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Listen and Learn LESSON TWENTY-SIX HERE!
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In today’s lesson, entitled Music to Our Ears, you will learn about what “buskers,” or street performers, have to go through to earn the privilege to perform in some of London and New York’s prime locations. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
Music to Our Ears
Listen and Learn
Lesson Twenty-Six PASSAGE ONLY TRACK:
The moment you get off the train at Sakuragicho Station in Yokohama, you hear it: the sweet, intoxicating sound of live music wafting through the air. It’s the same as you stroll along the River Thames in London’s Southbank or through New York City’s Central Park, where you soon find yourself immersed in a harmonious blend of jazz, folk, pop, and ethnic sounds. The experience is a pleasant reminder that there is plenty of great musical talent out there, all waiting for a “big break.” But the music industry is highly competitive, and no matter how talented he or she may be, there is of course no guarantee that the “busker” who aspires to become a professional musician will be discovered and sign a record deal or get the chance to perform in Carnegie Hall. Very often, it’s a matter of luck and location.
You may be surprised to learn that many cities do not allow musicians to “pitch and play” in public places without permission. In London, for example, you can’t just pick up your guitar one morning and on a whim decide to sing a couple of tunes on the front steps of the National Portrait Gallery or in front of Piccadilly Station. That would be illegal, because you have to pay for the privilege. A one-year street-performance or “busking” license will cost you anywhere from £19 to £47, depending on the number of people performing and what instruments are used. But even with a legal permit, you can’t set up shop anywhere you please. Let’s say you want to entertain the crowd in Covent Garden’s renowned Courtyard. Before you will even be considered, you must first audition in front of a panel of judges made up of representatives from the Courtyard Musicians Association and the Street Performers Association. What they’re looking for are acts that show a high degree of skill as well as the ability to develop a rapport with an audience. If you haven’t got what it takes, if you haven’t got “it,” you don’t play.
Would-be performers in New York City are also subjected to a rigorous auditioning process. Each spring, hundreds of hopeful musicians gather at Grand Central Terminal to audition for the right to perform in one of the city’s thirty prime underground locations. This year, the Music Under New York program received 230 applications for just 25 slots, making the acceptance rate as competitive as that of an Ivy League university. Getting accepted into the program, however, is the only way to ensure that you’ll be allocated a good “pitch,” a spot that will boost your chances of being seen and heard. At present, there are some 350 soloists and groups providing quality entertainment for the millions of commuters who travel through the city’s bustling subway stations every day.
In this cutthroat atmosphere, the right location—a choice spot in the middle of Grand Central Station’s crowded lobby, say—can mean the difference between raking in several hundred dollars in tips each day, or going home empty handed. High foot-traffic areas mean more exposure, and passersby (one of whom might just be a major talent scout!) are more likely to take notice and stop to listen if a busker already has an attentive crowd. One guitarist says that playing in New York’s subway system serves as a gauge of how good he is: “If you’re able to convince one or two rushing people to take the time to listen to you, that’s the biggest acknowledgment.”
But for many street and subway performers, it’s not about the recording contract, or the fame, or the money. It’s about bringing sweet music to the people and a little joy into a busy world.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn Lesson Twenty-Six LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be MULTIPLE CHOICE or TRUE-FALSE and based on FACTUAL CONTENT and LOGICAL INFERENCE. Listen to each question carefully and mark your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
1. Which of these locations is not mentioned in the passage as a place where you might see and hear street musicians performing?
a) The River Thames in London’s Southbank.
b) Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
c) Sakuragicho Station in Yokohama.
d) Central Park in New York City.
2. Decide if this statement is true or false.
The music industry is extremely competitive, which means that only the most talented street performers are assured of making it as professional recording artists.
3. What do all London street performers need to do before they are allowed to perform in public places?
a) London street performers need to acquire a one-year “busking” license or permit to perform in public places.
b) All London street performers must audition for the privilege to play in any of London’s prime locations.
c) Street performers in London can pretty much set up their act anywhere in the city, provided the spot is not already reserved for someone else.
d) Street performers need to already have several years of performing experience in other big cities before they will be granted permission to perform in London.
4. Decide if this statement is true or false.
It will probably cost a seven-man jazz band at least 19 pounds to get a London “busking” license.
5. Musicians who want to entertain crowds in London’s Covent Garden Courtyard must first audition in front of a panel of judges. What qualities are the judges looking for?
a) The judges are only looking for acts that have the potential to become professional recording artists.
b) They are looking for people with good looks as well as talent.
c) The judges are looking for acts that show a high degree of skill as well as the ability to develop a rapport with an audience.
d) The judges are only interested in famous artists and performers who already have lots of fans.
6. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Every year, hundreds of hopeful musicians gather at Grand Central Terminal to audition for the right to perform in one of New York City’s thirty prime underground locations.
7. Choose the choice that best completes this sentence.
Getting accepted into the Music Under New York program is the only way to ensure that a musician …
a) will be deemed talented enough to get a license to play music on the city street corners.
b) will be given permission to perform anywhere he or she wants.
c) will be allocated a good spot in Central Park.
d) will be allocated a good spot in one of New York City’s bustling underground subway stations.
8. Decide if this statement is true or false.
This year, the Music Under New York program received nearly twice as many applications for prime “busking” locations as there were slots.
9. What would a choice spot in the middle of Grand Central Station’s crowded lobby mean to a busker?
a) It would mean that he or she would most definitely be discovered and become famous.
b) It would mean that he or she would be seen by many people and go home with a lot of tips.
c) It would mean that he or she would be seen by a famous talent scout.
d) It would mean that he or she would not get as many tips as a performer in Central Park.
10. Decide if this statement is true or false.
According to the passage, all street and subway performers only do what they do because they want to become rich and famous.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson TWENTY SIX
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
The moment you get off the train at Sakuragicho Station in Yokohama, you hear it: the sweet, intoxicating sound of live music WAFTING through the air.
In the above sentence, WAFT is a verb that, when speaking about a sound or smell, means to drift or float gently through the air.
Andy woke up to the smell of frying bacon WAFTING up from the kitchen.
My children put down their game consoles and hurried into the kitchen when the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies WAFTED into the living room.
If I leave my windows open in the afternoon, I can hear the sound of children’s voices WAFTING over from the nearby elementary school.
WAFT also means to move with a gliding motion, as in:
All eyes were fixed on the visiting students from Beauxbatons, who WAFTED into the Great Hall with poise and grace.
Thousands of floating Chinese lanterns were lit, and the wedding guests watched as the lanterns WAFTED into the night sky.
As a noun, WAFT is a scent or a wisp or trail of smoke carried through the air.
We caught a WAFT of freshly baked bread as we walked passed the bakery early this morning.
From a distance, we could see WAFTS of smoke rising from the tree line at the foot of the hills.
In London, for example, you can’t just pick up your guitar one morning and on a WHIM decide to sing a couple of tunes on the front steps of the National Portrait Gallery or in front of Piccadilly Station.
A WHIM is a sudden wish or desire to do or have something, especially when it is something unusual or unnecessary. The idiomatic phrase ON A WHIM, as in the sentence above, is similar in meaning to on impulse.
After receiving his first paycheck, on a WHIM Johnny bought himself an expensive new electric guitar.
Kerry should really stop pandering to her four-year-old son’s every WHIM. She’s spoiling him terribly and creating a little monster, if you ask me.
Claire took home the little stray kitten on a WHIM, but soon realized that she’d taken on a huge responsibility.
It became apparent that the school needed new leadership when rules and regulations were changed for no reason at the WHIM of the head mistress.
WHIMSY and WHIMSICAL are two related words. The noun WHIMSY refers to playful or fanciful behavior or humor. The adjective WHIMSICAL describes something that is unusual or not serious in a way that is either humorous or annoying.
The couple’s hilarious impromptu lip-sync performance added a touch of WHIMSY to the wedding reception.
When my little girl is playing by herself in her bedroom, she often engages in a WHIMSICAL conversation with her imaginary friend, Muriel.
That would be illegal, because you have to pay for the PRIVILEGE.
As a noun, PRIVILEGE can be used in a number of ways. It can mean a special right, advantage, or condition of immunity. Synonyms include benefit, prerogative, and entitlement.
As a member of the zoological society, you will enjoy certain PRIVILEGES, including free parking and reduced-rate entry to special zoo events.
As a citizen of democracy, voting is more than just a right or PRIVILEGE; it’s a civic duty.
A PRIVILEGE is also something that is regarded as a rare opportunity or something that brings great pleasure.
“It is my PRIVILEGE to give you my daughter’s hand in marriage,” Mr. Bates told his future son-in-law. “Welcome to the Bates family!”
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a great PRIVILEGE to be able to visit the normally closed order of Shaolin monks.
“You are my favorite author, I have read all of your books, and it is a great PRIVILEGE to actually meet you in person,” Lucy gushed at the book signing.
In legal circles, PRIVILEGE is a technical term for the right a person has to refuse to give out information obtained in a confidential relationship such as that between a lawyer and client or a doctor and patient.
Anything divulged to a priest during a confession or similar exchange is done under PRIVILEGE, and cannot be revealed.
The adjective form of PRIVILEGE is PRIVILEGED. Synonyms include fortunate, exempt, or exclusive.
You could tell by the way they dressed and spoke that the couple belonged to that PRIVILEGED class of people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
I felt very PRIVILEGED to be one of the few people who had a chance to see the giant panda in its natural habitat.
The reporter for the Washington Post seems to have a PRIVILEGED relationship with the President, who, during press conferences, always calls on her first and answers her questions in detail.
PRIVILEGED can also refer to information that is legally protected from being made public.
Conversations between a psychiatrist and his/her patient are PRIVILEGED information and cannot be divulged.
What they’re looking for are acts that show a high degree of skill as well as the ability to develop a RAPPORT with an audience.
RAPPORT is a noun that refers to a close and friendly relationship in which the people concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and are able to communicate well with one another. In the sentence above, RAPPORT is part of the phrase to DEVELOP (or ESTABLISH) A RAPPORT WITH, which means to come to be able to identify with or relate to other people. Look at these examples.
Why not hold a street party to build RAPPORT and foster good relations among all the neighbors?
While the movie’s plot is a bit illogical, the RAPPORT that develops between the two main characters is truly wonderful and makes the film worth watching.
Penelope and Geoff struck up an instant RAPPORT on their first date and discovered they had many things in common.
The new teacher understood the importance of developing a good RAPPORT with the parents as well as with the students.
It wasn’t long before Henry established a good RAPPORT with his new boss and became her right-hand man.
As a hairdresser, it’s important that I establish a RAPPORT with my regular clients—or I won’t have any.
Getting accepted into the program, however, is the only way to ensure that you’ll be ALLOCATED a good “pitch,” a spot that will boost your chances of being seen and heard.
ALLOCATE is a verb that means to officially give someone something to be used for a particular purpose. Assign, award, distribute, give out, and allot are some good equivalents.
More than 300 pupils in the district haven’t been ALLOCATED a place in a school yet.
Most of the money the PTA raised from the Christmas Fair has been ALLOCATED to buy new books for the school library.
By some system error, my daughter, who is a post-graduate student, was ALLOCATED a unit in the freshman dormitory.
How do you plan to ALLOCATE the $300,000 additional funding the research department received from the Environmental Protection Agency?
To prepare for the exam, make sure you ALLOCATE a few minutes each day to review key vocabulary words.
One guitarist says that playing in New York’s subway system serves as a GAUGE of how good he is.”
In the sentence above, GAUGE is a noun that refers to a fact or an event that can be used to estimate or judge something. Benchmark, yardstick, criterion, point of reference, and standard are some near synonyms.
Sunday’s match against the top team in our division will be a good GAUGE of our team’s skills and chances of doing well in the league this season.
The mock test score will be a good GAUGE of how well your son or daughter will perform in the actual exam.
As a noun, GAUGE has a couple of other uses. Most commonly, a GAUGE is an instrument for measuring the amount or level of something, as in:
When I told the police officer that I didn’t realize how fast I was going because the speed GAUGE on my car was broken, she fined me not only for speeding but also for driving a faulty vehicle.
When you inflate a tire, as a safety precaution, use a pressure GAUGE to make sure you don’t put too much air into it.
GAUGE also refers to the thickness, size, or capacity of something. It can also refer to the diameter of a wire, tube, or the barrel of a gun.
As she is using a very thin GAUGE of yarn, it may take Eileen a while to finish knitting the baby blanket she is making for you.
“What GAUGE piping do you need?” the hardware-store clerk asked me when I told him I was fixing the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom.
Oscar’s only experience of handling a firearm was when he shot a 12-GAUGE shotgun while skeet- shooting on a Boy Scout camping trip.
As a verb, GAUGE has several uses. Most literally, GAUGE means to measure something accurately using a GAUGE or other instrument. Compute, work out, and weigh are some good substitutes.
These days, cars come equipped with sensors and instruments that GAUGE engine temperature, oil level, and even how many more miles you can drive before you have to fill up your gas tank again.
GAUGE also means to calculate something approximately. The nearest synonym is estimate.
It is impossible at this time to GAUGE the extent of the damage this summer’s forest fires in Eastern Washington will cause the region’s agricultural industry.
More loosely or figuratively, GAUGE can also mean to make a judgment about something, especially someone’s feelings or attitudes.
Some people, even those closest to you, are more difficult to GAUGE than others. I can never tell, for example, whether my teenage son is angry, nervous, or just a little tired.
A stand-up comic will often test out new material in smaller venues to GAUGE audience reaction to his or her new jokes.
In a recent study conducted at the museum, researchers GAUGED the popularity of each exhibit by noting the number of minutes each visitor spent looking at it.