Thursday, February 16, 2012

After four or five band rehearsals, I'm beginning--slowly--to find a path into this (for me) new version of ensemble playing. Because I was classically trained, I was taught to use the visual cues of written music as a guide into the aural flexibilities of the orchestra or quartet or duo or whatever group I was playing in. But now I need to depend on ear, instinct, and the proprieties of pop-music structure to work out my role in these songs--most of which I've never heard before.

The violin is primarily a melodic instrument, another singing voice rather than a rhythmic or chordal foundation; but for that very reason it has a tendency to obscure the human voice. So I need to pour it around the primary melodies yet also be ready to shift quickly into leads and fiddle breaks. Last night, as I was playing, I found myself thinking about the power of emptiness, the space between the sounds, the purposeful use of holes. All of this becomes more and more important in the places where my part becomes less and less complex. I find that I must become accustomed to simplicity . . . and simplicity is not at the root of classical violin training.

All of this does also seem relevant to writing. In a way, I am training myself to play as I have already trained myself to write--to hear before knowing; to anticipate the syntactic swell of a line, a phrase, a sentence; to allow the space of the as-yet-unwritten word or -unplayed note to guide my movements and my choices. What I must not do is to allow my facility with language or my flashy finger technique to override my more mysterious, more elemental obligation to listen.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I call that Listening the Quiet.