Tuesday, October 11, 2005



Julian and I both have new tools. I have a new classical bow, on which I can ride through the first phrase of the Beethoven A major sonata like a yacht with red sails and Julian (almost) has a studio.

Dressed to protect his curls with a white rag wound dashingly around his head (yet nothing, of course, to protect his hands or lungs), Julian of Arabia has today dismounted the mink -poo- clad rafters, leaving a carpet of said excremental fossils to clean up (and the rusting old tins of petit pois the minks obviously lived on) but revealing the full height of our hayloft. Our metal framed windows are in, surrounded by a velvety insert made from chaux and red sand, and we are looking in to solar tubes to light the back wall and thus illuminate forthcoming large masterpieces….

The first portrait is being set up as I write and, oh my! what a view for the sitter!


Over roast pork and Miel de Garrigues and ginger roasted butternut squash last night we talked about Cezanne. I remember vividly a painting of his gardener, which I saw in the Thyssen museum in Madrid:

“He’s just standing there but you can feel so much movement in the picture - as if you have been watching him walk all around the garden…”

“Actually he’s not standing, he’s sitting”

…..and thus (I like to think!) my point is proven. There is nothing fixed in the picture. It is a moment in time, and no more. Is the reason, we wonder, the work of this wealthy man from the south of France is so free and loose that he didn’t have to please anybody or earn a living? Was he free simply to play?

There is a liberty, which comes from not feeling like we have to perfect something in order to please an audience; to fix or overwork it, but can dare to leave it imperfect, vulnerable and in motion. A moment in time, and no more.

For the visual artist the question is perhaps obvious: When to let go and walk away? In music, however, as a performance takes place in time the questions are less obvious but, just as in life, the tendency is to grasp, fix, control and live in anything but the scary now.

I remember a master-class with the pianist Andras Schiff when I was eighteen. I had prepared (and overworked) the Beethoven A major sonata. My hair and shoes were shining and so was my performance. I had worked on finding the ultimate rendition and feeling for every phrase and I was proud of my polished result. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the eyebrows of my musical hero rise and fall, his fingers lively in his lap.

“Sold!” I thought to myself and launched confidently into the repeat of the exposition, which was, naturally, exactly the same.

After the opening phrase second time round Maestro Schiff threw his pasty limbs up into the air in exasperation:

“Once I believe you. Twice you are a liar!”

And so, in that profoundly humiliating moment, witnessed by all my colleagues and the boy I fancied, I was discovered to be a fraud.

I am still trying to learn to be present. I imagine it will take at least a few lifetimes, but with my magic ivory and snakewood wand I hereby ‘repair’ (as the Buddhists say) my commitment to simply PLAY Beethoven in the here and now.



Blogger MB said...

Ivory and snakewood... I don't even play cello and I'm jealous! Luscious.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Lovely view!... lucky julian... lucky sitter...

5:18 AM  
Blogger Rare Blue said...

I read this entire blog (not just the entry) ... envious.

I want to walk in the landscape of your life... how pretty and rich it seems from across the world.

The grass is always greener, isn't it? Ok ok... I still love my beautiful British Columbia. (From sea to sky.)

Keep telling us your secrets. I will keep reading them....


6:09 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

The first paintings of Julian's I glimpsed I thought - wait a minute. I haven't seen those Cezannes before! Of course it was partly just that they were of the same landscapes, more or less, but it had more to do with temperament -- the sense of light arising everywhere, and of (just as you say) implicit motion. I wondered if it was challenging for him, sharing the ground with Cezanne. Didn't seem to be.

3:24 PM  
Blogger sara said...

i can't wait to see the new bow!! haydn quartets will never be the same.... :-)

8:27 PM  
Anonymous aki said...

Beautiful story.

Enjoy your new bow! I was once sat with 2 cellist friends in a coversation about another friend's precious bow. One saying to the other, "I never thought I would say I'd spend a life's savings on a bow but p. let me try her new bow and it almost played itself." (For me 'almost' is the operative word.) What an amazing thing it is when a skilled individual uses the finest tools to create something equally fine but of a completely different media.

1:11 AM  
Blogger ruth said...

it wasn't quite my life savings this time aki but the cello was!

thanks rare blue...if you've got sea though the grass is definitely greener!

Dale you're in danger of sounding like Julian's biggest fan and regular commenteuse Merilee! I think he came here in the first place in order to share the ground with the big C> Julian says he's old hat anyway!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

You know me; the older the hat the better I like it :-) Cezanne has always been my favorite painter, hands down.

10:52 PM  

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