“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.
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