Saturday, July 02, 2005



There are three types of section leader.

First there is the Head Nodder:

He sits - critically - with his back 'resting' against the chair. All his vital spinal energy drains lazily into the cushioning, chakra juice seeps out of him mixed with beer-sweat rather than spiraling ever upward, and his feet are crossed behind his cello providing zero grounding. His impulses start not in his solar plexus because it is blocked by slouch but in his fingers and his head. Since his fingers are otherwise engaged, he resorts to his head.

The head takes on a life of its own. Disconnected from the breath, it is unable to prepare a gesture so it nods furiously just after the beat in an attempt to force the section play with it. The rest of the section who are trying to breathe with the music feel the frustration behind the amputated gesture and are caught like naughty children happily playing ball when they should be doing their homework.

It's all over the place.

When the concert is over he invites his colleagues down the pub for mock-bonding. There he drowns his sense of failure as a leader, not to mention as a husband, in a couple of pints and a packet of fags.

Second comes the Scroll Waggler:

In rehearsals he stops playing to see who the culprits are and, when identified, they are sent to virtual detention. Because for some reason it sounds terrible, he regularly calls sectionals in which he condescendingly informs his students of the technical approach to each and every phrase. He wields his bow like a cane. His students regress to infantile behaviour, either by sticking gum on the frog of his bow or by becoming mute.

He swallows his beta blocker an hour before the concert lest, God forbid, he should lose control.

The moment has arrived. He sits on the edge of his chair spelling out the gestures of the conductor in mid air with the scroll of his violin. This, apparently, is for the benefit of his blind and deaf section members. Round and round the scroll goes, up and down, crossing t's and dotting i's. His sound bumps along behind him, dominating that of his cowering collagues.

What a mess.

Oh dear, better have another sectional rehearsal. Why, he wonders, is no-one inviting him to the bar? Never mind, it's time for an early night. There's work to be done.

(Needless to say, the critical thing about the Head Nodder and the Scroll Waggler is that actually they don't want the section to be together, for if it were, they would lose their sense of superiority.)

The third leader is the Zen Rocker:

He has had a strong spiritual experience in his youth which, though it frightened him somewhat, also humbled him. He has taken the essence of this connection and infused every movement he makes and every note he plays with it. Rather than pray he takes up his cello and sings.

He has a jazz band and has studied African drumming. All his gestures come from his gut. They can be contained, extrovert, blissful or poetic but there is always motion, however bonsai, and they are always huge in spirit.

The Zen Rocker invites his colleagues into the song circle by his breath like an ancient ritual. They connect to the in and exhalations together like they would the rhythm of the tides. There is no need to lead because everyone is following the music. When somebody plays a bum note he turns round and we all grin together.

After the show the section go dancing together. He melts into the crowd.

Last night in 'Les Boreades' I became very involved in a note. It was a luscious B and I closed my eyes and, feeling the squeeze of the dissonance, I milked the moment before the the ornament released it from the clutches of the clashing harmony. It can happen to anyone. In that moment of ego-bliss however I crashed and the entire machine crashed with me. I woke up and the whole phrase had fallen apart because of my momentary lack of attention to the group.

Luckily the Zen Rocker was at the helm and we moved on.


Blogger Jean said...

Wow, I am learning here about something I have never known about or even thought about and I am loving it!

3:23 PM  

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