The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, February 27, 2009

National Arts Council Busking Scheme.

I saw something, today, that one cannot see in London. It was something simple: a photo identity card.

Now, this photo identity card was posted next to a busker on Orchard Road. I noticed this busker, not because of the card, but I noted the card because of the busker. I noticed the busker, because she was very bad at what she was supposed to be doing. She was "singing" out of tune, rather loudly. I don't know about you, but I find it annoying to be assaulted by out of tune voices. There is something so inherently awful about such discordant notes, that I find them quite uncomfortable to listen to. My view on it is that no-one should be forced to hear out of tune music, in a public place. It is, in some ways, offensive to hear. So, on hearing her awful voice, I was very interested to note the identity card affixed to her musical apparatus. It told me that someone, somewhere, had actually approved of this awful noise.

Sure enough, when I went home and typed the words: "busker license singapore" into Google, I found that Singapore's National Arts Council has a Busking Scheme. I read with interest, and not a little amazement that they actually hold auditions before handing out busking licenses. The criteria mentioned on the National Arts Council (NAC) website state that the following is required: "i. Competency and skill in performance ii. Expression and confidence in performance iii. Engagement with the audience iv. Innovation and originality". That sounds great on paper, but in reality, what did I experience: an out of tune singer.

Clearly, there is a mismatch between the National Arts Council's worthy intention to maintain busking standards and their actual execution of the task. Out of tune buskers with little musical skill are ending up on the streets of Singapore.

Might I suggest that the people who hold the auditions actually have an ear for music? Might I suggest that they actually have a sense for what makes an acceptable performer? I am not saying the standard should be so high that few could pass - for then there would be no buskers on the streets - but that the standard should genuinely exclude those who cannot hold a tune. It grates to hear such poor performers on the streets. Their output mars the day. They should not be allowed to "perform". Maintaining genuine standards would ensure that this did not occur.

I find it ironic, however, that countries which have no restrictions over buskers - such as the UK - have a much higher standard of busker, than Singapore which licenses them. At least, that is what I garner from a lifetime of observations. Perhaps musical talent is not so plentiful here. Whatever the cause, there is a remedy: ensure that standards are maintained, at the NAC auditions, and keep our streets free from the awful, tuneless noise of buskers who don't know what "in tune" means.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:48 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha. Yes. Maybe that was the "best" at the audition.

Not many people actually want to enter this industry here anyway. Income is variable and often low.

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mr. cawley,

i agree with you that the quality of buskers in singapore is very, very poor.

i think the licensing scheme was started in order to discourage (read criminalise) begging-through-busking.

it seems to me that this exposes the heart of the problem: the interest is less to maintain any standard where busking is concerned and more to keep vagrants off the pristine streets of singapore. i am quite sure you need to pay a fee to get a license, and vagrants can't afford to pay such fees to begin with.

12:08 AM  

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