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Emily Grossman

Just play.

May 7, 2012 at 8:48 AM

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.


From Marsha Weaver
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 2:56 PM
Reading your blog always leaves me thinking, "Oh how I wish I could write like that!" You write in a way that touches people's hearts, and also gives them a glimpse into yours. Please don't ever stop writing -- OR playing!!
From Bob Bears
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 4:06 PM
Beautifully written and thought provoking. Thank You,

From Jesus Florido
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 4:59 PM
Such beautiful writing! Now, I am going to practice!!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 5:43 PM
"A bird does not sing because he has an answer. He sings because he has a song." the quote is attributed to Joan Walsh Anglund, but having found it on the Internet, who knows!

Just Sunday I went running early in the morning (this is rare for me) and as I walked afterwards, I heard so many birdsongs. Sometimes I'm so much inside my head that I don't hear them, but I actually stopped to listen, and they sounded more beautiful than ever. How amazing, they always come back. They practice, too, they repeat their song slowly, then quickly. I love it when spring brings our natural musicians back to town!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 6:18 PM
What an incredible blog. It certainly captures our sometimes ambivalent feelings not just about playing and instrument but about all of the other aspects of our lives. Thanks for sharing those thoughts and images.
From Erica Thaler
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 6:28 PM
You are something else. What a lovely post and thank you for sharing it. I hope you find some warmth inside of yourself.
From Ana Ottenwalder
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 8:07 PM
You are a great inspiration, i hope you always find peace.
From Randy Walton
Posted on May 7, 2012 at 9:23 PM
Well, I can answer one question: my violin DID come with strings attached! Four, in fact!

Is the Anchorage Symphony defunct? You played with them didn't you?

I, too, look forward to reading your blogs, they've been scarce lately. Maybe you should try writing short stories..? BUT DON'T STOP PLAYING!

From David Rowland
Posted on May 8, 2012 at 3:24 AM
I can not answer why you play. Why I play is because no other activity nor substance is as effective at releasing the tension and anxiety of life.
From jean dubuisson
Posted on May 8, 2012 at 7:46 AM
Dear Emily, I love the violin and I love birds. They are my two main hobbies, but "hobby" is too weak a word: I love the violin, I love nature & birdwatching. I can't live without both. I think a major problem with music is that it has become a professional thing, with composers who have written music that you can only play if you practice from age 6, five hours a day. It's part of the increased sophistication that comes with any human endeavor. We are strange animals. Yet most audiences don't require such difficult music. Just think of pop music most of which is extremely simple. Somewhere with the romantic period, classical music has derailed. Having said that, I just *love* romantic music and *love* listening to people who have devoted their life just to be able to play it. It's just that we shouldn't want to be like them.

In response to Laurie's response, I can recommend everyone (but especially musicians, since it is much easier for us to do) to become familiar with the songs and calls of the common (and later, perhaps also the less common: sophistication!!) birds of the region where you live. Once you know them you will never be alone anymore.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on May 8, 2012 at 9:40 AM
Oh Jean, I know every last one by its first, middle, and last name! It's just that they leave us for so many months of the year--for seven months, it is unbearably silent. Right now, though, you can hardly shut them up, and when the daylight grows and the lake opens up, you can hear them all through the night, as well. Mew gulls, bonaparte gulls, pacific, arctic, and common loons, juncos, thrushes, cranes, swans, kinglets, grossbeaks, warblers of all types... and chickadees, of course! They do bring such happiness to hear, don't they? I talk to them whenever I can, and I tell them to stay a bit longer, but they have a bit more common sense than I. ;)


From jean dubuisson
Posted on May 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM
Emily I guess we all have to spend an Alaskan winter to realize what it means. Seven months of freezing, dark, silence. So the chickadees do not stay? Neither do the nuthatches, the treecreepers? Woodpeckers, jays? Redpolls? Owls? Grouse, ptarmigan? Various raptors? My mostly "book knowledge" of American birds tells me they should stick around in Alaska during winter.

Meanwhile say hi to the loons for me!! They are my favorite European winter guests. (Although the ones that winter in Europe are not Alaskan I guess, more Greenland and Scandinavia.)

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