Maybe fifteen years ago, Natalie Cole recorded a vocal track on top of one of her father’s productions, resulting in a duet between a dead Nat King Cole and his daughter.  Drew Friedman, the cartoonist, inked a panel with a skeleton performing with Natalie, suggesting an incongruence in the production.  For some, the duet felt contrived.

A unique video emerged on the web several months ago.  In the video, street musicians from cities across Europe, Africa, South America and the U.S. perform where they live, in the street, with headphones on.  They contribute both to the tracks of the performance and to the video that was recording the series of integrated performances.  The song is Stand By Me.

As in the Susan Boyle video, several story lines come together to create a powerful presentation.

When I was a boy in the 1950s, there was a TV show called Tales of the Texas Rangers.  What I loved was the beginning.  A single lawman is walking down the street.  Over the course of the growing intro music, he is joined and followed by others until by the end there are maybe 30 earnest lawmen walking in a triangle with the original guy in the forward point.  He never looks behind him.  He just knows they’re there.

In the street musicians’ video, we have a similar but less contrived production.  It begins with a single vocalist and over the course of maybe three minutes blossoms into maybe a 30-piece performance.  We get to watch each performer join one at a time, with the music growing in depth and nuance.  We are watching street musicians performing in the street.  We pay nothing for the opportunity to listen and observe this literally world class production.

Frank Rich on May 9 wrote a piece describing the void that journalism is disappearing into.  We are having trouble imagining where our news will come from when there is no income engine powering the present model.  Rich cites Clay Shirky, who goes into more detail, comparing the present transition to the switch from long hand to the printing press.

A new source of news is suggested by this street musician video, and it reveals the new direction art is taking.

With the ability of musicians to go global with a Mac and a microphone, we have the separation of art from money.  It’s about time.  I received an art degree with the assumption being that if I wanted to succeed, I would have to appeal to the educated and the affluent.  No longer.

We are in the midst of a major reframing of what success is.

We are observing an integration of almost 200 national economies, the abyss of environmental destruction forcing cooperation between all manner of differences, the surge in the Internet and communications technologies and now the horizontalization and destratification of societies across the world.  As classic capitalism continues to fall, we are heading at breakneck speed into a world where success is measured not by how many things we own or how many assets we control, but by our contribution to the relationships we are a part of.

The street musicians’ video is about making a unique contribution, no matter where we are in the world.  That contribution might be a journalistic representation of our experience or observations, an art or music production or an educational piece.  What we receive in payment may be miniscule by today’s standards.  Think of Wikipedia.  We have begun experimenting with a noncapitalist economy based upon the exchange of creative acts.

The Natalie Cole recording explored crossing the barrier of time to evoke an emotion.  We have begun piercing the barriers of both space and time with powerful and unpredictable results.  Integral to this crossing is the realization that capitalism is not the only way to achieve success.  This is particularly true when you redefine what success means.


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