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Emily Grossman


April 28, 2006 at 10:26 AM

This happens to me every so often. I hate something, hate it, hate it. Then one day, mid-sentence, I love it. Love it. Nothing in between, either.

Beets were the first I remembered experiencing this way. I hated them for the longest time. They were strong and sweet and pretentious. Then one day, they were all I ever wanted to eat. I couldn’t get enough of that passionate red, the sweet pickled tang, the soft slices bleeding into my green beans and mashed potatoes. Suddenly, that was okay when it wasn’t before.

Musicality has its taste, too, just like certain foods. I don’t mind it if some of my students aren’t into Bartok at this point in their lives, or if Beethoven just doesn’t cut it. It’s only my job to keep introducing it every once in a while and to make sure they keep an open mind. Force feeding doesn’t work; ask my mom about my onion resistance. Onions had to come into their own, with a little coaxing from batter-fried rings.

I love the fact that at my age, I can still suddenly change my taste like that. I specifically look forward to these moments, because at that precise moment that I cross over from the hate side of things to the love side of things, I am enjoying something fresh and new. Fresh and new things become increasingly rare the older we get.

Tonight, I sat down at the piano and played through one of my favorite anthologies from high school for a change of pace, and to liven up my musical taste buds. Sometimes, I forget how to imagine things on the violin, especially when I’m playing a lot of the same stuff over each day. It becomes so tasteless, I can’t make sense of it.

Toward the end of the book is a short prelude by Shostakovich (Op. 34, No. 19), something I used to skip over unless my teacher had assigned it. When she did, I would awkwardly pick through the accidentals, my ears blinded by dissonace and unable to assist. It was ridiculous. It sounded like a sick joke on romance, like a hippo and a sinister clown kissing. I was embarrassed to even force my fingers to make such sounds. It was so repulsive that a spider crawled between the pages and died there, leaving a brown stain that darkens a space in one of the measures to this day. That’s how I remembered this piece.

Every year or so, I play through my anthology and give the Shostakovich another whirl. The past couple of times, it wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered it; it left me scratching my head, at worst. But tonight, I decided I should play it like a romance, and to put as much feeling into the phrases as I could understand how to do. If I could find a way, I would play it meaningfully, at least.

Suddenly, it was as though I had decoded an encrypted message. Every dissonant chord took shape in a bigger scheme, and the melody became painfully beautiful. I played it through a dozen times, each time discovering a little more about the hidden characters and statements being made. It was a portrait of love–awkward, bittersweet, and unresolved love--and it was more beautiful because of the imperfections. It hurt me to tears.

From Scott 68
Posted on April 28, 2006 at 12:54 PM
when i listen to shostakovich i try to imagine what it must have been like for him to live under stalin
From Maura Gerety
Posted on April 28, 2006 at 3:33 PM
When I listen to Shostakovich I find myself thinking how unfortunate it is that this great composer is often reduced by writers and critics into nothing more than some political platitudes.
From Maura Gerety
Posted on April 28, 2006 at 3:34 PM
Congrats on discovering the joys of Shosti by the way Emily! :) I used to hate him too, then a few string quartets and a violin concerto later, I was OBSESSED. :)
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 6:15 AM
I found two arrangements. One of them is Janine Jansen's boyfriend and somehow doesn't cut the mustard here. The other is genuine hippo and clown. Much prefered. Predictably, Misfit does the whole set while Casanova does a smattering.

Casanova here

misfit here

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 6:15 AM
test post. never mind.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 6:21 AM
thought I'd found a way to edit comments
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 6:46 AM
Hmm. Those are both disappointing. Thanks for finding them, though.

The last page is where it gets good, and the samples don't make it that far.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 6:58 AM
Sorry. It's a skinny wire.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 7:29 AM
At you can listen to the whole darn cd:

Go to Track 19

This is more like it.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on April 29, 2006 at 7:52 AM
So you can. They obviously don't understand capitalism. After hearing that I know what to do with the violin part. Both those players tried to take it someplace it didn't want to go and went there by themselves. I didn't know a thing about it.

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