Distracted by the store fronts and sale signs, I didn't notice the time. It wasn't until 9:30 that I remembered that the reason for the downtown Anchorage setting was symphony rehearsal, not shopping. If I hurried, I could make the last half hour. Fat snowflakes illuminated beneath the streetlights. I wondered if they'd pay me for the full rehearsal or part. Or none at all. And where was my seat?
Mid-rehearsal, my stand partner excitedly waved me over to sit by him in the back of the section. He told me I hadn't missed much. Most of the music had been cut anyway, down to practically nothing. Some people were very upset about this, but I didn't mind. We took crayons and colored in the margins.
Here's our cue. The two of us inconspicuously made our way on horseback to the rear of the orchestra, where the singers stood. It was our job to create the frozen water for the story, using harmonics and tremolo. I thought we sounded pretty effective, all blue and frosty, but when we returned to our seats, some know-it-all lady toward the front of our section scoffed at our technique: you don't know how to do a proper tremolo at all! Blah, lady, I'm sick of your narrow-minded school of tremolo. You can cite your professors and technical treaties all you like; my tremolo came from the snowflakes.
As I exited the PAC, I came across some policemen who were searching the streets for a maniac on the loose. The hustling horde rounded the corner, disappearing before I could even tell them that I'd just spied the maniac in a tunnel behind me. (He was easily identifiable by the manner in which he traveled: upside down, on the ceiling, like a cockroach.) I tried to slip away unnoticed, but he saw me and proceeded to trail me around corners and through various buildings. Hemmed in, hanging from a window curtain in a schoolroom, it finally occurred to me that this so-called maniac was not dangerous, just simple-minded, like a child. All he really wanted was silly putty. Luckily, I had a stash. I spent the rest of the night throwing balls of silly putty from my perch, there on the window treatments.
Purple. Purple silly putty.
He’d been up all night by the time I arrived for his lesson. Apparently, he and his dad were out snow machining yesterday evening and got caught in a white out. His dad hit a ditch, flew through the windshield, and bloody near busted off his knee. Hours of emergency knee-reattaching surgery followed, and as a result, no one in the house got any sleep. Not even the yapping dog.
The week before, it was his violin that got in an accident, having somehow accidentally bounced off a tympani and broken its neck. I'd never seen a more heartbroken junior high boy. Intensive surgery may just fix it after all, but violin necks take longer to reattach than knees. In the meantime, he’d been using a substitute violin–-one that he’s entirely grateful to have, yet not entirely fond of–-whose personality produces this sound that could be mistaken for a tongue depresser, all wooden and flat and yawny at the back of the throat.
So now, let’s start with twenty minutes of rubbing detache, followed by scales, intonation study, shifting and vibrato exercises, and then some tone production. After that, we’ll iron out some Vivaldi passages and dig into some sight reading. Clap and count with me now. Stop yawning.
Scrap that. We took out our practice mutes and used the severed sound to pretended we were rock stars; after all, what you don’t know won't hurt. In fact, this kind of pain killer feels pretty fun.
Everyone was happier after that. Even the yapping dog.
I think about her addiction. Then I stare at myself in the mirror for a good long while. In the night, I dream I’m at my grandma’s house, where she used to live, before she died this winter. The inside of her house is mostly dark with a reddish ambiance, and I’m feebly fumbling, trying to change clothes without being noticed while headlights shine through the windows periodically. I could use some help, but I’m too busy hiding, trying to change. I remember seeing an unused telephone; my fingers are too occupied to call.
She must be happier now that she’s dead.
The second dream is just a flash, of meadowlark songs and the smell of green. This mirage quickly transforms into the wheezes of my sleeping dog and the persistent grey drip that is the expected weather here in March.
If I can muster it, I’ll play some Bach today. In March, I only play Bach.
Leap year was entirely unnecessary, as the 29th contained every bit of nothing new at all.
Sometimes when I get that trapped, swallowed, February feeling, my dog takes me for a walk. He insists I need the fresh air, and I insist nothing fresh has been in the air since September. But since I hadn’t used my camera for far too long, I thought I’d at least make an effort at capturing this dreary spell we’ve had lately. After all, the scenery looks about as best as I could ever describe what it feels like. To be here. On leap year.
We haven’t had fresh snowfall for some time now. Without a clean slate, the existing stale snow continues to keep faithful record of recent weather patterns, bearing the nasty wind storms, the withering rain, and the following cold snaps with honest accuracy. Sand trucks splash on the pigments, plow trucks sculpt the structures, and the rest is left to time. The resulting compositions are somewhat astonishing, appearing as though deliberately devised by unseen hands. It’s not by my own hand, but by the outside forces, that we were both shaped into what we’ve become on this sullen, repetitious day.
Glad to find we are like minded, I linger amongst the grey and bitter textures. However, it's as I'm rounding the corner toward home that I spy them, and this is what reminds me that repetition can also be deeply beautiful:
Once is mundane. Twice is redundant. But thrice is profound.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.