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September 3, 2009 at 11:54 PM

Colorado, 1988

 ¶      An old cowboy named Dawn was trying to teach me to ride. I was struggling to impose my will on a wayward beast, and the animal was having none of it. Dawn, a man of few words, looked me up and down for a long time. "They tell me Queen Elizabeth is a good rider," he said quietly. "I really respect that because her horse doesn't know that she's the Queen of England."

The violin is a philosopher's tool. The struggle to master it teaches us valuable lessons about getting on in the world. When we think of mastery, it is natural to think of imposing our will - upon an instrument, a creature, a population. But a true master knows that this is an illusion. In fact, it is a great paradox. To master an instrument, you must become its servant. The violin doesn't know who you are. You cannot compel it. It does not respond to the force of ego. The violin sets the rules. Press here - pull there. Abide by its rules, and you will have complete freedom to do what you wish - to express what you wish. All progress towards mastery begins with analysis and understanding. What does the violin ask me to do? It proceeds through humility and discipline - conscientiously to do that thing until the muscles respond spontaneously in the correct way. It ends in freedom. When correct action is second-nature, the fantasy is set free. Anyone who has witnessed the unconstrained performance of a master knows that this is so. A great performance always seems somehow right, natural, and at the same time miraculous - as does the behavior of a truly moral person.

 — RWE

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 4:39 AM

Thank you for your insights, Robert, so beautifully expressed.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 5:07 AM

 So eloquently stated.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 7:56 AM

Yet another blog to frame and hang on the wall. Thank you!

From Royce Faina
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 2:37 PM

Robert- Wow!  What a powerful post!  From now on when I'm practicing, I'm going to have a diferent persective... one that I've been needing!

From Barry Nelson
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 7:39 PM

well said and food for thought.


From Elinor Estepa
Posted on September 4, 2009 at 7:47 PM


beautiful words to live by..


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 5, 2009 at 12:28 AM

WOW so true!!! I have a few sayings that I invented to tell myself the same thing but the poster said it in a much more beautiful way...  : )

If you box with a violin, it will always win!!! (and you will sound awful...)

It's like in taming a way bigger and stronger beast than you, carrots always work better than the stick... 

So true that taming a horse and violin is similar!!!  As a jockey or rider in a jumping show, one has to lead his friend (may it be a horse or violin)    towards the most perfect possible performance and like with a horse, you never know how your violin will react and you may adjust yourself!!!! We must never forget to bring it for its check up and a good owner always brushes his horse after the ride (as we whipe our violins!)    As the jokey/horse teams, we can either jump over the fence with dignity, block just before, choke because we get nervous when seeing it,  jump well and fall after or miss one jump and miss all the others because we still think of the first mistake unstead of just  going    on lol...

But what a journey despite everything!



From Anthony Barletta
Posted on September 5, 2009 at 1:47 AM

I love this!

From Betsy Taylor
Posted on September 5, 2009 at 7:48 PM

So true.  Coming back to the violin as an adult, I have much more of a perspective about what I'm dealing with.  This learning that relates to all of life is exactly why I am so sad that music is disappearing from many of our public schools.


From Ray Randall
Posted on September 5, 2009 at 9:24 PM

Wonderful philosophy. Learning to master flying the B727 took many years. Things speeded up when I finally decided to play within the rules set by the plane rather than my own. After becoming a master of this beautiful, but rambunctious airplane, I found I could intelligently bend the rules a bit, but becoming a master came first. Flying and violin playing are so identical.

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