April 1 – M6P 4A2
April 2 – M4M 3M2
April 3 – M6G 2B7
April 4 – M5P 1N5
April 5 – M6G 3Y4
April 6 – M4T 1A7
April 7 – M5V 3H4
April 8 – M6C 1M8
April 9 – M4V 0A1
April 10 – M4J 4Z6
April 11 – M5V 1A2
April 12 – M5V 2T6
April 13 – M5A 3C4
April 14 – M5R 3V4
April 15 – M5T 3B3
April 16 – M6P 3N8
April 17 – M5V 3G3
April 18 – M4K 1N8
April 19 – M4W 1J4
April 20 – M5V 2Y3
April 21 – M5A 1B6
April 22 – M4L 1B8
April 23 – M5J 1E6
April 24 – M5J 1X8
April 25 – M5V 2B6
April 26 – M5G 1T3
April 27 – M4T 1N6
April 28 – M5H 4H2, M6H 1A4
April 29 – M4L 3W6
April 30 – M5J 2W2
What is the “Toronto Streets Tour”:
This conglomeration of media is meant to encapsulate a project I tackled in the April of 2019: my “Toronto Streets Tour”. My goal was to perform a set, consisting of 10 solo pieces, every day, on the streets of Toronto. The locations were set in advance and advertised using postal codes. This approach gave me flexibility everyday in choosing my spot, while requiring interested people to search a small area of the city, ears open, in order to find me.
This project was inspired by a few things in particular: the frequently expressed yearning for a return to the golden days of jazz music (where a band could play a show every night, for extended periods of time), the desire to challenge my personal habits regarding the practice and execution of written music (in which I find myself habitually underprepared), and the desire to share music that is meaningful and honest to me (in the hopes of connecting with individuals who are not members of my circle). I also planned on recording the music following this string of performances, for a potential future-CD (assuming the month went well, of course).
I picked the locations on a paper roadmap, sprawled out on my grandparents’ coffee table, during a short visit I had in March. I looked for interesting features (bridges, tunnels, train tracks, etc.) and decided on the locations based on their meaning to me (since I’ve lived in Toronto), or their visual, acoustic, and/or city-related features. After deciding on thirty locations, I assigned them days of the month by distancing similar locations, moving gradually from quiet to busy areas (over the month), and using the long-term weather forecast to aim for protection against precipitation.
The set, which is listed below, usually ran for about an hour and a half. Eight of the ten pieces were my compositions, with the traditional songs Muroro and белой акации coming from spiritual music traditions. Muroro was taught to me by my friend and teacher Moyo Mutamba, a master of a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe known as the Mbira. Mine is a simplified version of the original, adapted to encompass as much as possible from the Mbira, to a linear instrument like the saxophone. белой акации was taught to me by my parents, who sang it to me as a child (and sing it occasionally to me, as an adult, too). It is a Russian folk song, this version inspired by the traditional singing of the Doukhobor people in the Kootenays.
- Intro (Original)
- Wait (Original)
- Muroro (Trad.)
- Rainfall (Original)
- Interlude (Original)
- белой акации (Byelai Akatseeyee) (Trad.)
- untitled (Original)
- Flicker (Original)
- Love is Love (Original)
- Not “I Can’t Get Started” (Original)
My checklist everyday included: saxophone, trusty Nalgene™ (please sponsor me) water bottle, zoom recorder, MANY layers, tuque, scarf, gloves, hand warmers, umbrella, posters, and rocks (to hold the posters down). On location, I set out no receptacle for money, as I was worried about money’s potential to obscure my intentions (of experience, practice, and connection). I also wanted to distance myself from the idea of “busking”, as I was inspired more so by idioms of street art. I am drawn to the possibility of art that is separated from recognition, money, or popularity. I focused on valuing the ideas of sharing time, attention, and presence over sharing money etc.
I had very little idea of what would occur over the month, so the whole process felt like a big experiment. The opportunity to explore and document something unknown (to me) was exciting and welcomed.
Date: Monday, April 1st
Time: 12:30 PM
Weather: 3°C, mixed
Postal Code: M6P 4A2
Location: A few steps north of the pedestrian bridge at Dupont, just west of Dundas
Day one! I was bundled up in various jackets, wool layers, wool underwear, wool tuque, wool socks, wool scarf and gloves (both courtesy of my mother’s knitting), and had handwarmers on-deck. Even so, I really felt the cold, especially on my fingertips (which I left uncovered to feel the saxophone keys). Both the sluggishness of cold hands and the unexpected distractions of performing outside were pulling my mind away from the performance. Road noise (from the street below) and rail noise (from occasional locomotives behind me) were very present in this space. I enjoyed this space’s visual beauty. Dark red bricks, an enormous turquoise water tank, bright orange paint, graffiti, and the intense blue sky were highlights.
Date: Tuesday, April 2nd
Time: 12:30 PM
Weather: 8°C, hazy
Postal Code: M4M 3M2
Location: on a beach composed of fragmented debris (rock, metal, cement, brick, etc.) halfway up the eastern edge of Tommy Thompson Park
It felt much warmer than yesterday, which was immediately noticeable on my fingers. Although the park was officially closed today, I was thankful that a parks staff-member (who happened to be near the gate) gave me a loose go-ahead. The sound of water, birds, and low-flying airplanes filled this location. I was surprised by the volume of the water, which often seemed to overpower my playing. This was a low traffic area, with only a handful of people walking or biking by on the path above, none of them stopping to listen. Visually today was grey, the cloudy sky mixing with a muted beach and dark water.
Date: Wednesday, April 3rd
Time: 12:40 PM
Weather: 4°, mixed
Postal Code: M6G 2B7
Location: beside some ideal sitting-sized rocks, halfway up the east staircase at the southern edge of Hillcrest park
Today was back on the cold side, with a heavy wind biting any exposed skin. This spot was much louder than expected (and louder than I remembered, from being here in the past), mostly from cars and trucks passing by below me, on Dupont. Having the saxophone as a consistent measuring stick is emphasizing the high ambient volumes of all three locations I’ve played so far. This spot saw little foot traffic, and those who passed, passed quickly (a product of the cold temperature, I suspect). The dogs who passed by seemed interested though, usually giving me a long look and wanting to stop to check things out.
Date: Thursday, April 4th
Time: 2:40 PM
Weather: 5°, Sunny
Postal Code: M5P 1N5
Location: on top of a sewer grate, near the top of a retaining wall, underneath the north side of the bridge which spans the Nordheimer Ravine, just south of Spadina and St. Clair
Today felt beautiful and warm. I even took off my tuque! This spot was amazing: resonant acoustics, warm sun, and eye-grabbing visuals. I noticed a lot of sideways glances from passersby on the main trail, with a few individuals stopping to listen for longer periods. One person, hearing the noise on the street above (from a block away), picked their way down the side of the ravine, through the mud and branches, to get a closer look at what was causing the ruckus! I am grateful for the sense of connection that I felt with the people who stopped to share time, energy, and presence with me.
Date: Friday, April 5th
Time: 10:10 AM
Weather: 0°, overcast, light rain
Postal Code: M6G 3Y4
Location: Not quite under the north side of the bridge at Shaw and Dupont (with a narrow sidewalk, I opted to play where there was more space, not-under the bridge)
Today was cold and wet. I noticed it immediately on my fingers, especially when the wind touched them. Today I decided to break open a pack of hand-warmers to stick in my gloves, along the backs of my hands. Even so, I had to take long breaks to keep my hands functional. I suspect that the hand-warmers would be more effective if they were left in my pockets, shielded from the elements. I could then go into my (very warm) pockets for quick breaks… Something to try next time! This location had a mix close street noise, some natural reverberance, and steady foot traffic. A few folks stopped today, but highlights included: a mother + toddler duo (who danced along to a part of the set), a local politician (who expressed confusion about playing in this location, for money-making reasons, before leaving his flyer), and an employee from a nearby store (who heard some music during their break, and went searching for the source).
Date: Saturday, April 6th
Time: 10:10 AM
Weather: 13°, Sunny
Postal Code: M4T 1A7
Location: Half on the sidewalk, half on the street, in the concrete gully near the bridge spanning the train tracks near Old Brindle Path Road
This was the best day yet! The sound, the look, the logistics, the people, and the weather were all in my favour. Logistically this spot was a little tricky. Between the tall concrete walls there was: a thin sidewalk, a one-way street, and a sidewalk-less curb. I put my camera on the curb, and played across the street from it, on the sidewalk (when there was automobile traffic) and on the street (when there was foot/stroller traffic). Thank goodness that it was a quiet Saturday morning! It was worth it the effort, especially for the acoustics. Every note I played filled the gully immediately and could be heard echoing from both directions. Magical!
Adding to the beauty of the sun, the sky, and the acoustics, there were also several interesting phrases graffitied on the walls. One that stood out to me was “Love is Love”. The more I looked at it, the more it resonated with me.
Although many people passed by today, very few acknowledged my presence. One of the few people who stopped said that this neighborhood is “Too rich to smile”.
Date: Sunday, April 7th
Time: 12:45 PM
Weather: 6°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5V 3H4
Location: near a life preserver, at the end of the long cement dock directly across from Billy Bishop airport
This was the hardest day so far, and one of the hardest days of April. I was a fool to believe the high forecast of 16°. I was utterly freezing, sincerely worried about the safety of my hands and feet due to a constant, buffeting wind off the lake. And to make matters worse this spot was deafeningly noisy, between the wind, the waves, and the aircraft (at Billy Bishop Airport, across the channel). The sight of people trekking down the dock to check things out, leaned into the wind, their coats puffed out like sails, will stick with me. No-one stayed for even a few seconds before turning back. What a way to end the first week! It was pure relief as I finished the set, packed up hurriedly, and went searching for something warm to drink.
Date: Monday, April 8th
Time: 12:10 PM
Weather: 14°, Mixed
Postal Code: M6C 1M8
Location: under a cement arch, underneath the north side of the pedestrian bridge spanning the Glenn Cedar Ravine
A warm and beautiful day today! It was gusty up above, but my spot under the bridge was sheltered and calm. Visually, this location was impressive, but it was average sonically. This area was plagued with the sounds of leaf blowers and lawn mowers, spilling into the ravine from the yards above. Of the many walkers-by on the path below, a few stopped at a distance to hear parts of my set. A set that, I realized later, was missing one of the pieces! It completely slipped my mind… Whoops!!
Date: Tuesday, April 9th
Time: 12:30 PM
Weather: 6°, Overcast
Postal Code: M4V 0A1
Location: In front of fountain-esque structure, in the north-east corner of the parkette on the north-east corner at the intersection of Avenue and St Claire
The parkette was filled with dry leaves, which covered most of the ground. As the wind blew, the leaves danced in front of me, skittering in sheets and in spirals. Today was noisy, between the leaves, road noise, and two flags across the street constantly clanging away. Someone who stopped for a few songs at a distance, shouted a hearty “sounds good!” before moving on.
Date: Wednesday, April 10th
Time: 1:15 PM
Weather: 7°, Mixed
Postal Code: M4J 4Z6
Location: On the north side of the tunnel which runs underneath the rail tracks at the south end of Monarch park
Although the temperature today wasn’t particularly low, it was cold to spend time in the tunnel. Lack of sun and extra wind is an icy recipe, at 7°. The acoustics of this area were boom-y and varying. Inside the tunnel, my sound filled the space immediately, and quickly became overwhelming while playing denser passages. The sound either end of the tunnel was, apparently, completely different. It was resonant and reverberant on the end closest to me, while sounding muddy, “not like a saxophone” at the far end. The many walkers were treated to a full spectrum of saxophone sound! The music is starting to feel more natural, too. I am feeling capable of being present both to my surroundings, and to performance of these pieces.
Date: Thursday, April 11th
Time: 3:30 PM
Weather: 1°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5V 1A2
Location: Near a parking garage, between a few tall buildings, in an alleyway across the street from Harbourfront Center
It was snowing this morning… Originally planning on playing near the water, I ended up settling on this alleyway for shelter from both the wind and rain. Today was another instance of “Harrison vs the environment”, and of “Harrison vs cold hands”. A day like this asks me to consider my intentions in taking on this project, and whether overcoming the elements is a part of it. I am feeling tired of having cold hands.
Date: Friday, April 12th
Time: 11:30 AM
Weather: 9°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5V 2T6
Location: On the west side of the pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks, leading to the CN tower
In what is an iconic area of Toronto, I had a great performance today. The music was accurate, the weather was manageable, and there were several people who stopped to hear my music. Singing белой акации struck the most people, and a small crowd stopped to listen as I sang.
Date: Saturday, April 13th
Time: 2:00 PM
Weather: 16°, Sunny
Postal Code: M5A 3C4
Location: Between two brick buildings, on the north side of mill street, outside of the Distillery District’s property line
After speaking with some security guards, learning that the Distillery District is privately owned (with they’re own busker licencing system), I crossed Mill Street to play on a Toronto-owned sidewalk. Part of the fun of this tour has been searching for each day’s spot, and making sure that I won’t get kicked out of it. A highlight today was a gang of souped-up motorized scooter-ers who rode by, making a TON of noise. To each their own! And here I thought I was making a lot of noise…
Date: Sunday, April 14th
Time: 1:15 PM
Weather: 3°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5R 3V4
Location: Under the center of the west side of the railroad bridge at Howland and Dupont
It was cold, raining, and windy today. Thankfully, I was able to find a dry spot under the bridge. It was a nice spot acoustically, with a mix of reverberance, rain related sounds, and nearby wet vehicle tires. I noticed a few people stop on the other side of the road to listen and take pictures. Another hard day weather-wise, made palatable by the location.
Date: Monday, April 15th
Time: 120:00 PM
Weather: 6°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5T 3B3
Location: Beside some pigeons, in front of a lamppost, in front of the Chinatown Centre, on Spadina, south of Dundas
Another cold and windy day, which has again left me debating my intentions related to challenging weather. I was surprised today when someone purposefully walked by, only inches in front of my horn. It seemed like they were sending me message of some kind… Conversely, someone else who passed by threw me a handful of home-rolled cigarettes as a thank-you. I was swamped aurally by the sound of passing construction vehicles, today. Dundas is a total mess right now, and Spadina seems like a main route for those vehicles. This performance marks the halfway point of the Tour! I am proud to have made it this far, and I’m feeling excited for remaining performances.
Date: Tuesday, April 16th
Time: 5:00 PM
Weather: 8°, Overcast
Postal Code: M6P 3N8
Location: Against a graffiti-ed wall, under the east side of the Wallace Avenue pedestrian bridge
This was a nice time of day to be playing. With people getting off work, there was a relaxed energy to people’s pace. An interesting feature of this spot was the bridge’s staircase, which looped around in front of me, giving walkers more time in both earshot and eyeshot of me. Aurally, this space featured occasional GO-Trains and UP’s, whose locomotives were deafening. I had fun listening for the locomotives and finding space in my set as the trains passed. A couple of kids were shyly listening and playing in my vicinity, and they gave me a big thank you before moving on.
Date: Wednesday, April 17th
Time: 1:00 PM
Weather: 8°, Mixed
Postal Code: M5V 3G3
Location: In front of the enormous rock sculpture, across from Billie Bishop airport, in Ireland park
It was a beautiful, mostly-sunny day today. This was an interesting spot visually, highlights being the old silos, the rock sculpture, and the waterfront. But, as I should have learned by now, the waterfront is constantly windy, and standing in the wind for so long is cold!
Date: Thursday, April 18th
Time: 11:45 AM
Weather: 20°, Sunny
Postal Code: M4K 1N8
Location: In front of The Big Carrot, on the north side of Danforth Avenue
With such a warm forecast, I was overjoyed to trade in my tuque for a sun hat. I was excited to wear this particular hat, because it was a newer acquisition (having lovingly stolen it from my grandmother a few weeks prior). This spot felt warm and welcoming, full of people willing to spend some unexpected time listening. Between the weather and the environment, I felt very comfortable, and reluctant when my set finally came to a close.
Date: Friday, April 19th
Time: 1:00 PM
Weather: 9°, Raining
Postal Code: M4W 1J4
Location: On top of a hill, under an enormous concrete arch, beneath the west side of the Danforth/Bloor bridge spanning the DVP
It was a cool space visually, but it was challenging to reach. I slid down the steep, muddy hill hugging the bridge’s north side to find it. This spot was filled with the ambient noise both from the wet freeway below, and from the traffic (car and train) overhead. I didn’t see a single person during this set… It was a concert for the concrete.
Date: Saturday, April 20th
Time: 12:00 PM
Weather: 7°, Raining
Postal Code: M5V 2Y3
Location: beside some trash, on top of a retaining wall, under the west side of the Gerrard bridge spanning the DVP
A second rainy day, and another climb down a muddy trail to play under a bridge. Today I was precariously positioned on top of a steep retaining wall, which led directly onto the road below. People passed by on a trail, which was separated by the road, two fences, and a pair of railway tracks. A person in a bright yellow rain jacket stopped (under the shelter of the bridge, and out of eyesight behind the concrete support) for a couple of songs. They moved on with a big wave and a yell of “Thank you!”. This space was full of wet tires from the cars below, and streetcars rumbling by overhead. Quiet moments were rare and especially pronounced.
Date: Sunday, April 21st
Time: 1:00 PM
Weather: 10°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5A 1B6
Location: Facing away from the Redpath Sugar Plant, on a cobblestone section of Sugar Beach
Today’s spot refuted most things I thought I knew about playing on the waterfront… The acoustics were good, the water was quiet, and the wind was calm. This spot was busy with foot traffic, most of whom were relaxed, out for a Sunday walk. Strangely, three different people left money on the ground in front of me, and then left before I played a single note! That really struck me… Also, it was cool to watch the big crane at the sugar plant, filling the freighter bucket by bucket.
Date: Monday, April 22nd
Time: 2:00 PM
Weather: 15°, Sunny
Postal Code: M4L 1B8
Location: Facing land, at the end of a long cement pier, on the eastern end of the beaches boardwalk, in the east end
This was such a beautiful day. I spent 30 minutes before playing just to take it all in: sunny, warm, hazy, and calm. The scene had eerie qualities, with still water blending into haziness, which then blended seamlessly into sky. I felt rested and focused this morning, and I felt positive about my set. I was able to take my time and settle into each piece. Several people stopped by to listen and take pictures, but one couple laid down together on the dock and listened to most of the set. One of my favourite days, but far!
Date: Tuesday, April 23rd
Time: 4:30 PM
Weather: 11°, Overcast
Postal Code: M5J 1E6
Location: facing north, in between an elevator and a pedestrian tunnel, in the Parkette directly south of 1 University Avenue
It poured rain all day, but stopped just in time for my set, phew! It was really gray, but thankfully it was also warm-feeling. Continuing to develop comfort with this music, and properly working hands, felt liberating. I was surprised at this spot acoustically, as it was both sheltered from street noise, and reverberant for the saxophone. This part of the city is made up entirely of hard surfaces, which created a noticeable resonance. The combination of location and time allowed me to experience one of the busiest parts of the city. The energy was busy and rushed, everyone needing to catch their chosen form of transportation. Very few people stopped to listen, although the sidewalks were thick with people.
Date: Wednesday, April 24th
Time: 2:30 PM
Weather: 10°, mixed
Postal Code: M5J 1X8
Location: on a rocky outcropping, near the western end of the boardwalk, along the southern edge of the Center Island
Today was warm while the sun was out, but chilly in its absence. While walking from the Ward’s Island dock, I came across someone sitting on the path, looking intently into a garden bed. I stopped for a moment out of curiosity, and they pointed out several snakes moving about the bed. Apparently, this was the first week that the snakes had come out of a nearby hole, after the winter. It was mesmerizing to watch them move. We ended up walking along the boardwalk together, chatting of snakes, life, and the history of the island, before I set up on a rock outcropping. I ended my set one tune short, at 3:50, needing to make a 6:00 engagement. I booked it, gear in tow, trying and catch the 4:00 Ward’s ferry. I was REALLY close, but I missed it. So… I booked it to catch the 4:30 Centre ferry. Holy moly! I made it, with about 2 minutes to spare and a slight oxygen deficit. After the ride, and on-time to make it for 6:00, I hopped on the subway only to encounter 2 delays! Wow-y! In the end, somehow, I was only a couple of minutes late (although pretty frazzled)…
Date: Thursday, April 25th
Time: 3:30 PM
Weather: 8°, light rain
Postal Code: M5V 2B6
Location: on a corner in graffiti alley
My set was cut short today, about halfway through, due to rain. Although this was a busy area, with people stopping constantly to take photos of the graffiti, my presence was rarely acknowledged. With my project having so many parallels to well-known street art mediums, I felt fascinated by the energy of this area. A few tour guides passed by, and I heard snippets relating to some of the big pieces (about who commissioned them, and when).
Date: Friday, April 26th
Time: 3:00 PM
Weather: 12°, Drizzle
Postal Code: M5G 1T3
Location: on private property, under an overhang, directly outside the office of the “U.S. Green Building Council”, across Bay Street from Nathan Phillips Square
It was a rainy day, and I scoured the area for covered areas that weren’t privately owned. This spot was the best I could do, one foot off the city sidewalk, under an overhanging office building. I set myself up next to a pillar, finding shelter from the wind. This was a surprisingly good-sounding spot, even with the business of Bay Street directly in front of me. Acoustically, here space had a lot of resonance, from both the overhang and the hard surfaces across the street of City Hall. I noticed several individuals stopping to listen, some close to me, and others across the street. At the end of my set, during the finale of my last tune (as I was starting to goof-off musically) a security guard approached me and asked, “What do you think you’re doing, mate?!”. I thought my actions were speaking pretty clearly… The guard was nicer than expected, understanding my desire to be sheltered from the rain, but making it clear that I couldn’t play on the building’s property. So, I took one step over (onto the city-owned sidewalk) and finished my set legally.
Date: Saturday, April 27th
Time: 2:00 PM
Weather: 8°, Mixed
Postal Code: M4T 1N6
Location: In the center awning, on the cement base, of the western support, underneath the St. Clair bridge spanning the Yellow Creek Ravine
This location was a last-minute decision, changed from my original plan to play near the waterfront again. I didn’t want another cold and rainy day on the waterfront, so I decided to stay closer to my apartment and explore this bridge. This was one of the best decisions of the month! This was the best space I played in April, bar none. Visually, it was filled with graffiti and symmetry, while feeling secluded and focused. The sound was also spectacular. Inside the concrete arc it was extremely reverberant, while staying aurally open, with no muddiness. I was reminded of concert halls and churches. I was also thinking of this bridge as a big concrete gourd, acting as an acoustic amplifier for my saxophone. Several people stopped to listen, clearly drawn in by the quality of the sound.
Date: Sunday, April 28th
Time: 4:00 PM, 7:00 PM
Weather: 9°, Mixed, and indoors
Postal Code: M5H 4H2, M6H 1A4
Location: across from the CBC, in a spot that smelled like manure, and at The Emmet Ray
What would my streets tour be if I didn’t acknowledge the ways in which this city stinks? This spot was smelly. The stench of manure was mingled with the city’s constant gasoline-garbage odour. Intoxicating. Most of today’s listeners were car folk stopped on the street in front of me, at a traffic light. When they noticed me playing, several of these car people would roll down their windows to listen in, inevitably getting a strong whiff of manure. Gotcha. On my way downtown, I nabbed a set of free pool noodles, helped a friend buy (and carry) a desk, scored a free ice cream sandwich, and took-in the Sikh Parade along University. What a busy city!
I also played at The Emmet Ray, at 7:00. Not sure if it should really be considered as a part of the “Streets” tour…
Date: Monday, April 29th
Time: 5:30 PM
Weather: 0°, Raining
Postal Code: M4L 3W6
Location: at the west end of the Woodbine Beach boardwalk
I didn’t play today. It was a day where the rain flew horizontally, and the wind laughed at umbrellas. It was mesmerizing to watch foamy whitecaps roll onto the shore. As I watched, I noticed three surfers out on the water. I sang белой акации in the only spot I could find that was sheltered from the wind: in a small nook beside the bathroom. So that was my set today! I was happy for the weather to win, for once!
Date: Tuesday, April 30th
Time: 2:15 PM
Weather: 10°, Sunny
Postal Code: M5J 2W2
Location: west of the pier, on a south-facing beach of Center Island
Although the morning was gloomy and cold, the afternoon kept getting nicer and nicer. It was calm, sunny, and warm by the time I played. This location featured primarily the sound of calm waves, and of passing boats. Alex, Ian, and Zach met me at the 1:00 ferry (Alex and Ian making it exciting as they barely made it). I am thankful to have shared the last day with such warm company. What an ending to such a crazy month!
And it’s over, the performances at least:
Above all else, I feel relieved to be finished with April. I wasn’t always sure that I would make it through the project, but I am proud that I did. The most accurate description of the experience can be said in two short words: “a lot”. April was a lot. It was warm, and it was cold, it was uplifting, it was draining, it was windy, it was calm, it was busy, it was lonesome, it was noisy, it was quiet, it was inspiring, it was frustrating… It was really a lot. As I continue to think on it, I am constantly remembering more and more, the richness of experience hard for me to fully perceive.
I heartily suspect that this month elevated both my performances of these pieces and my musicianship overall. It was interesting to track my focus across April, as it gradually shifted from execution, to musicality, and then towards perception, as I was able to process my surroundings and remain conscious of them while playing. The pieces weren’t always improving though, my execution occasionally deteriorating as I was, often rudely, reminded (by myself) that performing doesn’t substitute practicing.
The energy of people had a major effect on how I felt over the course of the month. I found the most joy when someone stopped to listen. To share this set of music, which feels so close to my heart and soul, and have it received was deeply uplifting. I am thankful for everyone shared their time, presence, and ears with me.
I was constantly amused by the confusion that my performances caused, especially regarding money. People would approach me with the intention of giving money, see no place to put it, and then: either leave it on the ground, forcefully hand it to me (usually in the middle of a song), or just turn around and leave. I was also surprised by how many people left money without listening to more that a few seconds, a generosity of finances over a generosity of time.
Any money that was given to me, I passed on to others on the street. This aligned with my feelings, as people chose to give me (a saxophone wielding, appropriately layered, healthy-looking person) money, while ignoring others who are without food, warmth, shelter… I didn’t make much, but I was happy to pass it on (just like the Fraggles, down in Fraggle Rock!).
After the month, I had planned on recording this music in a church (for the acoustic properties), but as April progressed it became clear that the outdoor/city setting was an inseparable part of the project. The bridge at St Clair and Yonge (from April 27th) had such a staggering sound that it was easy to decide to record in that space. The recordings are now finished, so stay tuned for a CD release sometime this fall! I am beyond excited to share this music which feels so honest, connected, and meaningful (to me). Below is a small sample to whet your appetites.
As I strive to live with compassion, I am grateful to all those around me who give and receive from the heart. Thank you.
To quote Ruth Bebermeyer (lyrics which have come to me through Marshall B. Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication”):
I never feel more given to
than when you take from me-
when you understand the joy I feel
giving to you.
And you know my giving isn’t done
to put you in my debt,
but because I want to live the love
I feel for you.
To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There’s no way I can separate
When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me, I feel so
-Song “Given To” (1978) by Ruth Bebermeyer
from the album, Given To.
Thanks for reading