Sunday, March 13, 2016


One of my constant companions in the latter part of my adventurous life, gave up the ghost. Turned up his toes, went as far as he could and died in my arms last night. It was to be expected, because he had been ridden and ridden hard these last five-and-a-half years. He will certainly be missed, because there was such an intimacy between us and we shared so much together; laughter, misery, anger and fun.

 "What or whom could she be talking about?"
Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, played by the St. Petersburg Orchestra (once the Leningrad Symphony, conducted by one of my favorite people, EVER, Yuri Temirkanov*

To be honest, I'm surprised he lasted this long, with all the abuse and pounding and dropping and losing he forebore over the course of his (I think, I haven't checked his warranty) long life, but I do believe the average life-span is about two years and I, in my usual manner, not tending to coddle electronics, any more than I am myself – beyond routine maintenance care – have done more than my share of harm, although he has proven himself time and time again, that he is able to be resurrected from the dead. I am, after all a “Practitioner of the Dark Arts”. But my best and most clever fix-its from my bag of spel-er, tricks, turned out to be futile. Thus, an old friend must be laid to rest.

His partner lives on happily – Ms. Wireless Mouse, mainly because she has no moving parts – I can just hear my male readers “so like a woman”, but I do tend to anthropomorphize my computers and their peripherals and my viola. So, sue me. My viola is a male, and I did not choose the gender, nor his name. My 6-core AMD processor is not a female, although my dual-core is. I just know this, weird. The other “babies” in the house, are either trans-gender (because I run virtual machines of varying types), or haven't made enough of an impact on my life to regard them as anything other than, “them”. I just hope “they” don't rise up some day and take over the house.

Logitech Mouse. Plain and simple. I've seen these gaming mice that look like tanks, with 50 buttons on each side. Yikes!

Anyway, that was a huge and scary digression. My wireless keyboard died and no amount of changing batteries, cleaning, pairing, un-pairing would fix him. I'm really sorry to lose him, because he fit like a nicely well-worn glove. There are indentations in the keys from the millions of keystrokes I've bashed on each letter over the years, and an interesting thing; the keys on the left-hand side are more indented and beaten than those on the right, although I write with my right hand, I do nearly everything else with my left. My mom was left-handed, and confusion reigned when it came to using tools as simple as scissors in our house, because she was militantly left-handed. Her teachers tried to force her to use her right-hand and she quit talking for 3 weeks.

So, when they gave up on that and she resumed using her left-hand, and as an adult, she ordered every version of right-handed anything, in the left-handed version, and just threw it in with the rest of the utensils. It gave my Daddy fits, but I adjusted and am perfectly comfortable with either/or.                                            

This pretty much just led to twice as much junk in the junk drawer, and if I were in a hurry, a box-cutter would usually do the trick. I think they work in both hands.

It doesn't matter which hand I write with now, anyway because with my essential tremor, either hand is illegible. I seldom hand-write anything but my name; it's that bad. But again, I'm running up a different alley, than from where I started.

You can see the indentations and how the letters have been rubbed off on some keys. I'm willing to bet there are many of you out there, who have keyboards that look at LEAST this bad!

My left hand is the hand that holds some power for playing the viola, and it's an odd kind of power. It has to be done delicately, with the fingers barely above the string. As you read the notes, the corresponding finger should just kiss the string in fast passage work, while you coordinate it with the bow-arm.

What non-string players don't understand is the bow-arm is the hardest thing to learn. There are times you have to exert raw power through the use of pronation – rotation of the wrist, the kind boxers use, to draw the sound from the string, but this all works in concert with the flexibility and balance of your fingers, the angle of your elbow, and the weight of your shoulder. If any one of these is not correct, you're not going to produce a very nice sound.

I figured since we're talking about violas, bows, left-hands and right-hands, you should see some. The viola is "Wolf" named by his luthier in Michigan, when he was appraised and insured. He was made by Guidantus Florenus and is an Italian Aristocrat, but a poor cousin of the Cremonese, as he is from Bologna. The bow is German and modern, a Grunke and weighs in at a hefty 74 grams, the heaviest viola bow available. It was made by an aircraft engineer, as many bows are, due to their wing-like structure. Built to be tough and durable, it is well-balanced and very responsive. The hands are mine. 

Same thing with the left hand. In slow passage work, this is when you want to lean into the string, and work up that nice vibrato, that can be increased or decreased at will to heighten or lessen the intensity of the passage you are playing. The “Vocalise” by Rachmaninoff is a wonderful exercise for this and for developing long, slow, robust bow movement, pressure and changes.

Anyway, enough yammering about playing Wolf. This is in homage to an old and dearly departed friend. Mr. keyboard. (I'm so ashamed I didn't name you... nah) You will be missed. I am keeping your husk around, much like a cryogenic-type thing, mebbe you'll just pop back into life. Or not. I guess I better take those fresh new batteries out of you and save them for a new, wireless keyboard, when I get the chance to buy one. In the meantime, I'll use this dumb, old corded one that has been lying around the house. I already hate it. Take care old friend. May your CTRL + ALT + DEL keys be ever useful wherever you are!
* During a rehearsal break at Meadow Brook, MI, Maestro Temirkanov, who has very little English and I had a "conversation" in my horrible Russian. He insisted that I was Polish. I explained that I was 100% Scottish and had never set foot in Poland. I did tell him however, that what he was probably hearing was my botched-up Spanish accent overlaid in my Russian. We had a good laugh over that. He was amazing to work with!

GOALS: Have written another section of “Nebraska Creepers” and am creeping ever-onward.
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