My cello and 'the wild joy of strumming'

My cello and 'the wild joy of strumming'

"Those who painfully and with bleeding feet have scaled the crags of mastery over musical instruments have yet their loss in this -- that the wild joy of strumming has become a vanished sense."

-- Kenneth Grahame (1959-1932) in "The Golden Age. A Harvesting"

Kenneth Grahame, whose biggest fame still comes from his book "The Wind in the Willows," is onto something in this contrast between "mastery" and "the wild joy of strumming."

I won't pretend to be a master of my cello, although I've lived with it since the last century was far from over and I can play some fairly Serious pieces on it.

Sometimes, when I'm reading one of Tchaikovsky's faster, tougher "Variations on a Rococo Theme" or listening to Dvorak's great concerto and trying to play along, it feels like my cello is the master.

But then come the nights when I just can't ignore my cello. It's been a long day, I don't want words (until diary time, anyway), and I want music.

That's when I want playing, not practicing. That's when Grahame's "wild joy of strumming" takes over.

(Is it a Freudian slip that I keep wanting to type "wild job" or not?)

It takes over after 9 p.m., when I start to get a bit nervous about bothering the neighbors in nearby apartments. (They don't get similarly nervous about bothering me with rock albums, but that seems to be beside my point.)

At any rate, when I just want to play and it's late, sometimes I'll play my cello pizzicato, plucking the strings without using the bow.

That's what I recognize about "the wild joy of strumming." A very quiet, pizzicato version of a hymn or even the most melancholy Tchaikovsky can take on a jaunty quality. Ha, neighbors! You didn't get to hear that, let alone have to!

I'll get my bow again soon enough when I have an earlier start, and I'll play long, soothing notes to (or is it until?) my heart's content.

But when I want a synonym for pizzicato, I think I'll call it a late-night strum.

 

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

 

Join in -- subscribe today! Just click the "Subscribe by e-mail" button and follow the prompts. I never send spam, and you may unsubscribe at any time.

Comments

Leave a comment
  • A piece with a lot of pluck. I wonder what to call it when you do the same on the piano.

    BTW, have you ever played in a string quartet? Debussy's or Ravel's, my favorites?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    "A piece with a lot of pluck. I wonder what to call it when you do the same on the piano."
    What about the harpsichord?

  • In reply to jack:

    Good one. That's what I get for leading with my chin.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yeah. Seriously!

  • In reply to jack:

    I think you missed the keys, too -- see reply to AW. (I don't usually reply to those replying to someone else, but I can't resist this!)

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    My preference (in that regard) is the autoharp.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Good questions and thoughts, as ever. I think that when you're plucking the piano, it's called missing the keys. As for string quartets, yes -- I used to spend the beginning of second semester of every year of high school on quartets and other small ensemble music. Our high school orchestra (first period, every day) broke up into small groups to concentrate on string ensembles for the state contest -- which, if photographic memory serves, was the first weekend of March. I didn't play any Debussy or Ravel, but with your recommendation, I'll look (or listen) into them. I could use some more Ravel, with the Winter Olympics bringing "Bolero" back to mind. Thank you.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Both have pizzicato passages.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yay! I definitely will look for them.

Leave a comment