I finished building a viola some weeks ago.
My method of construction requires each components of the instrument (body, back, ribs, neck and fingerboard) to be singularly tooled to reach a determinate finishing level, and then they are assembled in order to harmonize lines and whispers.
This is basically what happened with this viola: at some stage, convinced by the smoothness of the lines and by the sweet and full roundness of the rustlings amplified by the sound box, I couldn’t help but start to varnish it, to give colour and scent to this new flower that bloomed unexpectedly (I know that someone will probably think that I’m too sentimental, but, frankly, I don’t give a damn!)
After I had finished the varnishing, it was time to hear Her real voice: no more whisperings to decipher, but sound, texture, colour!
The following Friday I had an appointment with Elena, a young lady in search of a viola. Placing a new made instrument into a musician’s hands is always a peculiar moment: a new relationship begins. I obviously like my instruments, but you know how it goes: in Italian we say “Ogni scarrafone è bello a mamma sua” something along the lines of “Even an ugly child is dear to his mother”.
Maybe she’ll expect something different…Performance anxiety. Sometimes I’d like to snatch the instrument out of the customers’ hands; I can’t stand that condescending attitude that many have towards a new instrument: “Well…It’s really nice, but you can hear that it’s new…” Or maybe, just after the very first notes: “Let’s see…Beautiful, but I like it more on the high notes…” But, for f***’s sake, give it a minute! Warm it up! Search a connection with it! Explore it! Play it a bit!
Elena finally arrived and with attention and tenderness she looked at the viola turning it in her hands as she curiously plucked the strings.
Slowly the room filled up with their notes and I assisted to a “discovery dance”.
Just the time to find the right approach and those two were already making music!
Satisfied with the first test, Elena has decided to bring the viola with her to try it out for a short period.
When she had left I was glad about the viola and happy for the meeting I had saw: she truly “tasted” the viola as if it was a good chocolate, a fine wine or some bread taken right out the oven, discovering all those different shades that enrich the taste with subtle flavours.
I was thinking about the difference between the life beginning of this instrument and the one I wrote about in the previous post “My violins travel more than me”: that was a clean parting; I threw that violin into the fray, but took this viola by hand and accompanied Her to her new life.
I was wondering about all this, when I got an email by a girl who, reading this blog, recognised her violin and decided to write me where the violin ended up and how happy she was to have it! They are planning to come in Italy and they are probably going to visit me in my studio next Spring, just in time for the annual set up!
Previous entries: April 2012
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