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?