Friday, January 06, 2006

Earth, Wind, Fire and Offenbach

We have apartments on this tour. I have a sitting room, kitchen, a cd player, the kind of washing machine I would die for and, above all, a BATH!

On day one I wake at eleven. I Check in with 100 days, meditate on a reversing lorry and it’s repertoire of stratospheric beeps (including a piercing variation on Fur Elise), sweat for 30 minutes in the fitness room to Salif Keita and prepare brown rice and lentils for my lunch.

Then I go off to work.

We are playing Offenbach on gut strings but with modern bows and vibrato AND, critically for us cellists, an endpin. It has been over a year since I have played with this device and, upon sitting, I immediately know why it was invented. The cello is supported on the ground now and my knees, used to doing that job, wish themselves away happily to the Maldives for a well earned break. I am reunited with my ‘modern’ cello, which is older and much more beautiful than my baroque, but set up for modern playing. It feels like going home to my soul mate; so good it almost brings tears to my eyes.

The chef gives his welcome speech, introduces the new people, inhales his upbeat and we’re off.

I am having problems. Firstly, because of the endpin, the cello is higher against my body now, which means that the notes are higher in space, which means that I am playing horribly flat. Secondly, we are playing all the way up ‘dans la neige’ (as one colleague puts it) – in 7th and 8th positions - and my fingers are sliding around on the black piste of the fingerboard, trying to remember the unfamiliar terrain. Thirdly, it’s a whole different dance. It feels like the first day back in step class after years of ballet. The gestures are awkward under my skin, unconnected to either my breath or belly…. The tears have turned to those of frustration and it feels like hell.

On day two I go through the same morning routine. The meditation is quieter both inside and out and I step out this time to Earth, Wind and Fire. As I am cooling down to ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ I let my hands fall by my sides. My legs do the work and, as the weight bounces from one leg to another, my arms start to swing round my torso, following their lead. Suddenly my body remembers the dance: It remembers that the torso leads the bow, that the subtle transfer of weight from side to side leads the torso, that the rhythm of the music leads the feet and that the breath accompanies it all….

Offenbach is no different, naturally - though I prefer both Salif Keita and Earth, Wind and Fire.


Blogger garnet david said...

Hey, Happy New Year.

I enjoy your writing. Good post. As a musician, I can relate to the discomfort of not being able to find the "dance" of playing. It's ironic how we have to be aware, yet not self-conscious to play well.

Happy Blog birthday! You've been up for a year now. Also, congrats on the qarrtsiluni post.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Oh me too! Happy New Year, happy blogiversary (and well spotted, Garnet).

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

Yes! happy bloggiversary Ruth! Your blog is my favourite: so well written, and always inspirational.

PS. Which is a good Salif Keita cd to start with?

9:07 AM  
Blogger ruth said...

thanks everyone for birthday grats! I hadn't even noticed! (much more important is MY birthday in a couple of weeks!) i guess now i'm risking telling the same seasonal tales all over again.

anna I have 'moffou' which I adore but there is a new one out which I want to get. heard it in a coffee shop and it sounded yummy!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Hi! Happy New Year. Love the post, especially "sliding around on the black piste of the fingerboard", which pretty much describes me reading through the 1st violin part of "Death & the Maiden" at our just-for-fun quartet practice last night. Very much "dans la neige", where orchestral second fiddles seldom go!

Which Offenbach are you doing?

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

You are so right about Moffou! Ta.

2:50 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

glad you like moffou, anna. did you get the new one? I'm tempted....

rob, it seemed like we were doing all offenbach! in particular the 'grand' (very and très long aussi) cello concerto. i could do with reading through death and the maiden as an antidote!

3:11 PM  

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