Just like birds showing up with their sign posts, "Ten days to spring," I began to get a sprinkling of e-mails and phone calls from musicians in the area, and none too soon. As a result, I found a pianist and violinist to meet with regularly and play. Mozart, Bach, Faure, tangos: it doesn't really matter what the subject matter is. The subject is music, and we talk.
Being a couple of guitars and an upright bass short of a swing band, I went ahead and got permission from Swing DeVille, down in St. Louis, to arrange one of their songs, "The Arabesque" for two violins and piano. Originally, I took on this project for one of my students, and I simplified the first violin part just a little to help her out. She didn't even make it to her lesson last week, which leaves us two weeks before the recital to sort everything out. It sounds pretty lame on my midi file playback, but in my mind, it has a lot of potential. Hopefully, we can assemble a decent recording and send it to the band. And if they like the idea, maybe I'll arrange a whole book of their songs. Hey--why not? I think there might be more than a couple of us out there who lack a swing band but wouldn't mind playing some.
For the most part of winter, silence accompanies my evening walks. Black. White. Cold. Nothing. I plummeted with the temperatures into a soul-less darkness. With no goals or venues, I floundered, desperately seeking some sort of purpose to my playing. Finally, on Easter morning, I chose to swear off the violin for good. This torturous, unfulfilled pursuit would be best if I cauterized it and found something less painful to occupy my time--something that wouldn't remind me of a world that lay just out of reach. I'd quit the violin before; I could do it again.
The next morning, the sound of a single robin's chortle awakened me from my frustrated slumber. What's this? A sound? Stupid robin, why did you come to this wasteland? So out of place, you are.
At night, I resumed my usual stroll. In the not-so-darkness, the call of a boreal owl interrupted my thoughts. What are you calling, and why? He loves, and he states it.
On Tuesday, the gulls returned to the frozen lake, waiting with mews of discontent. Juncos called from the trees. I walked the usual path with my dog, but this time, I smelled something: dirt. Dirt, with a hint of sap. Gradually, the colors seeped back into my life, watering buried notions.
Why do we play? Do we want to be adored? Do we want the job? Does this nimble, delicate wood carving of scroll and ribs come with strings attached? Will it lead us to a pot of gold? Does it require us to sign away our happiness for a life of striving in vain for that which we cannot have?
Or does it simply create sound from silence? Is this not enough, to create sound from silence? That which was not, now exists, because we play. Without it grows Nothing.
In the back room studio with the yellow walls, I dust my strings to the late night robin who calls in the wood.
More entries: April 2012
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Emily Grossman is from Soldotna, Alaska. Biography
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