Category Archives: February 2015

Saturday 28th February 2015- Bucket Drumming, Junkie Interactions and a Gig

This morning I was tapping away on my buckets, entertaining people, drumming up some cash and dealing with the public.

When I first started busking I was afraid of people looking at me. That then upgraded to photos, videos, far too up-close watching like the Flower of Scotland Man, mid-performance conversations, heckling, and more recently, Junkie Interaction.

Lots of people smiled as they passed, although one elderly man with a great big beard paused in front of me to say “That sound is horrible. Please stop”.  A young guy jumped in beside me with a selfie stick, and a few other people took photos and videos. There’s a lot of tourists in Edinburgh.  I also got some (thankfully friendly) junkie attention. I chatted away, comforted by the knowledge that my Public Relations Frying Pan was within easy reach.

One woman strung out on something said she was a rapper, and wanted to try my buckets. She played along with me, the passers-by losing interest in the tuneless racket. Friendly woman though. She gave me a hug before departing unsteadily.

Previous to her, I had another inebriated admirer. He gave me 5p, which was actually very generous considering he didn’t look like he had much money. He was drinking a can of Special Brew or something similar. He said that he loved my drumming and wanted to marry me. We were chatting a bit and I explained that I busk for confidence when playing drums. He said he drinks for confidence, so I suppose confidence is something we have (or don’t have) in common. Busking for confidence when playing gigs will hopefully allow me to have the confidence to play well without requiring drinks, and have all my concentration to give the best performance I can because I’ll be sober.

Busking makes you kind of a part of the streets, even just for a short time, and people who live on those streets are interested to see what’s going on in their area.

Tonight we had our best gig yet. In an Irish Bar which was packed with people like sardines. The dance area was full, partly because there was nowhere left to sit. The bands there were really good and we’d met one of them before at our first gig in Paisley. One band had come all the way from England. They sounded a bit like Sleeping with sirens. My best friend came to see us too. It was loud, we were all packed together, it was hard to hear anyone talking. Before Johansen and MLC therapies it would have been a nightmare scenario.

I was nervous about playing, but not nearly as much as last time. Bucket Busking and fighting nerves with more nerves seems to be working.

People’s reaction to our music was really good and it was so hot in that wee underground bar all our hair was sticking up with sweat, we all went for it and it was an awesome night. It was so amazing to see people enjoying hearing us and having fun! I’m starting to feel like a proper drummer now.

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Saturday 14th February 2015- Bucket and Samba Drumming

This morning I was bucket drumming again. Was I well-prepared? Well-rested? Chilled? Nope. That was kind of the point. Sometimes the only way to get over a fear is to scare yourself into not worrying about it anymore. In my case, performance nerves at gigs. If I can play on buckets badly in public, hopefully our next gig will not feel so worrying.

People seemed to quite like bucket drumming, just for the novelty of it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, just making stuff up as I went along, but I showed plenty of enthusiasm. I was drumming after all, and seeing people smile and give me change made me pretty happy.

One of my college friends heard me from the road and had come to see what the racket was. We chatted for a bit.

At one point, two guys in a white van, joiners I think, waiting for the lights to change had spotted me and rolled their window down. They found my buckets hilarious. They were laughing hard, slumped in their seats, not even looking at the road ahead. Something I have discovered recently is that I like to make people laugh. I did my best to entertain them, hamming it up a bit and grinning at them. I flipped a stick and caught it, which just killed them. I waved as they drove off. That was fun.

I had been playing for a short while when a man in a cowboy hat approached me. He introduced himself as Tad and said that if anyone bothered me, I should come see him and some of the other guys who sort of run this thing. I think I knew who he meant. There’s a bunch of amazing street performers who hang out in front of the Fringe Box Office. I asked if he was the tight-rope violinist, and was this his normal spot? Did he need me to move? “No”, he smiled “I escape from straight-jackets and stuff”. He recommended a spot higher up near the cathedral for better acoustics. Flute didn’t attract as much attention as this, although I have met a few of the street performers higher up the Mile.

Kind people gave me some money, one woman giving me a rose from a bunch she was carrying. I had kind of forgotten about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that was why the Mile was so busy!

Since I was the loudest thing on the mile, even giving the bagpipers a run for their money, I moved pitches regularly to give people a break.

On the mound, I also got a good response. Amused interest and encouragement mostly. Valentine’s Day seems to put most people in a good mood.

I was still tapping away when a man a few years older than me stopped to chat and said there was going to be a protest on the Mound soon. He was from a Samba drumming protest group called Rhythms of Resistance. Would I like to join? Yes.

I packed up to watch the samba drums and a rather fantastic paper mache dragon painted with Anti-climate change slogans.

I was waiting for them to start when one of the drummers asked if I wanted to join in. I haven’t played in a Samba group before, but it sounded like fun. I grabbed my mini saucepan and a stick.

Samba is great. The leader (called Benny I think) blew a whistle and did hand signs. I just went with it, playing beside some people with things like cowbells. My few sessions at Edinburgh Drum Society before my schedule got too full, helped with understanding the counting hand signals and pauses. We sort of move from side to side as we played, and at the end, marched around in a circle. It was a lot of fun! Hopefully I’ll see them at a meeting or two if I get some free Thursday nights.

After another brief performance on the Mile, I watched an amazing fire juggler from in front of the Fringe shop. He threw and caught flaming torches while balancing on top of a plank of wood, and cheerfully  warning us to “Watch where you step, some idiot spilled paraffin here!”.

His show was cut short by a policeman who was clearing the street. I wondered what for, then heard a familiar sound. Rhythms for Resistance were at the front of a procession of people blocking the road, with a queue of open-topped Tourist Buses forced to snail it behind them.

Sunday 1st February 2015- Today I’m feeling Optimistic

It’s February, and it’s still cold.

Today I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

I want to be a professional drummer. That would make me so happy I think. Playing music with my friends for a living would be amazing. And it’s not an impossible dream. Without MLC and Johansen, a career as a drummer would never have been an option for me. It’s amazing how much my life has changed since I started and finished these therapies- and what a completely different direction it’s taking from what it would have been otherwise. Without going to see Ian at The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I would not have the coordination to play drums. Simple, everyday movements such as walking and climbing stairs which nowadays are effortless and automatic for me, would still take up conscious thought.

And without Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation Therapy, I would still be afraid of loud noises.

A music theory teacher I had for a short time at school (before he was fired for insulting other members of staff) once said to me “maybe in a parallel universe, Jennifer will do something important with her life”. Imagining a Jenny in a parallel universe who hadn’t had help from Johansen and MLC makes me sad. I have a vague idea of what that story would be like, and as a lover of happy endings, I have a feeling I would be disappointed. Thanks to these therapies I have the opportunity to explore and live up to my full potential- whatever that may be. It’s my duty- and pleasure to live my second chance at life to the full. And of course use my experiences to help other people with Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes as much as I can.

My unpleasant theory teacher wanted me to be a musician. In some ways, he may get what he wished for. Although I reckon that I still have as much aptitude for music theory as a shellfish does for mountaineering. I play a small concert on my flute every weekend I can manage. Some tourists and streetgoers particularly like my flute version of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. The thought of him seeing me play drums- the last instrument anyone at the music school would have expected me to have a talent for- in my usual unquiet, finesseless and deliciously unclassical manner makes me smile.

Tomorrow is Plant Physiology. Meh.

It’s a testament to Johansen IAS that despite a hectic lifestyle juggling a full-time college course, keeping this blog, busking, and being part of a band in another city, my hearing has not been a problem recently. I barely think about it sometimes. I’ve been taking easy, clear sound processing for granted.

However, I will definitely be my Personal Listening Device for class tomorrow. It’s going to be 5 hours of lectures. My hearing may not be 100% perfect, but the fact that I’m so far managing to keep afloat with this course and with life in general astonishes me.