Do real violinists get calluses…

…on the fingertips of their left hand? Or is it a sign of how far one has to go before becoming someone who can carry a note or two on the violin?

I have doubled my hours of practice these days. I am determined to make those string crossings and multiple slurs effortless. I am determined to hear the notes gliding and sliding together and coming together well. But perhaps this determination is aiding and abetting bad technique. Maybe my fingers really don’t need to press down so hard. There is some physics inherent in the mastery of this instrument that escapes me at the moment. I concentrate on the things that are obvious: right posture, bowing perpendicular to the strings, trying to apply the right pressure of bow to string, engaging those upper arm and shoulder muscles more than the forearm and wrist but something is still elusive.

Of course it has only been two years. I must admit I’ve come a long way in two years. Written music was as pretty as birds on wires to me until two years ago and I had no idea what the music director of the rock show, where I was a back-up singer in late 2006, was talking about when he talked about C sharps or B flats. So many musical concepts have come together in my head in the last two years and so many things are clearer, after starting from scratch and a good set of pipes. But like a guest speaker at a college function once reminded us, years ago – the more you learn, the more you realize how ignorant you are; every bit of light hints at the darkness that lies ahead.

I find that darkness overwhelming at times.

When one is overwhelmed so, it probably is time to look at everything with “soft eyes”. I first heard that term on the second episode of the fourth season of the HBO drama “The Wire“. It struck a chord and has stuck with me ever since. I often refer to it. I think the usage is brilliant. I am not even sure what the creators of the show, Ed Burns and David Mills, really meant by it; so much is always open to individual interpretation. But what it means to me is a cetain shift in one’s perspective, giving a little, letting go of rigidity: literally, relaxing ones hard, squinting eyes until other details, previously hidden, masked in some way, start to emerge. In other words, just relaxing, letting go and making room for the things that your previous stance stopped you from getting.

In my violin playing and my life, I need “soft eyes”. Nothing brings more fatigue and hopelessness these days than entrenched opinions and rigid stances. We have to give a little, the house needs to settle.

1 Comment

  1. Amazing how smoothly you transition from a reflection on violin technique to a philosophising on life itself – as perfect a glissando as I'm sure your fingers execute on your violin strings!


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