11 To Remember 2016 - John Berger

Dear Markéta,

Fifteen years of watching, listening and responding in the streets

of London. This is the photo which for me frames your theme of street-

musicians.

And it takes me back eighty years to my childhood (in the 1930's),

when I was disturbed and spellbound by street-musicians I passed and

stopped to listen to and watch. The word play had a double-sense for me.

They played instruments or they sang in the street in the hope of getting

money, survival money, from the passers-by. And I played games in order

to escape and feel that I was elsewhere.

In this double-sense of the word play there was a shared conspiracy:

the hope that, despite everything, the playing might provoke, even furtively,

a little fun.

The pitilessness of the world was clear, and they were living through a jinx,

and so they played with the absurd in order to catch a tune or a laugh.

If they did, it was a momentary triumph. Jinx and triumph.

The hunger, the homelessness, the recurring despair remain. But some

coins fall into the cap.

What they produce is the opposite of Chamber Music; what they produce

is Gutter Music, but within it there are winks and nudges, reminiscent of the

philosophers of antiquity.

Listening to Chamber Music, we often close our eyes. Coming across

Gutter Music, we stop in our steps and try to catch the player’s eyes.

And that, Markéta, is what you have done in your unique book about jinxes

and triumphs.

John Berger