Thursday, April 3, 2008

little sadist in the snow

Over a beer this evening I recounted the story of a mike stand falling and puncturing a hole in the side of my cello during a gig in Danbury eight years ago. I commented how I was shocked but also kind of relieved. And while I didn't say it at the time, I was reminded of a scene in the film Hilary and Jackie, in which Emily Watson, playing the cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, gets angry with her cello and the life it has made for her and leaves it outside overnight on the balcony of her hotel room during a snowy night in Moscow to punish it. Eventually, she has to drag it in out from under the icy banks that have accumulated in and around it and forgives it, because, obviously, she's the only one who is suffering and punished. (If they had cut the rest of the movie, that sequence alone would have made a pretty great film.)

Never let an instrument get its hooks into you: you can't abandon it, you can't sell it, you can't destroy it, you can't love it, you can't resent it, but it's persists nevertheless. The best revenge you can get is to neglect it. And still you'll feel guilty now and again and do things like buy it new strings or clean and polish it to make it up. But it's never enough. Anything you do to it boomerangs right back, and though it's not technically alive, it's got a healthy dose of autonomy. Everyone knows that instruments "like to be played." Do they also like to see you suffer?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

having sprung, the smells

The month of March has come and gone and cigarette season is almost over. The faux fur lining in the Barbour jacket is out and the thing feels ten pounds lighter but no less warm in the face of blustery winds that, at last, portend spring. There's no turning back now: the windows are wide open, it's ten to midnight, and there's lightning and the sound of rain to fall asleep to. I've bleached the whites that A. gave me - towels and a comforter - and the room smells faintly of chlorine. I'm not sure if that's bad for me, but it masks the musty smell coming from the protective case for my cello, lined with sheepskin with a blue shell made of the same material they use for circus tents. This case makes an appearance from whatever basement it has been in over the last ten years to transport the cello on flights without my having to spring for another seat - and I've never had so much as a loose string after all the baggage handling. But now I don't have a basement and the "behemoth" (as my grandmother affectionately calls it, for it's spent most of its days in her basement) now sits in my dormitory room, exuding the odor of another, stranger part of a house. A part of the house for luggage and junk and memorabilia but not for people.