Over the past several weeks, viola has taken a back-stage in my life for the first time in years.
If you recall, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my left hand and was prescribed a cream that worked wonders for my ability to continue to play viola without pain. What I didn't know was what effect it would have on one of my cats.
Apparently the cream (which has NSAIDs and other medications in it) is potent enough that if a cat licks my hand, even after several hours after applying it, or me petting my cat with it on then getting on her fur and then her grooming it off, can put a cat into in acute kidney failure.
It took several days to narrow down what was causing her ARF (acute renal failure) while we kept Kisha on IV fluids. It took several more days for her blood levels to get back to normal, then we slid back into failure after a day of coming home. Then it was back in for IV fluids, being sent back home on Sub-Q's, and then back on IV fluids again.
Needless to say, I did not practice at all during this time. I took myself off the cream entirely and every spare moment of the day was spent at the veterinary hospital hand-feeding and comforting Kisha. I canceled lessons with my teacher for two weeks in a row. I went to one lesson last week but was so unfocused and worried that it was a disaster of a lesson. My teacher however was thoughtful and kept the lesson simple and suggested exercises I could do to relax and keep my flexibility that didn't take up much time.
Tonight, she had her ump-teenth blood test to check her kidney function. I have lost count on how many she has undergone. Several of the vet-techs, reception personnel, boarding staff and groom staff and I were all staring at the monitors like engineers at a space shuttle launch, including Kisha waiting for her results to come in.
Her kidney function results were finally in the normal range, and she was coming home for Thanksgiving!
I have to give her Sub-Q's for several weeks, and there will be many more blood tests. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is largest it has been in the past month.
What does this mean for my viola playing? I'm not certain yet. After being off the cream for the past several weeks my hand still feels good for the most part unless I over-use it. But what is important is Kisha's health and well-being.
I'm just glad to have her back home and a happy cat.
A few weeks ago during lessons, my teacher admonished me to play more into the string to get a "pure tone", not the fuzzy one I kept on producing. Try as I might, it never happened. After a few minutes, she finally took my viola and bow to play it herself. With her playing, I heard that fuzziness she spoke of. We performed a simple experiment and tried my other bows and hers with the same results.
We both agreed that it was time for a viola doctor.
A few days later, I took Hilda (my viola) to the local luthier. He pulled and prodded on all the seams. No open seams. We ruled out the strings as the source of the fuzziness with a new set, and ruled out the bow with his top-of-the-line Hills & Sons. It wasn't the bow or strings.
He then starting moving the sound-post around and noticed that it was a bit tight. The discussion turned into one where a new sound post may or may not make a significant difference in my instrument's tonal quality. In the end, I decided to give it a try.
I went home without Hilda and had to practice that evening on my old 15" student viola. The sound from the Cing was muffled, but the upper register was clear. I missed Hilda, scratchy throat and all.
The next day I went back to the luthier to pick up Hilda from the viola doctor. After the first bowoke I was floored. Most if not all of her scratchy voice disappeared, and she resonated like she used to on a very humid day. Hilda and I went home and spent a lovely reunion that evening.
But I'm pessimistic sort of person and waited for the verdict from my teacher.
The following week at lessons confirmed the results. There was "light years" of improvement. Whether it was technique or instrument is still to be determined. However, I can't believe that my playing improved that much over 7 days to get the response that I got from my teacher.
I think was that little itty bitty piece of wood that you never see that made the difference. Time will tell.
More entries: October 2013
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