January 2012


January 31, 2012 01:38

I didn't practice today. I went snowshoeing with my dog instead, since it finally got above zero.

I think it was worth it.

8 replies

Divisive: Steinhardt on Metronomes

January 23, 2012 03:06

I don't recall how long ago it was that Arnold Steinhardt and I crossed paths--six, maybe seven years ago? We met over a book and some coffee, and an interesting tale about his life as a violinist in the Guarneri string quartet unfolded. I was immediately drawn into his style, and I knew that somehow, he and I had always been connected.

Okay, I confess, I've never met the man; I just entered into his life through his book, Indivisible by Four. It's just that he writes in such a way that I think perhaps we would be kindred spirits, and if ever we did meet, it would be as if we had always known each other. I felt the same way while reading his next book, Violin Dreams. Anyone who shares the same dreams I have can't possibly be anything but a similar soul.

Today, with lots of idle time between double stops and trills, I extensively explored the internet, where I stumbled upon his own blog, which contains his monthly entries. Comments allowed. This is so exciting, to be one click away from connecting with my secret hero...

But wait! What was this in his latest entry? Here, in discord to my own philosophical beliefs, he revealed his disdain for the metronome. Disdain for my beloved metronome? Suddenly, my idol faltered.

Compelled, I wrote a letter. Apologies, Arnold Steinhardt, that our meeting couldn't have been more affirming. My comment:

"Arnold, all this time I thought we were kindred spirits, and I finally stumble across your blog only to find I was mistaken: how could you not love the metronome? Someday, I shall have you over for dinner and introduce you to mine--charming personality, a bit of a conversation hog, but timingly witty. (Don't tell him you've heard that one before; it doesn't slow him down a bit.)"

10 replies


January 14, 2012 02:27

After getting up at 5:30 am in Tulsa on Monday, traveling 4 1/2 hours to Dallas to catch a flight to Seattle, then to Portland, then to Anchorage, and then randomly hitching a ride with a couple from Antarctica to take us to our car (very interesting conversational piece!), and then spending twenty minutes thawing the heater at 1:30 in the morning, George still had the fortitude to drive the last 150 miles through a blizzard to get us home. Little did we know, we barely missed the subsequent avalanches and highway closure. Total trip time: 26 hours.

I have never experienced a more hairy drive through that mountain pass. I think it had something to do with the extreme sleep deprivation that accompanied that final leg of the journey. George and I were both so tired that we took turns hitting one another to stay awake. If that didn't work, the sudden interjections of blinding whiteness woke us up in a hurry. I was so glad we finally made it home safe and sound. Except...

Except that I was so thoroughly disappointed upon my return to this state. It almost seemed as though it didn't want us anyway. I spent the week trying my best to pretend like I was glad to be there for my students, but mostly feeling like I'd returned to prison--a prison of phone calls and laundry and house chores, complete with empty fridge and shopping list, not to mention sub-zero temps and persistent snowfall.

My repaired bow was in transit, due to return on Friday the 13th. Considering my last freakish bow mishap happened on a similar date, I began to speculate my luck on its arrival. I couldn't believe it actually showed up in one piece, ready to go. Unwrapping it from its packaging, I gingerly swiped the noticeably beautiful rehair with rosin and took it to the strings for a spin.

Instantly, my furrowed brow smoothed into satisfaction, then into a smug happiness that only comes when something lost comes back home. I'd missed my bow. I didn't realise how lonely and aimless I'd felt until I came back to that point of reunion and felt its sweet affirmation.

Maybe I'll practice again. And maybe I'll find something to reconsider about life in Alaska, a cold state whose mummifying grip has no hold over the power of a good bow and its glorious sound.

Elizabeth Shaak, you are a healer to me. Thank you for setting things right and doing your best to undo my transgression. My bow was dead, but because of you, it sings again.

9 replies


January 8, 2012 17:38

The four-hour drive to Kansas City held nothing of promise or pleasure this time; it spoke only of farewell--something I have grown all too used to recently, it seems. Farmland rolled past in peaceful, silent shades of grey, accompanied by somber tones of Satie's Gnossienne #1. I had far too much time with my thoughts. No matter, the decision had been made. With steeled heart, I stepped out of the car, violin case in hand, and returned, moments later. Empty.

No doubt, something magical existed between us, and had the circumstances been any but what they were, I would never have walked out the door alone. I act according to my head, not my heart this time. No one would know how much I'd wanted to do otherwise, except that I write it here.

7 replies

Chasing Rainbows

January 3, 2012 23:20

I was supposed to return the 1720 Flemish violin on my way back through Missouri last Friday, but instead found myself calling to postpone. Before deciding totally against it, I wanted to try a sound post adjustment to get rid of a quirky wolf tone on the G string, and see if this would eliminate a bit of the sluggishness and open it up a bit. With Dan Lawrence's permission, the Tulsa Violin Shop was more than happy to oblige. I came home with a clean-sounding G and a more balanced sound.

Then came the waffling. Back and forth I went, upstairs, downstairs, in my nightgown... I couldn't put it down, but I couldn't talk myself into keeping it. It had everything I wanted in a violin--almost. I liked it more than my modern Italian--almost. No, how could I even compare the two? This was my bipolar opposite, and it beckoned. At night, I dreamed about it. By day, I fretted and obsessed. After three full days of this restless behavior, I picked up the phone.

"Hi Dan, it's Emily again." I took a deep breath, and revealed my decision. "I really want to keep this violin, but I just can't, for the reasons I stated before. I just can't financially justify having two." They really make a nice pair, but I cannot help but wonder if I couldn't find one violin that has its feet firmly planted in both worlds: warmth and woody, sweet golden resonance with focused, brilliant clarity and responsiveness. Sweet and salty. Crunchy chewy. Chocolate and peanut butter. All in one package. I hope if I keep saving, maybe one day when I finally meet it, I'll have the funds to go for it. Until then, I feel better keeping my money.

We chatted a while about violins, and in closing, Dan offered to negotiate some sort of trade-in, "if it might make anything easier." I declined thankfully, stating that I wasn't ready to part with my Italian for its wonderful projecting qualities. (Though possibly less pleasing under the ear, I could trust it to enunciate clearly to my audience.)

I head back to Kansas City on Friday.

What do you think, should I consider the trade-in?

Oh, I know, you can't answer that question for me...

16 replies

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