The Violin Bell

He is a project engineer, solid, precise, past forty, dressed with simplicity, pleasant appearance, bearded, speaks with good rhythm, expressive vocality, he is telling me that he is looking for a bow, a good bow, but, well, not an excessively good bow, in short, he has recently bought a fairly good violin, he enrolled in a school in his city , not too far from where we are, and has recently begun to study, he does not play really, not yet, but he realized that the bow he uses now, well, it's fine, he has to perform the whim of the devil, but it doesn't really work ... do you have a bow not too much stuff for an artist, just for me beginner, and however not a pain like the one I have now?

It happened a few years ago, not even many, five, no, six years ago, his request did not surprise me too much, at me come established musicians, complete musicians engaged in the search for a satisfactory position, in career, in short, but also students who have to complete their studies and young students, and also people we can define, without offense,  mature, who at some point, after having dedicated most of their time and their lives to something else, stop saying: "one day ...".

While we converse, with delicacy, respect and approval, I can get him to tell a piece of his story, he is a reasonably successful professional, family, a daughter, he really likes the work he does and has been doing it willingly for about twenty years, he has always listened to music, in his memory, and the violin, well, the violin is in his mind since he was a child,  in his house no one played and the job of musician was not at all well seen, traditional family, serious and solid people, I mean, home with a little boy with a violin in his hand not even to talk about it ... good people, simple and without stars in their eyes, hard workers, shrewd and wise ants, orderly and quiet.

And he makes his way, a rather good high school, the politecnico, not really a walk, the student jobs, those who have all done to put two bucks in their pockets and not weigh too much on the not really flourishing coffers of the family, the violin could not fit, first the study, then the work, found almost immediately, then the family,  married a few years after graduation, of course the house, and then the daughter, and still the violin could not really fit ...

And then, a short time ago, he was finishing a project that had engaged him a lot, a complicated stuff, for a change, he would deliver the next day, keeping time to watch and check everything diligently, an afternoon like any other, like many other quiet past for years, here, he was listening again to a piece by Mozart, much loved, he got the silent click and there was nothing to do, anymore.

He had passed in front of the workshop of a discreet luthier for years, stopping sometimes to look at the woods, the exposed pieces, dusty showcase, well, when working the wood it seems difficult not to make dust, not really tidy, sometimes it was a violin, sometimes a viola, and the other day he had seen a beautiful violin, eh yes, it was really beautiful,  he had stayed at least five minutes to look at it, and then he had resumed walking, the road he had been doing for years, an old narrow alley in the old part of the city, with the rough sidewalks, the pavement in rounded stones, the scarce light that descends between the houses arranged on both sides, a continuous wall in which doors open,  windows, and shops... it is his city, the one where he was born, he did not have to go around the world like many of his colleagues, he knows it well, and he takes that road not because it is the shortest, but because he likes to pass through this piece of the city, just that alley.

There was nothing to do, he had to move, and move immediately, his violin, they were taking away his violin while he was there fiddling with the last specifications of the resistances of the circuit, and so he had to go out, just the time to put on his coat, and walk quickly, hoping that the luthier was there, they are strange people,  the labo is open and then you find the shop closed, for no reason, fast pace, the extra pounds make the breath to accelerate, it is full winter but he does not feel cold, here is the shop, there is light, maybe the liuther is inside, good,  the violin, my violin is there.

He shows it to me, it is of good craftmanship, I try some notes with one of my bows, yes, it is not bad at all, good purchase, Gabriel looks at me waiting for the response, but he already knows, what I feel he feels too, our good old mirror neurons, lightning fast, then it takes time to think what we have felt,  thought is slower... I think about what to give him, I think it is reasonable for him to say that he wants a studio bow, that I will try to please him, but that he will not be happy with a “studio bow”.

I give him back the violin, I give him the bow with which I just tried, I tell him to try it while I look for what he asked me, yes, there is a rather goodt bow that I finished restoring a short time ago, it is a fair bow that left me an excellent seventh-year student when he took one of my bows,  it looks good, decent, I tend it and I give it to him, Gabriel tries it, he seems satisfied.

Not even a glance at my bow, no hint, inside me I smile, I feel the battle he is fighting, silent and fierce, I remain quiet, while Gabriel tells me that it is just what he was looking for, I loosen the button, put the bow in its case, we chat a little more, and then Gabriel leaves.

After a few weeks he comes back, and asks me, with a glimpse of complicity, you knew, right? I pretend not to understand, I knew what? And he, laughing, transmitting to me a feeling of freedom, of a liberation finally conquered, eh you know, you knew that this bow is not bad, but that I would not have kept it, I can afford a better bow, even if I am only at the beginning of the study, even if my daughter, the sergeant major, allows me to play only at certain hours and in the farthest room,  even if I also use an electric violin, but for my violin, for little or nothing that I can play, I want that bow, do you still have it?

In those weeks some people had passed, even for the bows there are the seasons, but I was sure that by pure combination no one had taken Gabriel's bow, and in fact it takes me a minute to find it, it is a great bow, I remember and relive in a few moments everything I did to bring it into the world,  starting from a raw wand of a magnificent pernambuco, excellent sound transmission... too much for a beginner?

Who plays knows, knows the difference between studying with a good instrument and studying with a poor instrument, the desire to play compensates for the displeasure of having a bad instrument in your hands, but it is not true that you study and learn in the same way, that the result you get in the end is the same,  and, above all, that the quality of the time spent studying and learning is the same, they are pitiful lies, but lies.

Who plays knows, even if sometimes he does not know he knows, or if he does not use these words to describe it, that playing is not magic at all, it is not at all a distraction from life, they are not ephemeral acts of a privileged few, light way of spending time instead of dealing with really important things, playing an instrument,  any instrument, generating sounds that is generating music, is an indispensable vital act, as important and necessary and indispensable for the mind of those who play as it is to obtain uncontaminated food and shelter.

And also Gabriel who has recently started generating music, even Gabriel who sees his ten decades close, Gabriel also needs to align the worlds in his mind with the real world, to find and rediscover the wonderful connections between everything that happens in the internal world and in the external world, between what is before and what is after,  what is simultaneous and what alternates, what is close and what is distant, what is high and what is low, between what calms and what irritates, what is detached and what is bound, they are the connections that allow us to deal with the real world,  to make it good for us, the same connections that allow him to design and then build a printed circuit board on which diabolical gizmos are mounted that we then use to make the things we use every day work.

Aligning our worlds, looking for and finding evidence that we are functioning well, or at least quite well, is what we do in every moment of our lives, as we do what we do, whatever we are doing, even when it seems that we do absolutely nothing: it is not a choice, we do not decide it, we cannot not do it, we are built like this... with our eyes we can only see some effects of this incessant and wonderfully complex work, we do not know exactly why, why, just that afternoon, at dusk, just at that moment, not before and not after, Gabriel rushed to take his violin, just that violin and not another,  just from that luthier and not from another.

What does that "one day" transform in a "now", what is needed, to quote an old film, the legend of 1900, why at a certain moment, neither before nor after, the painting hanging for years falls and shatters on the ground, I could not really say: in my history many were those who came to me, advanced in years, with that cypher, for some time,  for a long time they were saying "one day I will start studying and playing the violin", and then, without warning, that "one day ..." has become "now".

So many of them devoted themselves to study, to exercise, with appreciable regularity, changing their daily times, making room and reserving time to learn, to practice, often arousing the opposition of those who had long been close to them, such as Gabriel's sergeant major daughter, without any pretension to approach the mastery of a Krylov, of a Yo Yo Ma,  but without giving up.

Now I tell myself that for all of us, music generators, the time of generating music comes when it comes, I started at five, not fifty, and it comes when we need something to help us align our worlds in the way that only generating music can do, and that's what we need,  it is this ancestral need that must find satisfaction, in this way we find what we need.

And so, between Gabriel and Krylov there is no real difference, both do the same thing, Gabriel and Krylov both need to use good tools, given the work they dedicate themselves to when generating music, knowing that the music that is generated is "only" a side effect, it is collateral beauty.

For us who listen, who use the music generated by others, who enjoy the side effect and collateral beauty for our own purposes, it is a different kettle of fish, we gladly go to hear Krylov, it does not occur to us to go and hear Gabriel ... of course, this is a totally different story.