Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday in Bonn

Saturday there is a huge market in downtown Bonn. In addition to the fruit and vegetable vendors, artisans come out selling their wares. I was particularly intrigued by a potter who made vases that looked as if they were only two-dimensional. I actually thought they were pictures of vases until I got up close. He had an incredible sense of dimensionality, one that he was able to use to trick the viewer. Very cool.

In addition to the vendors, there were also plenty of street musicians out. For quite a while, I sat and watched a bass and guitar duo playing jazz standards ("All of Me," Girl from Ipanema") . The guitarist was playing on a classical guitar while the bassist was playing what looked to me to be an old solid top upright. The bassist was getting a great slap sound, throwing it in intermittently during his walking lines. He seemed to be playing heavy in the pizzicato parts (two fingers, lots of meat on the string) but his slaps were quite light. They were the perfect accent to his playing. It reminds me of something someone once told me about slapping (both electric and upright) bass: its an effect that doesn't compensate for the notes you choose to play. I think that sometimes we (by that I mean "I") forget this lesson and just slap away with not enough attention being paid to the actual notes, rhythm, and feeling the music is conveying. The bassist I saw today knew exactly the right balance between his music he was playing and his "effect."

One of things I was taken by was the number of people who were watching the pair play. People were really involved, some dancing, everyone applauding after each song. In fact, now that I think about it, very few people just walked by without stopping for at least a song. I know it sounds cliché, but there really does seem to be a greater appreciation of jazz in Europe than in North America. (I've noticed this many times before.) I'm not sure what the reason is (I want to hear a better reason than "cultural differences").

I also saw a bagpipe group, two string quartets, and a relatively large string ensemble playing out in the streets. All of these were playing for wedding parties who are walking just hanging out on the cobblestone streets downtown. I guess Saturday is also wedding day.

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