Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Boxed in

This box arrived in the mail for me, causing heart palpitations and a string of other overreactions.

What dark fate befell this innocent cardboard? Rottweilers? Locusts? Disgruntled postal employees? I will never know, but thankfully the box's contents were packed inside several trees worth of shredded newspaper and are fine. So now I'm out $205 bucks but -alleluia!- in possession of a refurbished instrument. I tried it out today and was quite frankly appalled by the difference.

See, I'd gotten used to it. I'd been avoiding sending the thing back to its maker for care for 6 years subsequent to an apocalyptic revoicing in 2002 that left the f limp and the high notes cloudy. I knew it was out of tune. I knew it was finicky. But I'd made adjustments. I'd done OK.

Then, during a workshop, a colleague picked up my instrument, played a few exploratory runs, and handed it back to me with a look of unadulterated horror. I knew it was time.

Now that I have it back (cleaned, revoiced, block adjusted, retuned, new bushing, new tenon), the scope of the contortions I'd been undergoing is becoming clear to me. I blow the g low (it was high), the f high (it was low). E-flat was high, b-flat was low (high) and high (low). The five top notes now sail forth before I'm ready, like greased pigs from a chute. Strange as it seems, I'm managing to play out of tune on a perfectly calibrated instrument.

It occurs to me that this is what it must be like to fall into a stable relationship after years of dysfunction. You've gotten used to adjusting, to twisting yourself in a hundred subtle ways. All of a sudden, everything falls into place, only you're still busy working yourself around bars and barriers that are no longer there.

I have restricted myself to exercises.

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