Tuesday, July 26, 2005



After a summer happily chilling out in Birkenstocks, my liberated toes were not happy on our Alpine adventure squidging together in a very expensive walking boot, and are covered in angry blisters.

The pre-generale of Mitridate took place last night. I spent Act One poking at a very persistent fly which had decided the blisters on my feet were a French delicacy. It occurred to me during my idle quavers to put honey on them for the next performance, or foie gras...Eventually I managed to squewer it with the tip of my bow. I then spent Act Two trying to assuage my guilt by convincing myself that rather than kill another sentient being I had made a sacrifice up to the Great Spirit of Mozart. In Act Three I finally managed to quieten my mind and contemplate some good bass line playing - becoming one, via my section leader, with the throbbing heart beat of the magnificent singers (Oh thank you God for singers with rhythm), the ritual step towards their fate, the earth beneath their feet, the wings on which they fly, the bouncy castle through which they romp.....however at about this time the rain came plopping down. All divine subtlety was lost and we were left, a pit full of miming lunies in the rock and roll of the downpour.

Our chef was none too pleased with the performance. Despite a superb group of individuals, we are not yet breathing as one; we are plugging into irritating flies instead of being mindful of the task at hand and as yet the five string sections feel to me like five countries with five brilliant leaders and five brilliant systems....We have not found our common voice.

A string section is an extraordinary thing: Eight hearts, souls and egos, eight lives, eight sets of pain, of joy, eight inner parents, eight inner children, eight leaders and eight followers all playing the same line, hopefully in exactly the same way. A section should, like all micro-communities, be a set of healthy individuals working towards the common good, each person's vision reaching for the greater picture, and thus open and able to build bridges with other communities (even the violins). Like my intelligent toes in their spacious cork beds, each musician should be contained by the structure and yet liberated, have space to breathe and yet take full responsibility not only for the weight they bear but for taking up any slack or backing off when necessary. And like my Birkie toes, they do not like having their freedom taken away from them. They can get red and and are likely to erupt. It is a miracle when it works. When it doesn't we have to believe we are simply on the way and stay humble and open.

Meanwhile, even if Birkenstock cannot save the struggles of the world's orchestral sections, it seems they can save my toes. They have started doing hiking boots. Will I be able to get a hold of a pair before the next trek, I wonder? That is, if my thighs ever stop burning and I stop wobbling down the street like a puppet with no strings.



Blogger Dale said...

Oh, thank you for this look into a world that's completely unknown to me! I loved the controlling metaphor of the toes :-)

2:51 AM  

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