This is a photo of my modern violin and the bow I use with it.
I was the first person to play this violin, and very few others have ever played it. You could say that makes our relationship extra-special, but really – all violinists have an extra-special relationship with their violin.
Even though I love my violin, I haven’t played it since last spring; all the playing I’ve done since then has been on my baroque violin. So, I hesitated to say “yes” to an invitation to perform for a special fundraiser on December 6th; but, in the end I agreed.
That means it’s time to take my violin off the wall (yes, I hang it on the wall because I’m more likely to play it when I walk by than if it’s hiding away in its case)… and practice!
On Tuesday, I picked up my violin and dove right into the Meditation from Thais, one of my favorite pieces which I’ve offered to play for the event. I’m normally amazed by how well I can play even after not having touched my instrument for a long time, but this time nothing was working and everything felt and sounded wrong. In fact, it felt quite horrible and I very quickly got discouraged. Since I didn’t have the time or patience to deal with that, I quit after about only 2 minutes of playing – which was a very good decision for the time being, considering my state!
Today, aware that Dec. 6th is fast approaching, I decided to take a different approach. Rather than dive straight into the music (which I usually do quite successfully), I decided to spend some time re-connecting with this musical instrument/lover of mine first… so that we could be working together on this project as friendly partners rather than as strangers who’ve been separated for a long time and don’t really know each other anymore.
Why was paying attention to our relationship so important? Isn’t it just a little weird to personify my instruments, and to talk about how we’re getting along or not?
Weird or not, making music is ALL about being in relationship – every single aspect of it! There truly is nothing about making music that is not about relationship.
My primary relationship as a musician is with my own body-mind-self as my own primary instrument. This is the relationship that needs to be paid attention to first: I need to be in right relationship with myself, warmed up and in tune with my own being, even before I approach my violin, if I want to have a healthy relationship with my instrument.
More aware of this need now than on Tuesday, today I first lay down in Constructive Rest position and let my instruments gently rest on my belly for awhile as I rested. (See my previous post for an 8-page article with specific instructions on how to practice Constructive Rest.)
Lying there for about 5-10 minutes, I paid attention to simply BEING with my instruments, with full appreciation. I gave myself and the instruments time and space to be together, aware of the relationships between myself and each one, and between the violin and bow.
These instruments are made to go together. A violin without a bow is of not much use; a bow without a violin makes no sound; a violin/bow set are useless without a violinist to play them. So I appreciated and acknowledged the beautiful design of all three instruments. I paid attention to the space and the silence from which the music would soon emerge.
I let my hands rest on the instruments and make contact with the different surfaces, and thought about the way they would come together to resonate and express sound.
After awhile of unhurriedly paying my respects in loving relationship to my violin and bow – one at a time and both together, as connected to myself – I slowly got up to play.
What a difference.
My bow caressed the violin while the violin rested easily on my shoulder, my arms floated through supportive air, and my bowstrokes felt like dipping into soft butter. The relationships were harmonious and unforced.
The instruments responded and sang with warmth and ease, and the Meditation became a true meditation, as embodied in my own body-mind-self and in the objects of violin and bow. We were a trio, moving and responding to one another with ease and grace.
No need to work hard or force or try or overthink or get frustrated or overfocus on what wasn’t working perfectly… the beauty of the sound arose naturally out of the prepared ground of appreciation. The violin and bow are MADE to go together, and they are designed to make beautiful sounds. My job is simply to honor and respect their natural design, as I honor and respect my own.
Whenever I give myself and my instruments the time and space – and the love that all things need to flourish – the music simply plays itself, and everything becomes effortless.
I didn’t spend much time practicing today because my muscles aren’t used to it and I quickly tired, but I played through the whole piece, and I enjoyed every moment.
THAT is the kind of practicing that is worth my time, and which produces desirable results. THAT is the kind of practice that will have me looking forward to taking down the violin from the wall the next time I walk by.
THAT is the kind of connection that I thrive on, and which I will expand on during the concert, when my pianist, the piano, and every member of my audience will be welcomed to join my personal trio in beautiful, harmonious relationship.
THIS is why I am a musician.
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