Friday, November 04, 2005

Second Fiddle

Now comes November, that dead space between fall and winter; in Wyoming, a season of sluggish flies, disappointed hunters, undecided weather, and abrupt bloody noses.

It occurred to me during orchestra tonight, halfway through the fourth movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony, that I may be the only soul on earth who regrets the quick demise of ska. And then I realized that I am not a very good violin player. Yet. I'm accustomed to being the star on the stage. But I've been things less pivotal than second violin before, and I am not unhappy. It's interesting to be on the periphery for once, because I also like to observe. I don't really feel the need to advertise my former glory; I'm all about progress. And I know in a year or so I'll smoke that twelve-year-old prodigy that thinks she's such hot shit. (In reality, she's a sweet child named Brittany, one of those odd kids in unfashionable shoes, with thick glasses and frizzy, mousy hair, whose innate ability to instantly master an instrument confounds her less fortunate peers and some adults. I keep forgetting she's got like three years on me when it comes to this infuriating sport.)

Additionally, it's quite an eye-opener to experience the symphony from a string-player's point of view. As a bass trombonist, or indeed any member of the low brass in a symphony, you spend a vast amount of time counting measures or playing cards or paper/rock/scissors with your neighbor. As a violinist, you are constantly panting to keep up. It's a nice switch. But as a violinist, you are only one of many people playing the same part, and as a trombonist, you are it, all-important, solely responsible. And I still make to empty my spit valve between numbers. Old habits die hard. I've been thinking about old Betsy a lot lately, so tonight after practice I hauled her out of the closet and gave her a good once over. The folks at Blessing in Elkhart, Indiana have produced some beautiful instruments, but I still think my dual rotor B-98 (that's her on the right) with the flawless (originally) ten-inch bell may be the finest thing they every made. She sustained some pretty serious wear and tear during years of marching band and a European tour, and the dry Wyoming climate is wreaking havoc on valves and cork, but she still sounds like a dream come true, just the way she did the first day I got her. (Except that my embouchure was in a bit better shape then, but I seem to lose less ground than any brass player I ever knew. Years have slipped by since I was a serious player with the pros, but I can still nail the high notes, even on a big bore mouthpiece, and I don't get that spitty fuzz some people do after just a few weeks of rest.)

I keep getting interrupted tonight and veering off on tangents. I'm always surprised what I come up with when I'm not concentrating. I keep concocting random blurbs about Saint Liam in the Belmont Stakes Breeder's Cup Saturday, and the hat and scarf Eileen made me (after I got outbid by the auctioneer at the KKI fundraiser), and many other things that have nothing to do with my original intent earlier this evening. Maybe it's the season, or reading too much (is that possible?), or the fact that I ran the Cadillac out of gas this morning (I did it on purpose, I swear, but it's a long story). All I can think right now is that if anyone calls me before noon tomorrow, I'm going to tell them off in no uncertain terms. The twelve- to fourteen-hour stretch of undisturbed slumber is still a treasured weekend ritual for me and I've missed it seven weekends in a row now. If my cats can be trained to leave me alone (hello, squirt bottle), so can my family and friends.


Blogger dorothy rothschild said...

Don't you find it sad that the 12-year old frizzy-haired orthopedic-shoed violin prodigy's name is Brittany?

I do.

And p.s., I used to play bassoon.

November 4, 2005 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger A said...

I do. I would have named her Emmaline or Constance or Regina, something dignified and mysterious. And wow. The bassoon kicks ass. I've always loved it most of all reed instruments (being in the same range as the trombone) but never got brave enough to try it. It looks so difficult.

November 4, 2005 at 10:22 AM  

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