Sep. 8th, 2013

dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)
As I'm writing this post, [personal profile] japester is practising his violin playing in the front room - and in fact it was his suggestion that I write about music tonight. A musical muse is a useful thing, especially when one is dead tired and stuck for ideas after a long drive on very little sleep.

So, what words do I have to write about music? As it happens, quite a few.

I was about five years old when I first picked up a violin, with intent to learn how to play it. It was not very long afterward that I gave it up as a bad job and instead picked up a cello which, for some reason, seemed to suit me better. Years of cello lessons ensued with a variety of teachers, but it became quite apparent that I lacked the temperament and dedication to be a concert musician (and in any case, I doubt that had ever been my parents' intention in having me learn an instrument) and in the middle of high school, I packed it in.

In the year or two following I had unsuccessful flirtations with both flute and piano which, in addition to being productive of unpleasant noises and a great deal of frustration, seemed to demonstrate that if I wanted to be at all musical, I should stick with strings - of the bowed or plucked variety that is, not the ones hammered with keys in the guts of a piano. Duly chastened - or enlightened, if you want a more positive spin - I returned to my cello-playing and kept it up through my end-of-school exams.

It wasn't until a couple of years later that I once again picked up my cello, this time to play with a medieval-style music group who really wanted a bass instrument to join them. Obviously the cello isn't a medieval instrument, but amateurs work with what they have - and I did get a couple of useful tips from my last cello teacher (who was by then teaching my older brother classical guitar) on how to make a modern cello better emulate the softer, less robust sound of a baroque cello, which is just a little bit closer to the sound of even older instruments like the bass viol, which actually fit the period of most of the music we played.

After another, more lengthy hiatus and a move interstate (about as far as I could go and still be in the same country) I once again took up the cello in the cause of reviving live dance music as part of the culture of our local medieval recreation group - a cause in which I was supported and encouraged by [personal profile] japester, who at that time was also once again picking up his childhood instrument - the violin - with intent to play.

Whether I should call it a departure from my true path or a musical evolution is open to debate but this time, having observed previously that most of the arrangements in circulation either lacked a bass line or had one that was quite dull relative to the other parts, I also taught myself to play the recorder. Like many others, up until my first encounter with medieval music, my only experience with the recorder was that it was that horrible squeaky plastic thing I was made to play in primary school. But I had by now learned that a wooden recorder can be a truly beautiful instrument, in the hands of a competent player - so I set out to become one.

Small problem with this plan, however - I was very, very bad at reading treble clef notation. Bass clef, no problem; but I just didn't know where any of these notes were on a recorder, much less how to quickly match notation with fingering whilst sight-reading. The solution at which I arrived owed much to the fact that I already knew many of the more popular dance tunes by ear, so I could pick them out on the recorder whilst following the music; eventually, I worked out which notes went with what fingering and could now learn new music. For the most part, though, once we'd assembled our core group of musicians, I was still the only bass-instrument player, so when there were bass lines, they fell to me. But that was okay, as long as it meant we were actually playing music at medieval events, rather than just listening to it coming from discreetly-placed and artfully concealed speakers.

So where has all this musical dabbling left me today?

Well, the music group we worked hard to establish is still going strong without us, which makes me happy because that had always been our intention. For me, though, moving back across the country has seen yet another lengthy hiatus in music playing, punctuated by rare and short-lived bursts of enthusiasm. For the most part, my cello, recorders and guitars all lie neglected and unplayed.

However, [personal profile] japester's recently renewed enthusiasm and commitment to playing violin, coupled with the fact that I hear him improving all the time, has made me think that maybe, just maybe I can overcome my present musical lethargy and become, if not anything like a great musician, at least a competent hack who can bust out a tune or three at short notice.

Yes indeed, a musical muse is a fine thing to have...


dormant_dragon: Sleepy Stan from 'All Yesterdays' (Default)

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