Saturday, September 25, 2010

String Theory


I was so entranced with this painting (in the National Gallery) that I didn't bother to see who painted it. Oops. But Washington Cube knows (of course). It is The Lute Player, c. 1610 Orazio Gentileschi

I have friends who think I'm brave to attempt to learn how to play the bass at my advanced middle age. Hmmm. I am brave, yes, but I don't think this adventure is about courage except in that word's most essential form. "Playing" the bass fills my heart and makes me whole. Playing actually bestows courage rather than the other way around. I wonder if that makes sense.

Learning new things is one of my favorite activites. Learning anything about anything always sets in motion a cascade of interesting new trains of thought. Lately, for instance, I've been thinking about how the human body has frets of a kind - bony landmarks that show me, as a bodyworker, where muscle attachments are, or the location of internal organs. The lungs and heart will be found inside the ribcage, heart right under the sternum, listing to the left side of the body. The human body has frets, and also "sweet spots" - places where, in shi'atsu, you push with a fingertip to release a flood of tension in just a few seconds. Fun to think about.

I've also been thinking about the venerable history of stringed instruments. Strings stretched tight across a box with a hole, plucked to make sound, was one of the first ways we humans made music, along with blowing into a hollow stick and rhythmically pounding something with something else. Every culture I know about from the north pole to the south pole has had, at some point in its history, musicians who played stringed instruments. Very cool.

Strings are so intrinsic to us that we describe various states of being - usually extreme, like strung out, tightly wound, with string imagery. Even physicists, our post-modern mystics, use strings as a way to describe the essence of consenual reality.

The fact that I am a rank beginner bass player does not stop me from thinking cool thoughts. I am not ambitious to become a virtuoso bass player. I'll just play and think cool thoughts, see where that takes me.

Life is good and I am grateful. Shalom.

17 comments:

California Girl said...

It's probably a bit daunting to learn an instrument now but admirable, nonetheless. I wonder how my fingers would cooperate? They are often stiff but, with practice and exercise, I'm sure that is overcome.

When I went to work in tv 2 yrs ago, I had to learn alot of new stuff even tho' I'd been in radio broadcasting for 28 yrs prior. They are not similar and tv has the visual subtleties of advertising I'm still getting used to. I keep telling myself this will keep me young and sharp...hahahaha! Makes ME feel better anyway.

John Hayes said...

Human body as fretboard--wow, you never cease to amaze! & yes, we use the string etaphor a lot--how about "heart strings?" Keep playing & thinking cool thoughts & hearing cool things!

Hannah said...

Eli and I were just talking about what kind of instrument he might want to play. First he said a drum with a bass! Then he said TUBA! - <3 Hannah

Washington Cube said...

The Lute Player, c. 1610 Orazio Gentileschi

Something that's hard to blow...like an oboe :)

Wha?

lakeviewer said...

Play On!

Reya Mellicker said...

How do you do that, Cube? Swoop in with the perfect info? Wow.

Hannah: Eli is my soul brother! Very cool.

Oh man. Heart strings - yeah. Wow. Hey California Girl, I'm certain that having to learn stuff is what keeps us from getting foggy in old age. You go girl!

Cyndy said...

I love the way she is holding the lute so close to her ear, listening intently to it.

I think that having expectations is the main thing that stops some people from wanting to learn fun new things as they get older. Those expectations and the accompanying fear of failure impede their progress and keep many of them from even trying something new.

I feel very lucky that I learned this when I was a young piano teacher giving lessons to people of all ages. Otherwise I might not have been "brave" enough to start playing the bass either!

Reya Mellicker said...

Her left hand looks so relaxed, too!

Dan Gurney said...

I'm older than you, and I'm learning the ukulele. It's so much fun, and stronger than any antidepressant, period, as far as making you happy.

Tom said...

i'll never forget hearing Chris Squier of Yes play Amazing Grace on his bass during the 90125 tour back in the 80's. Bass is just cooool. The texture permeates your body and makes you feel weird and wonderful. I can understand why you're lovin' it

Karen said...

Your posting made me think of this news article that really struck me a while back about just how long it's been that we humans have been making instruments:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/090624-bone-flute-oldest-instrument.html

I want to try and learn so many things that I can't seem to find the time for now... I need to win the lottery and retire early. :) One of the things I want to learn is how to play the violin--or, more accurately, the FIDDLE! :) I've watched my son learn over the past 2+ years, so I know it's slow going (he is an inspiration!), but I'd love to give it a whirl...

Happy playing!

Merle Sneed said...

I have no musical ability whatever. I have tried and failed in my attempts to learn several instruments. I compensate by being rather tall.

Meri said...

Love the fret/body image. . . and John's comment about heart strings.

Reya Mellicker said...

Tom, you have a bass player personality - you do!

Karen, whoa - the fiddle. No frets!! Yikes. Do it!

Merle, being tall is a great thing!

Jinksy said...

The seamstress in me is intrigued by the underarm lacing system on the girls overdress...

Jo Floyd Lucas said...

I recognize that look of concentration anywhere. I used to watch my brother with his 12-string guitar as he prepared to play, and he looked just like that...I think the young lady is tuning her lute strings, both listening and feeling for the right sound and vibration.

Your body metaphor is beautiful, Reya. Just beautiful. If you view your bass with the same love and respect that you have for your lucky clients, you will make truly beautiful music.

Enjoy the process!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Jo!