking and the people who make it. Heather can be contacted at: email@example.com
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The Noise Beneath the Apple
What is busking? Busking is, very simply performing on street corners in exchange for money. That includes any type of street performance; acrobats, jugglers, mimes, dancers, ventriloquists, magicians, ‘cos-play’ and of course musicians.
Buskers are the street performers, the traveling troubadours and minstrels who entertain us in the most unexpected places; in the subway or on train platforms underground; parks or street corners. We walk by them, playing their guitars, singing their songs, performing their music. We may smile at them. We may not. We may hurriedly drop a buck in their open guitar case. We may not. We may stop and watch. We may not.
Busking has been with us since the beginning of time; from 11th century Russian comic actors and harlequins to 14th century Strolling Players from India and Pakistan; ancient Roman street performers and jesters to town criers delivering news and political events prior to the Industrial Revolution. In the 1800’s, traveling medicine shows in which vendors entertained onlookers with “miracle cures,” and potions with the promise of improved health, love life or finances would ‘pass the hat’ when the show was over. Circus performers earning a few extra coins on their day off by entertaining on street corners swept the USA. Gypsies, mariachi bands and Japanese Chindon’ya—(elaborately dressed street musicians hired to advertise for shops), are all types of buskers.
On the streets, their shows fall into different categories. There are those who create “circle shows,” usually drawing people into large crowds around them and are characterized by the fact that they have a definite beginning and ending. Examples would be; Break Dancers or dancing troupes, acrobats, ventriloquists and comedy/sketch routines.
Café busking, which many of us are most familiar, is when performances are done in exchange for tips—often “passing of the hat” (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, started in this way and the 1973 hit, Piano Man, by Billy Joel, was inspired by his six months as a café busker in Los Angeles).
Where does the word ‘busking’ come from? The Indo-European and Celtic languages are considered the predecessors of Latin, and it is in both of these languages—(which predate Latin) that the root of the word can be found. In the Indo-European languages, bhudh-sko means ‘to win’ or ‘to conquer.’ In the Celtic languages, boudi means ‘victory.’ Historical linguists place the Celtic derivation first, which in turn gave birth to the Indo-European term. Both of these terms referred to ‘looking for work,’ and according to historical linguists, together they evolved into the Latin root busk. This took place over 8,000 years ago. From here we can find the Latin root ‘busk’ traced back to ‘buskin’, which was a decorated sandal, worn by Roman street performers. Historic records from that time also indicate the practice of throwing coins to street performers; the first tips. Busk then appears throughout Asia and Europe, including in the obsolete French, where it was described as a service exchanged for alms; prostitution.
It is said that the first mention of buskers in the English language, was in Augustus Septimus Mayhew’s, May 8, 1858, tract in Punch, or the London Charivarl titled “Our Organ-Grinding Tyrants,” Mayhew wrote: “The House of Lords enjoyed a merry laugh the other night at the expense of a by no means small portion of the public-we mean the sufferers from that greatest plague of life, street music…”
At its core, the centuries old tradition of busking is what it has always been: the spirited mad ones from a Jack Kerouac novel who embody a magic that is exclusively their own, yet extraordinarily communal.
They are there because they belong there. The streets have called them. The world underfoot has beckoned them. They become more real than the trains whizzing by, more concrete than the skyscrapers overhead. And they give the city a life and breath, an undercurrent of alchemy, which would not exist if they were not there. They invite us to sing out of key, to dance out of step; not necessarily trying to discern the meaning of life, but rather to experience being alive.
If you dig what you hear or see then dig a little deeper and drop them a buck, for the song, the experience, the story, the photo, the YouTube video; because after all, this small exchange of daily experience is a currency, which is not exchangeable for articles of consumption. In other words, you can’t buy it at Walmart!
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