Thursday, February 18, 2010

Poor and Blind street musicians. Dumb also.

I just love the above painting. I really empathize with the old guy. I can't tell if he is singing loudly or simply sitting on a sharp stone. Note how he is frantically trying to downshift as the thing begins to get away from him, but his twitching foot finds no clutch.

I've been a bit under the weather for the past week or so living mostly on cough syrup and orange juice, just not feeling like doing anything, even blogging. Coming out of it now, slowly but surely.

So, have watched a lot of old black and white movies on tv this past week as I suck on my orange juice and blow my nose; today a nice 1937 classic starring Spencer Tracy: Captains Couragous (by Rudyard Kipling originally, though screenplay by someone else on account of death of the author.) Also starring Lional Barrymore as the ship's captain and a young John Carradine (Lional Barrymore was never young) and Mickey Rooney shows up at the end to unload something off the boat. I forget who the name of the rich kid who is the star of the book/movie. Rudyard, maybe. Not important.

Tracy plays the character of Manuel. Manuel is a crewman who plays a hurdy gurdy and is always carrying it around with him. To my annoyance and I'm sure many others over the years.

"The hurdy gurdy dates back to the 12th century and was the first instrument to combine a keyboard with strings. The sound, however, is closer to the bagpipe than either a piano or a violin."

No shit.

And you know how I LOVE bagpipes.

Hurdy gurdy lovers (apparently there still are some since they still sell them) actually BRAG about having a drone.

Speaking of Scotland...

Donovan had a hit song 2 or 3 hundred years ago called Hurdy Gurdy Man. Thank god he didn't actually play one in the song.

If you've ever wondered why you have never seen Donovan with his mouth open, even while singing, he has bad teeth. A point of pride with a Scotsman, they say. I'm not judging. Except to say he could have spent some of his zillions on dentistry. Listening to a hurdy gurdy will make your teeth hurt too.
Click on any of these pictures to enlarge them if you dare. 'cept Donovan.

I wasn't going to put a link where you could actually listen to one, but why should you be spared? Go for it. (You have to shut him off after he plays it or else he keeps talking.)

Seriously, I recommend you use his site for all your medieval instrument needs. And don't be critical: no one has ever played this thing well in over 800 years. Make allowances.


  1. Sorry you've been ill, though I understand completely. Working on the tail end of week two myself. At least my two year old's over it even if my husband isn't either.

    Cute, if disjointed post. Humorous enough to let slide.

  2. For all these years I've thought a hurdy gurdy was the same thing as a barrel organ. That certainly dates me, I realise on investigation.

  3. Always fascinated by odd and mysterious musical instruments. I always liked that part of school music room that has the tambourines, triangles, and maracas.

    So I like the hurdy gurdy, any instrument that requires no talent whatsoever to use is right up my alley.

  4. @Stephanie B - Thank you for your condolences ::coff coff:: I am starting to feel better now.

    @A. - I dont' think you can make an organ out of a barrel. Or a barrel out of an organ, for that matter. But you can make a hurdy gurdy our of a lute, I think. Thank you for your strange comment. :)

    @Descartes - I understand you curiosity and interest in unusual instruments. But I don't think their sound should drive you insane. If you ever feel the need to buy a hurdy gurdy at a flea market, please make sure it is broken. Or break it, as a public service. Just as one owes it to humanity to rip open the bladder of any bagpipe one encounters.

  5. I feel your pain. Not just at hurdygurdyman, but at bagpipes and the whole genre of street-corner importuning musicians.
    Or people who feel the need to broadcast their bad taste in music to a wider public. It should be an offence for rap, or indeed any other music to emanate beyond the user's personal hearing zone. Car audio should be restricted to a sound barely heard above the engine.
    Car engines should be melodious. I like the burble of an idling V8.

  6. @Soubriquet - A man after my own heart. To paraphrase Victor Borge, the difference between bagpipes and a hurdy gurdy is that a hurdy gurdy will (probably) burn longer.

    I share your views of disgust of people who insist on inflicting their obnoxious amplified noise on the innocent.



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