Here in Portland, Oregon, the winter sun is setting before 4:30 p.m. and it will do so for the next six or seven weeks. It always amazes me.
Experience has taught me to stay busy and not to surrender to the hypnotic light of the television set or this computer. I’ve got to put my coat and hat on and step into the rain and the wind. I’ve got to keep moving. So, as these coming weeks evolve within this winter darkness; I’m hoping to come out with the light at the other end of the tunnel a bit more experience, a sense of direction, and above all, a sense of humor.
Let me explain what I mean.
I’m now two and a half years into the world of violins and I’ve hit something of a crossroad. I’m at a time and in a situation where I can look up from my lessons and start to really explore this musical world. I’m at a point where I want to stretch my violin voice.
My teacher, Mirabai Peart, will be out of the country for the next two months. We will do a couple of Facetime lessons while she’s gone, but the weekly discipline and my daily habits of practice are going to take a shift. I fully intend to continue my regular lessons once she returns, but I also want to use this time to spread my wings a bit. I’m not about to let my violin to gather dust.
So, while she’s gone, I’m about to start some Irish fiddle lessons with the internationally renowned Irish fiddler, Kevin Burke. In February, I will be starting some work in a monthly chamber music class. Along the way, I’ll participate in some old-time music jams, and two or three open mic evenings. So, I know I’m going to be busy, but there is something inside of me that is itching for even more.
I’m going to like the Irish fiddle work, and the chamber music classes will be fun and challenging. The jams will be friendly and lively, and the open mic evenings will be a true blend of the sublime, the wincingly bad, and the curiously odd.
Still, all of that doesn’t seem like enough. I feel myself moving toward some sort of work that involves other musicians, but not in a genre enhancing format, but rather something that bends the edges. I look online at sites for musicians and there are always checklists asking about what genre people enjoy when they play music. I sit there and check off just about everything I see. If I had to lock into a top three choices, I’d have a pretty hard time.
As things progress, I'm hoping to focus on some music that is genre bending in the path of the Danish String Quartet and their work with Scandinavian folk music, as heard on their CD's Woodworks, and Last Leaf; Mark O'Connor and his work on Appalachian Waltz; and the Chieftains with their work on The Nashville Sessions, Out of Scandinavia there is some amazing creative music by Dreamer’s Circus, Våsen, and a host of others on The Møn Sessions on YouTube. There is a lot of blending Irish, American, Blues, Scandinavian, and other musical genres and it feels right.
BELOW: The Danish String Quartet plays "Wood Works":
But vision, experience, and skill are not equal partners. As much as I want to get in on the action, reality is a bit of a wall. Frankly, I may be too new to all of this to pull it off. I’m past playing 1-4-5 chord progressions, but I have yet to play anything over one page long. On the other hand, so what, right? I'm willing to see where it might go. To my advantage, I've worked in the past as a theater director, writer, photographer, and a teacher, so I know how to mold creative projects into fruition. Still, this would be something new, and the vision is still foggy.
So, like I said, I’m at a crossroad, or probably more accurately – I’m in the middle of a labyrinth facing a dozen roads without a map and it’s dark outside.
All of that makes it very exciting. After all, I’m not on any deadlines for any of this. I know some of it will work out and some of it won’t, but so what? I’ve always had a lot more fun on trips getting from A to B as opposed to just sitting still.
Also, I’ve got to remember to enjoy this ride and not get all artsy and serious about the whole thing. I’m not good at that kind of posturing. I’ve often found that the moment I start to take things a bit too seriously, or times that I think too much, everything falls into confusion and missed opportunities. Locking into anything before I’m really ready to commit never works. There is a certain amount of freedom, forgiveness, and even a joy of stumbling when searching for the correct path.
Let’s see what happens next. I don’t know how to end this blog/essay/commentary simply because I don’t know where I’m going. But stay tuned, I’ll let you know how the ride twists and turns.
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