It took me many years of pain to recognize that I am unable to use a shoulder rest. (Not subject to a pro or con debate. Just a personal fact.) Unfortunately that left me in a kind of no mans land until recognizing the next stage in the process which is making decisions about how much support the left hand is going to give the instrument. In my case, a lot, however that didn’t alter what is again a fact in my case that on the down shift a slight use of head weight is important. I refuse to say `Milstein does such and such…` just to prove a point ;) Concomitant with this understanding came recognition of the central role of chin rest Now that’s tricky for people with average necks like me. Most chinrests, including the Guarneri which I recommend to most of my students, are simply not high enough. Put all these factors together and one comes up with a slightly unstable platform to work from. Well, the collection of useless chinrests has built up slowly in my fridge, next to the toilet bowl and numerous other places. But finally, finally, browsing through Shar`S site I saw a slightly odd looking rest that seemed a little higher than average. So I bought it and now I am reborn. It is called the Berber and it really is the rest I have been waiting for all these years!!!! I can just touch it really lightly without any real head movement and all the annoying little areas of disturbance holding me back have just disappeared in the wind. I estimate something like a ten percent increase in technique. Not only shifting but completely relaxed vibrato which I can comfortably vary the speed of. If I wasn’t so macho I’d go out into the garden and sob in the tulips.
I predict this chinrest will be greatly in demand by non shoulder rest users the world over. It meets a need that the Guarneri and Teka at one end of the scale and SAS at the other just aren’t at. Wonderful.
However, I do feel obliged to post serious warning about this rest as it is currently being sold, with all due respect to the excellent services and care of Shar. The rest is clearly being manufactured and packed in India by non musicians (or even craftsman). First, the tool supplied for fitting is too long. This means if you just stick it in the holes as I did, assuming that the bend in the metal is enough to prevent the tip from going too far and gouging the instrument you would be wrong. It is a dangerous tool if you are not paying attention and should be changed by Shar as soon as possible! Second, the clamps are not screwed far enough into the holes. If you fit the rest as is then the pressure exerted by the feet will be directly on the body of the instrument and not the ribs. In my case, I took the bottom part of the clamps off and rotated them until they screwed more deeply into the rest itself. My choice was boxwood so this was easy. Would it be so easy with ebony? I don’t know? Is some of these rest wood so soft someone doing the same procedure actually cracks the chinrest? I don’t know. Finally, the cork on the foot is not cut in any way to adhere well to the instrument it seems shaped rather randomly and if I have time I will have to get a luthier to redo the corks so they actually sit well on the instrument. This is important!
So I would reiterate to all of you trying this wonderful new rest to be careful. And respectfully ask Shar to consider the points I have raised and address them before instruments are damaged and player s are going around with extremely poorly fitting chinrests.
The tough weekend is over. Spent Saturday training Assistant Language Teacher’s for my company. Poor dears probably hadn’t quite realized how much singing, dancing and telling stories is expected of them once they get to their respective elementary schools. Come four o’clock I’m on the high speed train to a concert hall in the armpit of no-where to dress rehearse Schubert Rosamunde, Mozart 3 (Wakabayshi Ayu) and Mahler 5. Things are not going too well in the hall. GikkyoGakudan orchestra rehearses in a specially built venue that covers a multitude of ensemble sins. The reality at this point – things are not together. A late night drive over roads perched atop very high embankments designed to protect from river flooding. They are two car widths wide plus one cm. There are no lights. I manage not to wet myself. Get back home at 12 and Po (my cat) is ragingly angry. `Where the hell is my dinner? ` Good job he didn’t pee on anything. He’s good that way!
Up at five and two hours practice. I have a recital on Tuesday and the Mahler is no fun either. Back to the hall and things are going better except for the Adagietto. I had politely requested the conductor he not begin in 8. That can be risky even for pros if they are tired. Today he has decided to conduct in 8, switching to triplets because he is not happy with the harpist. Except every now and again he switches to four and his tempos are so fluctuating it is not clear if he has done so or not. I stop for a friendly chat and spell it out to him- this is an orchestra of talented amateurs and semi-professionals. Its one of the best in Japan but its not flexible. He needs to give clear beats or they will be to nervous to play well. He doesn’t care. I make a mental note to take the Adagietto away from him in the performance and force the strings to go with me. Sod him. It’s been a very trying time. The guy is one of the most famous Mahler conductors in Japan yet to me he was the epitome of musician’s deadliest weakness: the fundamental rule that one is not here to be moved and express our feelings. That is basically ego centered junk, as is crying on stage. Our job is to play in such a way as to evoke emotions in the listener. This is what art rather than musical onanism is about.
It’s the performance and our conductor is singing, dancing and making the most bizarre rubatos all over the shop. Fame aside he doesn’t know Mahler, who knew exactly what he wrote and what he wanted. Why oh why in Japan must we occasionally genuflect to famous people because somehow they got that way if they are full of cr%$. As one of my very talented colleagues who was sitting on a back desk as an extra asked pointedly afterwards `Why does this guy change his feelings all the time? `
Whinge over Back to school and my beloved v.commie. Po has calmed down.
Sometimes you just have to write what you feel, so this is me- take it or leave it. There are no apologies or retractions being offered for anything I say in this blog.
The Internet is, to paraphrase Dickens, the best of things and the worst of things. It is the great leveler which promotes egalitarianism and mindless junk from people deluding themselves they think what they are talking about. The deserved success of v-commie means that all this is well represented.
A long time ago, one of the nicest and smartest people on this site once said of me regarding some advice I gave `Buri is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.` This is a kind of example of what I am referring to above. It is a strong minded beginner’s honest feelings and it is completely wrong. The fact is that in the very restricted realm of violin teaching I am usually right. Gosh, I can feel the hackles rising, the hands reaching for the word processor already. But think about it. I am a qualified violin teacher from an internationally recognized institute as are so many others on this site. So is a fireman, a policeman, a computer programmer or a chef.. In not one of these professions is a person sometimes right and sometimes wrong. They are trained like hell to be as close to one hundred percent correct one hundred percent of the time as is humanly possible. That is the basis of the trust we have in them. The many better teachers than me are just a tiny little bit more knowledgeable than me here or there. It makes a big difference. The world class teachers are just a few percentage points more insightful than those teachers but it makes all the difference in the world.
Why do I mention this?
Well, first of all I would like to say a big thank you to Emil for regularly visiting v.commie over the years and generously giving so much brilliant advice, for answering relentless attacks on himself with patience and clarity. A model of a gentleman in the truest sense.
Then I would like to ponder the question of how he must have felt over recent years as people who had no clue about his talent, life time achievements, sacrifices to get there and sheer intellect repeatedly misrepreresented what he said to promote the agendas of their own egotistical agendas. The issue of egotism seemed central to me. Emil was accused time and time again in various guises of being an egotist and it constantly baffled me. It was actually a constant failure to recognize that he was speaking as an artist speaks about the violin at its highest level of achievement in the classical field. It was all so straightforward yet so often all weI saw was the obsessive pressure of the Internet on people to attack without reflection. We are all in such a godamn rush to get in print at times.
To put it another way, suppose I went to a party and Perlman, Ilya Gringolts, Zahkar Bron etc happened to be present. I would be damn sure of my position in the pecking order and I would be honored to just listen and ask respectful questions when I wasn’t getting in people’s way. Sometimes I really wish others would look at the site a little more like that.
Well, v.commie is now the poorer so I guess I would just like to wish Emil more of the success and happiness he has rightly earned.
BTW Emil, I suspect you need a liver cleanse, seriously.
Alexander Technique is not an exercise program. There is no daily routine one follows until optimum health is reached. Rather, over time one learns a small range of concepts that one can choose to explore through the medium of daily life which is synonymous with movement. (Movement is also thinking, for what it’s worth.) One major concept of AT is end-gaining. This refers to the all too human tendency to take short cuts because we are focused on product or end result rather than how we get there. It is in the –how- we get there that reality -is.- Where we hope to be is not the real world but by fixating on it we are unable to live in the present, unable to see and evaluate what we are really doing with our lives.
As an example of how easy it is to let the irrational become the norm I am looking back over my driving habits of the last two years. In order to squeeze more time into the morning (to do what?) I have been driving faster and faster, more and more impatiently to school on the nice new major roads thoughtfully constructed for my benefit. Last week I finally got caught in a speed trap. That is no fun here in Japan. I was 30 kph over the limit. Up to 29 kph is a slap on the wrist. That extra one kph turns me into a class A road criminal now facing the Nuremburg trials in slow motion. A lot of money, days of work and standing on street corners waving flags saying don’t speed. Of course, if Laurie sends me a free sweatshirt I’ll wear that for the publicity… Its actually quite amusing since I am about to appear in a major national TV program as concertmaster of an orchestra playing works by a Japanese composer that integrate dancing, traditional instruments and the like. The most famous foreigner face in Japan can now be applauded at the roadside. Cool!;)
Anyway, I have been driving now at the specified speeds which is remarkably dangerous as the other drivers don’t seem to have also modified their speeds... I get hooted at and booed from here to eternity. To tell the truth it doesn’t bother me a bit because I am learning another aspect of end gaining. I have timed the drive and found that all the traffic lights are actually more user friendly at the `official speed. ` The amount of time I lose is, wait for it, nine minutes. In return I don’t have the stress of the extra concentration of the fast lane. Indeed, yesterday, as I sat at a red light patiently watching others checking left and right and then jumping it, a beautiful little black and white bird of some really obscure type came and sat on my right wing mirror and we had a quick chat. We did the same two days ago- he has problems with his teenage son. In this new relaxed mode I can actually really listen to the CDs I play constantly in my car. At the moment I am listening to the Suk piano Trio. I think the piano trio is an exceptionally difficult medium because of the mismatch between the sound production system of piano and strings. Resolving this issue is a key problem and I think Suk did this brilliantly. His sound is rich, complex and deep. I am not such a fan of his concerto recordings on the whole but in chamber music he becomes, for me , just the right blend of soloist and collaborator to create something of great beauty. Glad to have found the time to appreciate him more. Not to mention a renewed awareness of `end gaining.`
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