Friday, May 17, 2013

I've Gone Underground (La la la la).

My new god may just be the busking hotline. This is the number you call to get your slots when you're a licensed busker.

The name's Brown, Montmarcey Brown, licensed to busk.

It's a whole different kettle of fish when you're busking beneath the streets in lovely echoey tunnels. I've got a good bow that I liked using, but my style is heavy on hair so it went bald and I haven't had the cash to rehair it. Back in the case now thanks to the lovely echoey tunnels beneath London. Not quite bald, getting there swiftly. Makes a lovely noise when I smack it against the fingerboard. This is a very expensive technique though, and people don't throw cash when I do it, so it's not one I should pursue often. The trouble is that I really like the noise it makes so I'll end up doing it. Bow stroke, then smack bow on fingerboard then another bow stroke (Maybe a different double stopped chord this time.) and before I know it I've got carried away and wiped out on a bum note with horse hair dangling accusingly from my bow. 

I looked up and there stood what looked like a violin teacher sadly shaking her head. She walked on. 

The people pass in some stations only when a train has emptied itself onto a platform that feeds your allocated bit of tunnel. Fantastic for improvising when no one's about. The money comes steadily. My big trick above ground has always been to try and get people dancing. Kids, generally are the easiest to get to dance. I often worry that I've struck upon some sort of pester power when their parents stop to watch their kids boogie, then feel compelled to reach into their pockets. Drunk people are good too. Often the most confrontational ones are subsequently the most generous. On the tube it seems more controlled, people walk with rhythm and purpose. My big trick now is to play something that matches the general pulse of people walking past. 

The sound though, it's addictive. What other musicians get to experiment with a varied set of acoustics on a daily basis. Sound engineers get to play about with them in their headphones, but tunnels are really interesting. On the underground they fill and empty with bodies really quickly. If I'm playing a pub with a band we always have to turn our instruments up as the pub fills, ambient noise is created by humans and the mass of their bodies dampens sound waves. The same is true on the tube, one second the noise is reverberating beautifully, the next it's lost all of it's body and tone to the feet stomping past.

Two spots I've played so far don't suffer from this problem. The first exit from Tottenham Court Road Station and the patch before you leave Hammersmith on your way to the exit with the statue. Tottenham court road is so echoey that I'm sure the individual notes get muddled up at points and entirely different tunes to the ones I'm playing emerge. 

Anyway, I've got to go, it's raining and I need to ring the busking hotline.

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