Saturday, 31 December 2016

Earplug time - 17th - 23rd November 2014

Green Park #1 - 17th November 2014

A classical violinist with a bright yellow violin was vacating the pitch as I arrived and recommended that I participate in the traditional Irish music nights on a Friday and Saturday put on by The Sir Colin Campbell pub in Kilburn. Apparently they're a friendly bunch and they like to welcome musicians who know the tunes.


A member of staff walked past and commented that my folk fiddle music was "so beautiful",  plus I received more compliments. This provided the impetus for me to try to play with an earplug in my left ear to protect my hearing (I think I may be suffering slightly from tinnitus because when I put my head down on the pillow to sleep, all I can hear in a buzzing sound).


Violinists are renowned for going deaf in the left ear because of the sound emanating from the left sound hole of the violin (positioned up next to the left ear) whilst playing, and as a musician who has played a lot outside in all weathers and in noisy surroundings, I have developed a very loud technique. The earplug did a good job of deadening the sound and I played new 'Gan aimn' tunes with more strength (so that I could hear myself properly) as a result.


After my session I visited a friend. During the course of our conversation about bosses, he postulated that buskers are generally regarded as being on a par with beggars, and that people think that "if you were any good you'd be in an orchestra." He then asked me if I get heckled much and said that he knew of an ex-Royal Holloway student who had a busking pitch on the Underground playing French horn. Here she got asked, "What does your friend Shaun play?" and that isn't the French horn a strange instrument to be busking with, anyway?"


I felt hurt by this ignorant tirade, and told him I get sick and tired of feeling as if I must justify what I do for a living to people. I would never dream of trashing what anyone does as a job - maybe because I feel secure and happy enough in my own skin not to feel the need to do so.


Green Park #1 - 19th November 2014


I was glad to see my concertina / melodeon (I'm not sure which it is) friend, Sid, at Green Park today. He told me that Hammersmith (where they hardly ever get any buskers) isn't a bad pitch.


Lots of white-bearded men gave me money for my fiddle playing today, and with the earplug in my left ear in, I found that I could rectify my tuning because I was hearing it more 'inside' my body. A young woman commented, "That was beautiful!" and an Asian woman with blue hair said that the little boy she was with  (whom I assumed was her son), was "transfixed" by my violin playing.


A gentleman asked me if I knew the music of Turlough O'Carolan, which I didn't. O'Carolan was born in 1670 and died on the 25th March 1738. He was a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer, whose great fame was due to his gift for melodic composition. I'm so pleased to have had O'Carolan brought to my attention because his music is magic.


Oxford Circus #2 - 20th November 2014


I took over on piano accordion at 4 pm today from my African-Parisian guitarist and singer busker friend who had lined up the £1 coins he had been given, all around the edge of the top of his guitar case. He asked me how much accordions cost and said that he'd like to buy one because he thought he'd earn more money busking on accordion than he does on guitar, and (jokingly) I offered to teach him.


Rush hour had already begun and the passage was crammed full with the 'blank faces brigade', whose insipidity I dread being as it gets under my skin so easily: Jenny (the wise dental receptionist who works at Chigwell Surgery) advised me to try to turn every negative thought I have into a positive one, and so I focused on the many antics my beloved cat, Tigger, gets up to and managed to stave off a dip in my mood exacerbated by impatient commuters jumping over and kicking to one side my accordion case.


A man carrying plastic bags full of shopping loitered nearby and determinately I avoided eye contact with him just in case he turned out to be a weirdo out to get me. I try to smile at people as they pass, but am often met with crazed stares which bore deep into my fragile soul and so I opt to look straight ahead with (hopefully) a look of cheerful concentration on my face.


Angel - 22nd November 2014


As I was about to enter the office to sign in I was told by the worker on the gate that there was
"another busker behind me" in the form of his co-worker, which I didn't think was meant as a compliment, but later on one of the cleaning team made up for this by giving me some money accompanied by a wide smile.


There were more people here than I expected there to be at 8 am on a Saturday morning. For some reason, my accordion felt mega weighty, but it was exciting working out the most effective way to fill this cavernous space with sound: The more I perform on accordion, the more I learn how to manipulate its breathily expressive potential.


A mother with her young daughter commented, "That was very enjoyable," and as I was leaving the station the member of staff on the ticket gate asked, "Is that an accordion I see?" and rolled her eyes?! She's obviously not a fan or thinks they're two-a-penny. The accordionist that took over from me was very pleasant but ended our exchange with his usual little put-down about the quality of my "Chinese" (ie. not very good) accordion. It's actually a German accordion, and I departed swiftly as he boasted about his 70-year-old much superior instrument.


Oxford Circus #2 - 23rd November 2014


I almost chickened out of playing here at 8 am this morning because it was at this place and time the violent assault I was witness to happened: I looked at the spot where it all kicked off and in my mind's eye I saw it happening all over again. Reminding myself that it was a new day with a new set of people passing through, I soldiered on and enjoyed playing a number of Irish tunes I'd just learnt on my violin.


Typically there were a few drunks about; one 'trendy young thing' girl who took the piss out of me eating a banana as I went up the escalator (?!), but I did well considering it was pelting it down with rain outside: A guy with dreadlocks gave me a £5 note and an older man said, "I heard you as I was coming around the corner," and gave me 50p. I liked it that a number of people walked by and then moseyed back and made a donation, as this meant that my playing was having an impact on those who were listening to it.


At 12 pm I was due to play at Charing Cross but when I arrived a sizeable fire had broken out on the station caused by an electrical fault on a train, and so I had no choice but to return home after what had been a lucrative but tiring week.

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