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Notes From The Deadline

TV Music From The Inside By Paul Farrer
Published June 2012

If you really want a direct connection with your audience, don't write for TV — get down to your local high street.

Melodica: the portable, affordable <UK>babe</UK><US>babe</US> magnet. Melodica: the portable, affordable babebabe magnet.

Remember those green crappy plastic keyboard things they used to give you at school to blow into? Remember wondering, as you fumbled your way through 'London's Burning', how many other kids might have been dribbling and gobbing into it before you put it into your mouth? Remember the teeth marks around the mouthpiece? Well, these instruments have a name. They are called melodicas, and they are completely brilliant.

On a whim recently, and apparently having nothing better to do, I decided to arrange a load of classical music to be played on two melodicas, and get busking. Helping me in this quest for ritual public humiliation is my good friend, the renowned concert pianist Levi Moscovici. Together, our plan is to spend much of this Summer travelling to various places throughout Europe where there might perhaps be people willing to have their days en-cultured by a pair of melodica players ploughing through some Mozart, Beethoven and the Can-Can.

The Sound Of The Street

Busking is the perfect way to learn about how people perceive and consider music. Want to know how good a player you are? Want to know about judging your audience and their expectations? Want to know how well you'd cope in a delicate situation where a heavy-breathing tramp is standing three feet in front of you and looking like a wild bear who might, at any moment, bite you? Go busking.

Actually, the greatest lesson you'll learn, particularly if you are a media composer, is just how indifferent people generally are to music, and how they are happy to have it as a soundtrack to their lives, but get a bit weirded out at the idea of having to make some sort of contribution towards it. Also, it's fascinating to note that the only people who actually will stop, interact or even make eye contact with you out on the street seem to be the very young, crazy-toothed mad people, and pensioners. Which, oddly, is the same sort of cross-section of the population that still emails me asking if they could possibly get hold of a copy of the Weakest Link stings and tension beds.

Putting It All In Perspective

TV producers are a pretty hard-to-please bunch, particularly with regard to the finer details of your music. We've all had emails saying "Make the hi-hats more whooshy and the bass line more purple”, but until you've been toe-to-toe with three knuckle-dragging Neanderthals in England football shirts demanding to hear some "fahking Coldplay” when all you have to offer is the theme to 'Allo 'Allo, you can't claim to speak with any real authority about the meaning of the words 'tough crowd'.

So I'll see you in Rome, where I'm hoping the women will all wear sexy summer dresses, the crowds will appreciate a bit of high-end public performance, and if the police appear, the melodica's light weight and crappy plastic construction means you can, at the very least, continue your set whilst legging it down narrow side streets. Adieu!    

Published June 2012