Category Archives: Violin Playing

Mi-do Qi

The commission to write our new opera “Esh and Ee-ay” has given Lila and I the wonderful opportunity of revising and adding to our set list, as well as deconstructing our music creation process. After eloping to Europe five years ago, we created music through extemporaneity and opportunity. No pressure. For the commission, we are creating music for an upcoming event – two shows at Martha’s Vineyard. So instead of five years to produce an exciting set list, we have 7 months. Our music making is complex: violins, vocals and foot-percussion; movement/dance which needs to correspond with the violin playing (in other words some movements cannot be done with certain bowing), and theater. At first we were trying to make it all happen at the same time, scripting it all in the concepting phase. However, when we took it out to the public, the piece failed to have any dramatic momentum. I realized just the other day that we were trying to coalesce too many things at the same time. It was basically like an actor who doesn’t know their lines trying to do complex blocking. It doesn’t work. So I stopped our forced movement and acting so we can focus first on bringing out all the dramatic nuances of the music – the dynamics, the technical performance of the ostinatos along with the separation that must occur in order to sing fully while playing them. Suddenly the music is starting to grow again. We have faith that when the music is secure, movement and theater will follow quite naturally.

Angels In Training

– So many Thoht’s and so little interest in writing them down.

– So few friends, so little success. I think they correlate.

– I live like a monk: reclusive and devoted to mindfulness. I remember watching monks who travel to big cities when they leave the monastery. I am like them. Disoriented.

– Many people don’t do more than they are asked because they are afraid they will be taken advantage of.  And they are right.  But every once in a long while, I meet a few others who do more than they are asked and do not take advantage, and they are a blessing.

– Lila’Angelique is my hero. I am so grateful to have her in my life. As she continues to prayform with me, she continues to demonstrate resilience and courage. I watch her face the most difficult circumstances and yet not quail as most would. It is remarkable!

– Do I hate Edinburgh? No, I just wish I could prayform. Prayformance makes even the most dismal places heaven.

– Do I hate people? No, I just don’t trust them, generally. Most would dissimulate and cheat you in a second to get a leg up and be successful. And, this is a trendy behavior inculcated by  the modern world, made easier because of all the networking websites. Yet, I believe that all people are angels in training, they are just afraid to be fully.

– Funny: Playing the violin with both hands was one of the most inspired epipahies I have ever had. Yet few knowtice (sic) or care.

– Epiphanies are the most important experiences in ones life. They are luminous guides through the illusions of materialism. That is why prayformance is dedicated to manifesting them.

The St. Giles Pitch

– The pitch on the side of St. Giles is the most difficult pitch Lila’Angelique and I have yet encountered as a team:

1. The platform we perform on is narrower than the strip of concrete in front of the tunnel in Golden Gate Park. I have to lower my violin and dodge LA’s bow whenever I go to the opposite side. Spinning around each other at the end of “Romanza” and “Tango” is virtually impossible, so we are static for the finale.

2. Not only is the ground underfoot both harder and coarser than any of our other public venues, but divots, cracks, and rocking stone slabs make spinning impossible, especially for me with my perennial, sprained, right ankle. After a prayformance my ankle hurts. Jumping about during “Gypsy Dance” is hell on my feet. “Why do you go crazy then?” Lila’Angelique always asks me. “I can’t help it.”

3. Stairs sit like a cliff on the edge of the platform. I like stairs. They offer an opportunity to dance and show rhythmic coordination, however these stairs slope and curve down, so you can’t tell where the stair is. I have found myself tumbling forward on several occasions, particularly at the middle of my first solo in “Romanza.” This lean causes me to jiggle my violin too much and can cause me to lose track of the fingerboard. Yikes!

4. The acoustics are good for an open outdoor plaza, but why would anyone using overtones want to play in an open plaza. The sweetest piece we can play is the Waltz. El Born in Barcelona was the most open plaza we had ever played till this. However the poor resonance at El Born was made up for by the enthusiastic responses of the huge crowds that surrounded us – audiences that cheered and would chat us up for several minutes after a prayformance. The last time we were in El Born two police officers hung around the area for an hour, waiting for us to begin. When we postponed starting, they finally approached us and warned us not to perform. And if we did, they threatened, “We’ll take your instruments.” Being talented and showing it publicly is not a crime! At least the police smile at us in Edinburgh.

All these traits of the St. Giles pitch are difficult, but they prepare us and teach us how to be fluid, how to adjust, how to improvise our blocking and choreography to maximize the effect of our show.

– If it doesn’t kill us, we can learn something.

Five Worst Things

– The five worst things about the St. Giles pitch in Edinburgh: 1.  Little immediate resonance: this causes LA and I to strain and over sing thus we become tired more quickly. How did I ever do walkabouts? 2. Gritty ground: my weak right ankle suffers from the sticky ground and smooth spinning is barely possible. 3. No dance room: I love dancing when I play. The lack of dance room decreases our enjoyment of performance. We have less room even than the Golden Gate Park tunnel. 4. Stairs: Dancing stairs while playing is one of my skills and joys, however these stairs are an impediment rather than an opportunity, forcing us to have to use them. 5. Car noise: tires rolling across cobblestones humming a rugged bass drone, and the drivers honking at people stopped in the middle of the street, watching us.

– When LA is sad, I feel bad. It is almost like I am her – the result of how intimately we perform together. I could be immersed in  battles with countless intenal demons, but if she is struggling then I stop my own selfish musings and try to cheer up. Sometimes I can get her to smile during her most downcast moments. “Stop trying to make me smile,” she’ll sometimes protest. I never question the validity of her sadness, I just try to comfort her. Life is hard demonstrating phenomenal talent with little if any acclaim.

– I call myself LA’s genie but now I feel that I am falling short of that title. Yet, isn’t it true that although we genies grant our masters and mistresses their wishes, sometimes the result of the wish can turn out very different from what was desired? Odd irony that!

– Curry for dinner again? Soon we’ll be yellow. “Tumeric stains,” I told her, after she spilled a dollop of sauce on the fringe of her white blouse.

– Who would have ever thought LA would be so good at managing money? Not her mother or father, I guess. They both probably thought Jamie would have been a better money manager.  “Jamie is better than you,” her mother often implies in conversational subtexts. Their prejudice is based on Jamie’s strong desire to please them. However, they both underestimated something prodigious about LA – she has an uncanny nose for talent. She doesn’t care about pleasing anyone and therefore is not fooled by anybody’s bluster and boasting, and society’s bullying trends. Thus she clearly sniffed me out where others failed and continue to fail. By bringing me into her life, she got a mentor who – although I’ve made many fiduciary errors and blunders and will have to live with the results of them for the rest of my life – is successful at being a cutting edge public performer because of his ability to manage money. That knowledge is gold. One of my first laws (and I have few) was: Don’t tell anyone how much money we make. Mystery is a weapon.

– The homeless love us the most yet have the least material to offer us. Isn’t that funny?

– I play the violin as if it is part of me. I am not boasting, I know this. This ability is the result of several things: my experience, dancing with it, and playing it with both hands. Most other violinists and fiddlers may be more revered for their playing, but my violin extends from my body like another limb. I rarely observe a violinist who embodies their instrument fully. To me they look subtly clumsy, like those using a tool separated from them. Even if they play a thousand notes per second. For note speed is just ego embodied in will. Sometimes Ithzak Perlman tries to appear as if he is comfortable but this is just a part of his shtick. I know and see the difference.

– The trick with money is not only how to save but how to spend it. This is the esoteric skill of the very rich. For money is meant to be spent. Not stupidly and idly on items amassed because of ego and frivolity, but invested wisely and with intelligence and good intent in that which one deeply loves. This is the only way to increase it. For in the end, solely saving money only diminishes it. And in the ultimate end, saved money is worthless.

– The five best things about St. Giles pitch in Edinburgh: 1. We make money. Not a lot, but some. And this pittance is very very important right now. 2. . . .  Hmm! I thing that’s the only thing.

Out Of Tune

I often play out of tune. I don’t do it on purpose or through mistake, I do it by necessity. A sudden wind throws me off course, a spin dislodges the violin from beneath my chin, a caper lands the sole of my foot on a pebble. However, I must play on despite where I have landed or what has thrown me off course. This is called continuity. Continuity is more important than intonation. For without continuity the story fails, and the overarching tone and intent of the entire piece become stillborn. I am not a craven, fearful of mistakes, out of tune notes, broken bow hairs and strings, capes wrapped around my violin, frogs in my throat, dusty coughs, a sweat slippery violin; I am a sound warrior doing battle in the realm of fine energy for the hearts and souls of the lost and oppressed.