Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Violin at Fifty...

 
I came back from Poland with a violin. I'd gone to Poland last year to visit my friend and I decided that if I went back this year, I would buy a violin. I don't know why. I just think Poland is the kind of place that inspires me to learn to play the violin.

So I came back from Poland with a violin. That was at the end of May. By early June, I had located a violin teacher and had begun taking weekly lessons. I never really thought how remarkable it is to play the violin until I tried to do it myself. After a couple of weeks making scratchy, screeching sounds, I had a new respect for concert violinists.

I mean, when I really look at a violin, when I try to get it to make that beautiful sound, I realize that here I am, trying to make a beautiful sound by rubbing a stretched wire with horse hair. Rubbing a stretched wire with horse hair! No wonder I can't make a beautiful sound! What kind of technology is that?!

I don't think it is possible to make a beautiful sound by rubbing stretched wire with horse hair, observed evidence to the contrary not withstanding. Who chose horse hair? I understand wire, it doesn't break when you stretch it, but why hair? Why horse hair? After carefully trying to play the violin for 2 months I have reached the conclusion that it is an impossible instrument to play, observed evidence to the contrary not withstanding...

I can actually play about 9 notes (using two of the stretched wires and many strands of horse hair). That is to say, I know the fingerings for 9 notes. That is to say, I have been shown that it is possible to play 9 notes if one puts one's fingers in the right spots on the right stretched wire while carefully rubbing the wire with horse hair streched on a stick.

I have even observed my violin teacher making beautiful sounds while rubbing the stretched wires on her violin with her stick of stretched horse hair (though I haven't checked to see if it is really just a speaker synchronized with her fingers making the beautiful sound).

This is different than my experience painting. When I started painting, I was able to make paintings with which I was satisfied, even though I didn't have any technique trainging. This is not the case with my violin playing, unless those scratchy, screeching sounds are the music equivalent of modern art?

But I haven't given up, yet. I will practice. I will practice. I will practice. I will know I have made progress when my wife lets me play my violin in the house instead of out in the garage...
PS: There is a fun web site for violin players at Master Class Violin. When I get discouraged, I watch the videos of the master violinists, and reaffirm that playing the violin is impossible, observed evidence to the contrary not withstanding...

August 3, 2005
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