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Terez Mertes

Violin Dreams

January 21, 2007 at 4:30 PM

I am in a room with my violin. Outside it is growing dark—a curious purplish haze. I pick up my violin to practice and discover, to my horror, that the bridge has fallen. As I fumble to upright it, the violin neck snaps. I stand there holding the body, neck now dangling limply, connected only by the strings like a demented marionette, and I begin to tremble. I live in the mountains, forty minutes from the nearest violin shop. It’s a Friday and my lesson is on Tuesday. What will I do? What will I do?

An insistent beeping noise commences as red lights begin to flash. A warning, then, that the violin will not make it. I clutch the violin tighter and the seams crumble beneath my hands. Now I am left with planks of wood and dangling strings. That’s it. I have lost my violin.

The warning bell continues to shriek. Why won’t someone turn it off? Reality finally permeates my consciousness. My eyes fly open, my hand shoots out and fumbles for the alarm clock. Finding the snooze button, I stab it and lie back down, heart hammering, mind racing. A dream. Just a dream. Thank God.

When I get out of bed ten minutes later, I peer into the violin case, just to confirm that the intensity of the dream didn’t somehow affect the violin. It’s fine, snuggled beneath its soft blanket, scroll peeping out like a baby doll’s head. I pull the violin out and hold it for a moment, breathing my relief in and out, in and out.

And so it goes. Yet another broken violin dream.

Then there’s the “my violin is missing” version. I am in a strange room with several other people and I realize I haven’t seen my violin for a while. Could I possibly have left it in my car? Surely not. No, I brought it in. And yet, it’s nowhere in sight. “Where is my violin?” I call out, my voice rising in uncertainty. “Has anyone seen my violin?”

No one responds. Then I recognize a man who’d been standing nearby when I arrived. Surely he would remember. “Excuse me,” I ask him, “where did I set my violin down?”

He is tall and dark-haired, with shaggy, vaguely menacing features. He looks at me now, his face carefully inscrutable. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He has taken my violin. I can see it in his eyes. I cast a glance all around me. I see polite but blank faces. Carefully blank faces. Like in Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a conspiracy, then. They’ve stolen my violin. They’re going to lie about it. My breath comes faster, in choked little gasps. “Give me back my violin!” My voice has risen to a shriek. My violin is in great danger. I have no idea where it is. I race around the room, panicked now, knowing it is somewhere, terrified that I just might have seen the last of my precious baby.

“Shhhh.” A pat on my back jerks me out of my nightmare. It is 2am and my strangled cries and convulsive jerks have awakened my husband, who pats me a few times more and then falls back asleep. I, however, have no desire to return to the world of my dreams.

I’ll tell my husband about my dream the next day. He’ll chuckle and shake his head. For him, dreams are vague oddities that you mull over for a few minutes and then never give a second thought to. Not me. My dreams are visceral, disturbing, larger than life. Both these dreams seemed so real, so threatening, that months later, they still make something inside me seize up, run to go check my violin to confirm it is safe and intact.

It is. Whew.

All right. Tell me I’m not the only one who suffers from broken/stolen violin dreams. Care to share yours?

From Ella Gunn
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 6:19 PM
You're not the only one. Although mine are usually MUCH nore bizarre. I had a very complicated dream once (I will spare you the details) where a friends mother was the one who had stolen it. I had to get it back, but she had sold it on. It ended up as one long horrible wild goose chase. I cant look at her now.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 7:15 PM
I don't remember my dreams very often, but I always remember the "Break the Good Bow" dream. Yuck.
From Amy F.
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 7:49 PM
Well, I've never had a dream like that, but in real life once my violin fell off my desk and the neck snapped off. This was the day before a competition, too! I had to play on my roommate's violin, and the competition did turn out very very well! But I was pretty upset. Apparently the person who repaired it said that if the neck was on correctly to begin with, it shouldn't have snapped that easily. Still not such a pleasant experience.
From Maura Gerety
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 11:01 PM
Oh, God! I have those kinds of dreams all the time--I break it, or lose it, or someone steals it. I HATE those dreams. Yeccch!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 11:44 PM
Oh, great stories and comments!

Ella, I can just see it. I've had dreams like that where I feel so ANGRY at the poor innocent person who's looking at me quizzically the next day, wondering what he/she did wrong. Or you keep it inside yourself and the relationship is from then on just a little different. (Like your friend's mom!)

And Amy, boy, I'll bet you were wishing your incident WAS a dream, and all you had to do was wait for the alarm to send you out of the dream. I cringe to think of it. So glad to hear that competition went well, tho.

From G De Sena
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 2:33 AM
ahhhh! those must be the worst set of nightmares ever! i had a dream once that i was holding the violin upside down with my left hand twisted around the wrong way, and my teacher kept bashing me over the head with a can in the supermarket...b/c thats where i was having my lesson...=/
thanks for ur comment! and yes it was fun =) goodluck with ur nightmares! haha
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 4:03 AM
>i had a dream once that i was holding the violin upside down with my left hand twisted around the wrong way, and my teacher kept bashing me over the head with a can in the supermarket...b/c thats where i was having my lesson...=/

Love it! : )

From Clare Chu
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 8:23 AM
I vaguely remember a few broken violin dreams, but the kind that really recurs often is the "I went through the entire semester without going to a class and now it's time for the finals." and "I am back at Cornell in my last semester of my Ph.D. and I'm missing a required class I should have taken in the first year." In the dream, I'm worried about daycare for my kids, how to take the class while they are back in California, and I'm living in the dorm as a 40 year old. Argh! When I wake up I have to convince myself that I did get that PhD in 1988, and I have a job and I'm not missing that class and don't have finals coming up.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 2:29 PM
Oh, Claire, that's so funny! I have academics dreams like that all the time. Wonder if every adult does? Oh, the sick feeling, of realizing you need to take a test and thought you'd dropped/completed the course ages ago.

Oh, ugh. Wonder which is worse - broken violin dreams or test-taking dreams. Then, of course there's the "I'm naked and no one else is" dreams. Then again, interestingly, on this latter dream, I've developed the habit in my dream of shrugging, saying, "What the heck, it is what it is, so I'll just keep my head up and not worry what everyone else is thinking," instead of the younger Terez's desperate efforts to hide herself.

Can't decide whether this is a form of self-improvement or a descent into depravity.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 3:39 PM
My Mom, who is of retirement age, who got her Bachelor's in the early 60's, and her Master's in the mid 60's, STILL has the academic dream: it is test day for a class that she is unknowingly registered for, and she is running around campus trying to find the building that the class is held in...
I also remembered the "booked to perform a concerto I not only don't know, but have never heard of and the concert is that night" dream. Thank goodness that one only pops up about once a year. Extra yucky.
From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 3:56 PM
Definately. Or performance dreams where I forgot my violin somewhere far away, or brought the wrong instrument. Or, the one where I left it on the top of my car and drove off and it fell in the highway...oh wait, that one really happened...:)

(I got it back a few weeks later, someone found it in the road and returned to the nearest gas station a week or so later and saw the missing violin poster...note for all...have your ID in your case somewhere in case you leave it on your car!!).

I think we all have stress dreams of some sort. ORchestra dreams or playing dreams (can't remember how to hold hte bow or play a single note...).


From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 5:46 PM
>Or, the one where I left it on the top of my car and drove off and it fell in the highway...oh wait, that one really happened...:)

Eeeeee!! Oh, Jennifer! And Anne, I was just laughing as I read your post - nodding and laughing. : )

From Linda Lerskier
Posted on January 22, 2007 at 11:28 PM
Haha! And then the thing is, when you go to your friends to tell them your horrible nightmare, they look at you like your nuts!
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 23, 2007 at 12:36 AM
I don't think I've ever dreamed anything bad about my violin. I only dream about grizzly bears. By golly, one of 'em outran me in my truck last night.
From Sydney M.
Posted on January 23, 2007 at 12:36 AM
I had a dream once that I was at a great concert of a famous violinist and I stayed a long time in my seat afterwards. Then I decided to venture onto the stage. To my surprise and dismay, I found half of that violinists priceless violin sitting on the floor of the stage. I took it to the violinist's helper person and she didn't think that it would be a big deal, but I was heartbroken.
From Maura Gerety
Posted on January 23, 2007 at 1:24 AM
Yikes, Syd...perhaps you were slightly traumatized by the sight of Barnabás absentmindedly leaving his violin case on the table?

I've rarely had the naked at school (or rehearsal) dream, but I've discovered that the musician's equivalent of that old classic goes something like this one I had two years ago (and it's still vivid as hell): I am backstage at the Israel Philharmonic, a half hour away from playing the Khachaturian concerto under the baton of Zubin Mehta. (I was a big Israel Phil fan back then), when suddenly I realize I haven't learned the third movement yet. I woke up, freaking out, as my dream-self was frantically trying to learn the movement in the 30 minutes I had before going onstage.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 23, 2007 at 3:16 AM
These are so great - thanks, everyone, for sharing them. : )

Linda - my husband is one of those puzzled-faced people. He just doesn't get it. Sigh...

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