Saturday, 12 January 2013

Violin: (Part The Second)

I bought my violin second-hand from a shop called Cash-for-Gold, which is situated in the town center of my hometown. Now I know the name might seemingly betray a reputable retail establishment, but believe me, Cash-for-Gold is anything but. There are only three distinct species of emporium in Bathgate: markets that sell things for £1, (e.g. Poundland, £££Store, Poundstretcher etc) charity shops, and Cash-for-Gold, although my dad tells me there's a new place opened down the road that's flogging gear for only 50 pence. Christ alone knows what this will do to the local economy.

Cash-for-Gold is like a pawn shop for things that nobody wants. You know the stuff: a Battlestar Galactica VHS cassette, a mountain bike sprocket, the odd moth-eaten cardigan hanging off the shoulders of some faceless wax mannequin. You might find a games console with about a tenner knocked off the high street price. There's always a suspicious absence of any actual gold anyway, apart from in the proprietors fillings. The decor is dull and the staff are hostile. These are places which the discerning consumer would do best to avoid. Yet it was here that I stumbled upon my dear wee instrument.  

(It seems legit, right?)
 You know how in children's novels, a kid always finds the seemingly-innocuous artifact at the beginning of the story by serendipitous chance? I felt like of those kids. This was my Box of Delights, my wardrobe, my Hogwarts letter, all rolled into one ... only, you know, expensive. I was on my way back from Subway when I spied it through the unwashed shop window, a humble little wooden thing sitting on its battered case looking very neglected.

Now readers, I’m going to confide in you: I’m not a very good shopper. I think this stems from the fact that I’m quite a shallow and materialistic person, but in all the wrong ways. Whereas others covet the latest shiny gadget or fashionable designer clothing, and concurrently save up for weeks to acquire it, I’m only satisfied by cheap junk that serves no utility whatsoever. I seem to have made it my mission to cultivate this gaudy detritus. This is why I sometimes think I’m lucky I’m unemployed. Otherwise I’d been scouring Amazon right now, going; “Blimey! An inflatable dartboard! Christ, that’s what I’ve always wanted for the last five seconds! How much is it? £300!? A trifling fee! Ho ho ho!”

(They're a one-use-only kinda deal)

Thus, upon spotting my violin, so very near and yet so tantalizingly unobtainable, I had a meltdown. I bought it then and there.

My violin is second-hand, so it was not in very good nick. I think it belonged to a small child who'd clearly treated it with as much care as I had lavished upon my piano. Furthermore, the folk in the shop had not looked after it at all. It was covered in stickers, two strings had snapped, it was hideously out of tune, even the bridge wasn’t attached. I didn’t care. In fact I was too ignorant to know that these rudimentary details were even important. To me it was an instrument worthy of the Berlin Philharmonic. I bought it for £60, which was actually an alright deal. Your average new violin costs around £200, £140 more than I had, which was just as well really. Its low-quality, coupled with the years of abuse it had suffered meant that it sounded shit, but then again I reasoned, so would I. I was going to sound gash no matter what I played on, so I might as well start off with something cheap and dreadful to begin with.

(To the ears as this thing is to the eyes)
 I spirited my proud purchase home and hid it in a sequestered nook above my wardrobe as though it were the Maltese Falcon. I was well aware that if my parents found out about the violin, my hopes would be met with scorn, derision, and worst of all, heavy sarcasm. I resolved to keep it hidden until I could move back into the flat in Glasgow, where I thought I would have a better time keeping it secret until I was at least competent enough to declare that I owned it. 
This plan worked well, right up until the point where I moved into the flat, when my mum of course discovered it the very next day. I think she was annoyed that I’d spent money on it more than anything, and I can sympathize with her there: the thing was mutilated. But my mother dealt with the violin in the same way she currently deals with my father’s firearms fetish; by disapproving with the hope I might somehow injure myself and give it up. Astute readers who have already enjoyed my previous post will note that these hopes are not entirely unfounded.

(To be fair Dad's not quite as bad as this guy ... yet)
After consulting expert opinion (Google) I nipped to a tiny wee boutique for stringed instruments in the west end, and bought new strings and had the bridge fitted. My knackered new toy had gone from a device I used to frighten the dogs to a fully-fledged music-making instrument. I was chuffed, and I spent a good few hours playing with it in much the same way as I had done with the old recorder, before I remembered that I was twenty years old and had a flatmate. There’s only so much shrill screeching most people can take, myself excluded that is.

I was giddy and manic by this point. I felt like I was standing on the brink of a vertiginous precipice, about to topple into some grand and life-altering chasm, and so all at once my instincts were to shrink away and retreat into the secure and known. I was about to join the ranks of the People Who Could Played Music: finally I would be one of the chosen ones, the cool kids to whom I had been an envious pariah for most of my life. Maybe this would be it, I thought, maybe I would become casually brilliant and my new-found talent would solve all my problems! I could be anyone with the violin ... I’d be a violinist for a start. 

I’d be able to do anything once I was musical. Maybe I would start taking notice of deadlines and remember dates. Maybe I’d suddenly gain the ability to recall where I’d left the vitally important thing that I’d put down for just a second. Maybe I’d be able to actually talk to the lassies I fancied instead of hiding and hoping I’d bump into them again. That whole confidence thing would just happen naturally. I mean, girls are attracted to musicians, who isn’t? They can probably smell it on you. This violin thing was a great idea!

(I'll be an Ubermensch in no time!)
 Of course, a violin is not a fairy godmother, it’s not a remedy for disorganization, neurosis or insecurity. But in some way I sensed that it would be good for me anyway, and not good like the inflatable dartboard or the golden triforce wiimote or any of that other cack. I was sure, and to an extent I was right about this, that this would help calm me down a bit.

I’m often a very anxious, you might have noticed in between all this angst and trite simile. I think this is because I’m a very verbal person. My real talent lies in writing, and because of this I live the majority of my life introspectively, through imagination, speculation and conjecture.

Even my speech patterns are a little egregious in this regard; I have a pretty expansive vocabulary and this means I can use quite stilted and archaic language to get my point across. I’m often so anxious to articulate my point that I’ll over-compensate with a stream of verbosity, which goes right over the heads of those who don’t start every day with a hearty breakfast of dictionaries. It’s because I’m wired this way that I do so much thinking and very little doing in my life.

But music is different. You can swot up on all the theory you can get your hands on, but at the end of the day it’s a discipline intertwined with raw feeling. It’s almost instinct, instinct honed by hours of hard practice, but instinct nonetheless.

Maybe that’s why we deify our songwriters and guitar-players and vocalists. Maybe that’s why we find musicians so attractive, fall in love with them so easily, mimic their attitudes, style and habits. Because we know that these people can speak to us in a language that bypasses etymology, semantics and syntax, and opens up a dialogue that communicates on a primal level. The beauty of music is stark and plain, legible to all, the rightful lingua franca of this earth. Even the Great Detective, a violinist himself, seems to agree. 

In A Study in Scarlett Sherlock reveals that music is one of the few skills outside of chemistry and criminology that he’s intimate with. He says;

“Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood.”

(If you won't listen to Holmes then there's just no hope for you)
So with all this in mind, I jumped the last hurdle and arranged for weekly lessons. I found a teacher who lived about ten minutes away from me who sounded ideal. I pictured an elderly spinster, a sweet old lady who wore knit jumpers, and baked cakes and owned a couple of affable terriers. Perhaps she would turn out to be a blitz survivor and we would strike up an intergenerational friendship before she died under tragic circumstances. You know, like in films and stuff.

So I was a little perturbed when I turned up for my first lesson and an extremely sexy twenty-something with sapphire blue eyes and fine legs opened the door to greet me. Oh dear. I’d been expecting Mrs Doubtfire, not this fiddling Venus. I mean, I already knew that she could play the violin masterfully, and that alone multiplied the squishy feelings by 1000%.

(Oh god, not the squishy feelings! -HGGGNNNH!)

 She sat me down on her sofa (My teacher conducts lessons in her flat by the way, we didn’t just throw our clothes off and start rutting right there on the couch) and explained to me her rates and where we would start etc. Yet all I could think was:

My god you’re a lot hotter than I thought you’d be.
My god how am I going to learn to play with you in the room with me?

Some of you might be offended by this randiness, but you have to remember that these were the post break-up days. Anything with a pulse would have done for me; and even that last part was negotiable.

I was concerned. I find it difficult to form complete sentences if I’m attracted to someone, so trying to concentrate on learning an instrument already seemed downright impossible. It seemed I was at an impasse, my delicious plans scuppered before they’d even been set in motion ...  

(Today I've been reading the love poetry of John Donne, studying how he skillfully employs metaphysics, paradox, hyperbole, an often discordant meter and incongruous analogy to dialectically persuade a host of Elizabethan sluts to get off with him. I'm taking notes ... very carefully. Ahem. In all seriousness it's exquisite. Puzzling and colloquial verse that's hard to get your head around, but every so often he'll express an extended conceit with such a perfect flourish that it hits you like a freight train. But his erotic work can be totally filthy at times, yet it's all endearingly relateable and grounded in the mundane. Useful stuff to know if you want to pull if nothing else. Cheers Donne!)  

(Ladies, please, contain your orgasms)

No comments:

Post a Comment