So, when I tried to whip out my Bach, it was atrocious, to say the least! I finally hadto stop a few measures in because I felt so disoriented, as though I was playing on a cello, or in the key of D-flat instead of E Major. Then it occurred to me: I had tuned flat while practicing with my mother's dulcimer the other evening in order to spare her a long tuning session. It wasn't much, perhaps an eighth of a step, but it may as well have been a galaxy away, that's how I felt when I played. We've previously talked on this site about keys and colors and recognizing pitches. I do not have the same familiarity with all pieces, but I have spent so much time hearing E and seeing yellow and singing those notes carefully in my mind as I rehearsed slowly for accuracy that I couldn't hear it any other way--morning, noon, or night. I know the E Major prelude. I heard it played by Bela Fleck, an accomplished banjo player, the other day, and he had transposed it to C Major, and it spun in my head as though it was not even the same song. Like writing left-handed or looking in a spoon and finding a flip-flopped image, that's what it feels like to hear a familiar tune in the wrong key.
So, I retuned my instrument and proceeded to play a horrible rendition of Bach,apologized profusely, and answered a request to play Danse Macabre, after which I again apologized profusely. It's been a while since I've played for people, and two weeks of non-stop caffeine didn't help my nerves. I can't shift worth a flip when I'm tense, and the intonation gets so bad it absolutely repulses me. It took the better part of the second piece before I regained enough composure to even begin to listen to the acoustics, which were wonderful. After I finished and my little audience got on with their other things, I ran through the Bach again, so that they could wander around and listen casually. This time, the notes came out mostly as I remember them sounding before. I wish so badly that I could sound that way the first time through! I suppose getting to that point could take years!
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.