How Can I Keep from Singing?

I have music in my soul.

Despite this, I go long, intense bouts without so much as a note.

I’ll not play anything, or even sing in the shower, for months. Then some unexpected day I’ll be filled with uncontrollable urges, spreading song into every inch of my daily routine.

It’s a wonderful reconciliation, and today was one of those days. That time in my musical cycle I guess.

And when in doubt, I Vivaldi.

His Violin Concerto in A Minor is one of my all-time favourite pieces [though for the record, this linked Perlman recording takes the gloriously schmaltzy 3 movement (starting at 6:00) far too fast for my liking].

I love it not because it is amazing to hear, but because it is truly wonderful to play, even if I do so badly.

And I do so. Very badly.

Today it put me in mind of the first time I felt this sudden, inexplicable urge to revisit my old friend, Music.

Then, as now, I tried to capture the mood of rekindling such a love, and of feeling inadequate to give voice to such beauty.  Forgive the clunking prose, I share it for its sentimental value more than its sense.


11 June 2006


vie melodien

in the dappled sunlight i was moved to music this afternoon, and picked up my violin.

an instrument (and object) with which i have had one of the most tumultuous relationships of my entire life, leading to our five year estrangement. a separation i felt compelled to reconcile these last few weeks.

as i opened the ridiculous case, still tattered from tiny locker jams, the complete familiarity and yet entire foreignness of it was overwhelming. it was all there – the massive sponge stain, the fancy import rosin that’d been a christmas gift, the spare Dominant strings in their hideously retro packaging, the suzuki books covered with garish stickers.

i won’t pretend i was ever a prodigy. by the beginning of high school i’d given up practicing all together and within two years was relegated to the back of the orchestra with the stoners and dropouts (where a whole different piece of my education began). but even in the later years, in fleeting moments, it was perfect.

the right tune, the right note even, and i could just soar. it was a voice opening in me. an unanswered truth.

sometimes, just for a minute, when playing something breathtaking, i felt whole.

and perhaps it was the fleetness of these moments that pushed me away. my lessons were chunks of prescribed classics chosen for their modal shifts. our orchestral pieces were heavy on cello melody because everyone knew they were the only halfway decent section, and most pieces were 40 minutes too long for anyone with ears anyway.

and i was uninspired. the one thing it promised seemed to be forever beyond my ability and not even a concern for my teachers.

so i left it. a nostalgic relic, a closed possibility. a dream.

and as i lifted it to my shoulder today, i thought perhaps i should have left it there. to rot in my parents closet.

i am absolutely rubbish. clunky. out of tune. slow. airy. childish.

the hickey on my neck of which i was so secretly proud is long gone, the grooves in my bowfingers filled back in.

we no longer fit, my violin and i.

we are like reunited lovers, trying to find where we were. how we were. limbs akimbo. bodies out of joint.

and of course we can’t. i am not the same size or shape or player i once was. we’ll have to begin again, finding our voice, seeking the sweet spots. retuning ourselves.

it hurts a little. the songs i scrape through now are dated in mr. dewey’s sharp masculine scrawl ’02/25/94′. i can hear the strength behind notes that come out as whispers. makes me wince.

but oh, the promise of that power. that expression is what brought me back. that it’s still there, this voiceless singing and challenging flight. the possibility of momentary transcendence.

if i am patient, we can, once again make music.


May your day be full of music, dear reader, and the will to play your heart out – even when it sounds terrible.


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