Monday, September 13, 2021

A musical interlude

I was reading this morning about Noel Gilbert, my violin teacher from when I was in first or second grade. I was thinking of him due to the important role that music plays in our lives and that the sounds of craftsmanship are not that very different from music. In woodworking there are textures and lines and punctuation points that help establish rhythm and meaning.

 When I was in second grade my mother took me to audition for violin lessons with the director of the Memphis Symphony orchestra. I remember the audition in which he asked me to sing and then examined my mother’s fingers and my own. He noted that my pitch was OK and that my long slender fingers might be useful on a violin.

The violin upon which I was to play had been my mother’s when she was a child. I took lessons for only a short time but remember to this day as I played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and was accompanied by the teacher on a larger violin and his son on a cello. They made beautiful music around me as their parts wove in and out and surrounded me. 

Much later when I’d first moved to Eureka Springs, there was a woman learning to play the violin. Downtown Eureka Springs is like a canyon, a narrow street with two story buildings on both sides. A set of good fingers on the neck and a sensitive hand on the bow during the late hours when the stores are closed and the tourists have gone back to their motels, creates a haunting sound that one would consider sublime. 

The screeches made by the fresh hand on the violin was not that. I admired her bravery under the circumstances. Others may have said something critical to her for I never heard her play again. There are gifts granted to the young in such things. One is the indiscriminate mind that allow for actual play. 

There are challenges in learning to play the guitar after becoming a lover of Segovia. What we do in music or in crafts may not come out as pure as our hopes or what we might see in our mind’s eye. And we can soon tire of having disappointed ourselves. There may be a very good reason why the word "play" or "playing" is associated with our engagement in music whether we’re just listening or attempting to play on our own. To play is always to give oneself over to a process where the exacting nature of the results cannot be known. So play. Let your own sense of playfulness without regard for the screeching sounds you make lead you forward in your craft.

Today children return to classes at the Clear Spring School. If ou want to know about my violin teacher Noel Gilbert, you can find him the Tennessee Encyclopedia https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/noel-alexander-gilbert/

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reflection Doug. I find it interesting how we use the terms 'play' and 'work' in our culture. When we talk about playing as the process of creating music through the use of an instrument to create music and yet we use the term of work when referencing the process of creating beautiful things out of wood, i.e. woodworking. Perhaps we should think more about woodplaying as opposed to woodworking. It might lend to a different perspective.

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