I was not familiar with this sonnet until this morning - written by Gwendolyn Brooks, it was an email inbox treat sent from a dear friend with whom I went to graduate school. Enjoy.
First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering,
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.
Well...not sure how to start this one but I'll say again that it does feel wonderful to be in a state of "punching my way out of the dark".
In thinking about our responsibility to ourselves as musicians and the craft of musicmaking, I have found myself remembering the words and advice of many teachers and people from whom I have had the opportunity to take lessons. The theme, of course, was all the same: "Be a violinist first."
So, this year I've decided that I'm going to study Nicolo Paganini's Twenty-Four Caprices....while in graduate school one of my summer assignments was to go through the caprices at the rate of one a week. Of course, as I look back the goal was simply to get through them, with the added benefit of improving my technique. Back then (this was in 1997 or 1998), I think I got through two of them. It is humbling to admit that I did not have the patience to analyze those thorny bits back then, and even more amazing to find that now I DO have the patience AND the desire to know them and to improve, as the true benefit is in both study and preparation.
Of course, with the goal now being one caprice every TWO weeks (with two weeks off after the first twelve), I know that I will only be taking a cursory look at these works which are both technically and musically fascinating. Nevertheless, it's a "hard slog" that I'm enjoying at the moment.
Perhaps in a few years I'll be able to play at least one of them in public...
More entries: January 2010
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