A Fifth String, An Eleventh, A High CMature

The music fizzled through my veins, sent shocks of lightning down my spine, ignited such an uncontrollable ecstasy, I felt as if it would burst out through me. 

'Turn that shit down!' 

My eyes snapped open. 

I felt like someone had leashed me to a train in my sleep and had decided to pull away from the station just as Jessica Alba had been pulling off her clothes. 

Pissed off in other words. 

'I swear to fuck, if you don't turn that shit down, I'll catch that fucking stereo and fuck it out the window!' the voice continued to roar from downstairs.

'Fuck off.' I muttered as I trudged to the corner where my knackered old stereo sat. Flicking the power switch, I sagged against the wall.  Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto cut off the climactic final volley of chords. 

'And practice your violin!' 

'Jesus, why not add 'watch Sex and the City' and 'listen to the fucking Jonas Brrothers' to 'The List of Things I Really Don't Want To Do'?' I spat. 


'Didn't say anything.' I called back. 'But I actually did you fat bastard....' I continued in a whisper. 

I glanced to the corner where my violin case leaned impatiently against the wall. An uncomfortable stirring of shame disturbed my abdomen. 

'You don't play piano, why are you listening to it? Why are you always listening to it? You only ever want to play violin adaptations of piano music.' 

It felt like a hurt long time girlfriend who could see a waning passion and knew why, but wanted to hear their boyfriend say it. 

Problem was, there never really was any passion.

I took up violin twelve years ago, I had just turned six. My father's idea really, he had subtly steered me towards the decision. He never played himself, but his friend from college had and was pretty good. He played for me when I was five, dazzling me with a flashy Mendelssohn extract. He seemed like a god of music to me, fingers dancing from string to string, bow gracefully rocking, never losing control, even when it seemed impossible at such frenetic speeds.

Now that I think of it though, he was only ok. 

I mean, alright, he was good, but nothing special. I learned what he played for me two years ago. When we grow up learning to play, irrespective of what instrument you play, we're rather sheltered. We might play with a local orchestra, but generally we're none the wiser of the overall standard, of what's expected if you want to be the best. Like my father's friend, it takes little to impress us.

Youtube will ruin this. 

It's one thing to watch a grainy video of legends like Yehudi Menuhin or Vladmir Horowitz. You can see they're amazing, they are doing what they were surely created for. But seeing a little boy from China or Eastern Europe blaze through a piece you couldn't dream of attempting to thunderous applause is the most sure way of filling you with futility. 

It happened to me. 

Some people say 'But it's not a competition, you don't have to be the best, can't you just enjoy playing?' 

And it was then I realised it, that after years of lessons and practice, I didn't enjoy playing the violin. In fact, I loathed it. And it was part relief, dread and guilt, like a man who woke up one day and knew he no longer loved his wife. 

So here I am now, stuck in a loveless relationship with an instrument thousands has been invested in learning (as well as being worth) while engaging in a guilty affair with the piano.

It really does sound rather petty and trivial, but when you think about it, I've spent twelve years wasting my time. I could have learned piano, been a hundred times better at it than violin by now, perhaps become one of the best instead of painstakingly teaching myself. You'd think having a great knowledge of classical music would help a lot, but not so. 

'I don't hear any music!'

'You've never heard any in all the time I've played.' I muttered.

Picking up the case, I flicked the clasps, unzipped the case, removed the small blanket and began to tune. 

My lack of connection or love for the instrument was always going to have an effect on the way I played. Many examiners and judges gave comments such as 'Good intonation and understanding, but slightly lacking in musicality.' ie 'All body, no soul'. I played like a robot. 

The violin is just a representation of failure and a lost opportunity. 

Maybe you see my lack of enthusiasm for practice now?

Tuned, I tightened my bow, rubbed on some resin, fitted my shoulder rest and began to play. Felt more like sawing. 

The End

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