A fine without strings

February 9, 2020, 6:13 AM · "Keep your bows up until the conductor lowers his hands."

We've all heard it before. But when the piece doesn't have strings playing the last note, measure, or even the last twenty measures, what should you do? End in semirest position? End in resting position? Hold your instrument up and pretend to play the last note?

Replies (15)

Edited: February 9, 2020, 6:57 AM · Instrument up, look alert.

Or if is a long time not to play, just look alert.

February 9, 2020, 8:04 AM · If there is enough rest toward the end of the piece that you can slowly take your violin down without any jerky motions, definitely do that and end in resting position.
Edited: February 9, 2020, 11:29 AM · Do exactly what your section principal does. They're getting paid the big bucks to make these kinds of decisions for you.
February 9, 2020, 11:55 AM · What Paul said. Section principals should be watching the concertmaster; concertmaster makes the decision, possibly consulting the conductor if necessary.

In general, if the piece ends quietly, such that there should be no extraneous noise from string players moving, I choose to have everyone keep instruments up. Also, if it's just a few measures, instruments up. Bows don't need to be kept in the air, though.

February 9, 2020, 12:56 PM · If it's the last twenty measures of a slow, quiet piece, most likely string players with rests will unobtrusively lower their instruments to a resting position. That's a long time to be sitting with arms up. But I agree with the advice to watch the concertmaster or section leader. If the conductor's request to keep instruments up is unreasonable, it's the concertmaster's job to negotiate the conductor away from that.
February 10, 2020, 5:25 AM · As Paul, Lydia and Mary Ellen have said, always follow your section leader who should be following the concertmaster who should be doing something agreed upon with the conductor.

In the absence of any clear instruction, such as at the first rehearsal of a piece, these are what I as a conductor would want:

The last note? Keep the instruments up.
The last measure? Keep the instruments up.
The last 20 measures (or even 3 or 4 measures)? Slowly and quietly lower the instruments.

Never be the only person doing something at the end of a movement -- I've seen too many amateur groups where there are people not paying attention and when the concertmaster either stands or lowers their instrument or whatever, many in the section are doing something else, staring into space, smiling at a friend in the audience. It ruins the effect. And since the average audience member listens as much with their eyes as with their ears, visual effect is important.

February 10, 2020, 6:06 AM · A fine for playing without strings seems a little harsh. How about being sent into the corner?
February 10, 2020, 11:13 AM · The answer has got to be Haydn's "Farewell" symphony!
February 10, 2020, 11:47 AM · Who indeed is going to be so unfortunate as to be fined for playing without strings - the composer (who may well be no longer around, so you'll have to contact their descendants), the conductor, sections of the orchestra (brass and woodwind come to mind), a brass band, or even the string sections themselves?

Or perhaps "A fine" means something in Italian ;)

February 11, 2020, 12:57 PM · Elise, a single fine shouldn't worry you as a scientist. It's when you get all these multiple fines like the colloidal charcoal that makes it through the filter, that you need to worry.
Edited: February 11, 2020, 1:52 PM · When I first read the title of this thread, my immediate response was exactly what Elise said. I thought, "Fine?? What fine?"

John, as a chemist I can tell you that colloidal materials are a PITA. Colloidal selenium is very hard to filter off, and for the nanocellulose we're using, we had to resort to a 10,000 RPM centrifuge. That stuff goes right through sintered glass frittes. Now I learn that my collaborator is leaving -- with the centrifuge! -- and moving to Canada of all places. :)

Edited: February 12, 2020, 3:38 AM · I expect a pitta without a tasty kebab inside IS a PITA!
My colleagues had to use an ultracentrifuge to get rid of charcoal fines!
What was selenium doing anywhere near your nanocellulose??
If your colleague doesn't make a success of it in Canada, might he come back and become POTUS, like that other guy who tried unsuccessfully to make a go of it in Canada?
February 11, 2020, 9:39 PM · Colloidal selenium is a by-product of oxidations using SeO2. It's red and it goes right through silica gel or diatomaceous earth. Fortunately we (like many others before us) were able to use catalytic SeO2 with hydrogen peroxide as the terminal oxidant.
February 12, 2020, 3:42 AM · No such luck when you're dealing with colloidal charcoal!
February 14, 2020, 4:25 PM · Thanks for the responses! I am the concertmaster, so I'm trying to figure out what other orchestras do so I can have our strings follow suit.
As for who is punishing the violins in the piece, it's John Williams.


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