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Dorothy Barth

The Joy of Completion

February 15, 2010 at 5:18 AM

It's a fine thing Bert is going to remove me from my computer for Valentine's dinner soon, because today has been intense. I put the finishing touches on two more music anthologies, after wasting considerable time and premium photo paper struggling with my Canon printer, which insisted on printing the black and white photo on the back cover in screaming electric blue.

My sixth volume of Celtic duo arrangements (Green: Songs that Celebrate Our Natural World) is about to go to press, as is my second volume of original short pieces, this one for violin and titled The Faerie Fiddler.
When I conceived The Faerie Fiddler, I had a mildly pedagogical intent, since the book incorporates elfin techniques such as spiccato, trills, and ornamentation. But a teacher reminded me that my offering is not really progressive and urged me to preface it with as many pieces as the book presently contains, starting with open string spiccato exercises. That assignment  seemed boring and non-elfin, and I've no doubt it has already been done in some century. I did incorporate her suggestion to include tempo markings, but now I consider The Faerie Fiddler as merely a collection of charming pieces, accompanied by whimsical verse, to make practicing the aforementioned techniques more fun. After all these years, I still have Mendelssohn on the mind....
Perhaps unemployment has contributed to my flurry of creative activity. When a project gains momentum, I have a burning desire to complete it. It's temperament, partly, because I remember instances of this feeling when I was as young as four. Perhaps the growing realization that, as a friend once said, "the curtain went up a long time ago," propels in me the urge to create. Or perhaps it's because practicing the violin is never complete: One day's practice is enjoyable, inspiring, and fruitful, the next day I'm baffled by what seems like the opposite of progress. Is it the weather, or my mood, that makes me dislike my sound today?

I could wonder about these mysteries forever, so it's satisfying to finish something. My ability to compose duos using counterpoint and implied harmony might still be a work in process, but the anthologies, once I take them to the printer (for their 10-copy run--the economy dictates I must now cut my print runs in half), the book is complete until the next printing. I proudly add it to my stash in the guest room, which is being overtaken by my music books. After I sell my stash, I'll consider whether to make further changes. Just like  Playford's Dancing Master, which underwent 18 editions (each of which probably comprised more than 10-20 copies) and which contributed some of the source material for my duos.
It would, I suppose, be more commercially rewarding  to make a CD, but since I am the only one in this house who is presently unemployed, I'm the only one who has the time for such fantasies. The anthologies I can complete as a solo venture, without for the most part disturbing my significant other.
My books, which sell at the rate of about one per month, are not a capitalist dream venture, but I follow up with fascination to see who my customers are. Many are recreational musicians, some of whom play instruments other than violin and recorder. Some are gigging musicians like myself. Some are from Europe. I was particularly intrigued when at holiday time someone from a far-away continent south of the equator ordered my entire library. The only one in the world thus far to do so--there has to be a special connection!
So on Tuesday, after I cross the Carquinez Bridge, drive west on 80, and bring my two new manuscripts to Berkeley to be printed, I'll resume my violin practice. And if I don't like the way I sound that day--well, I always have those anthologies in the guest bedroom as evidence of my existence.

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