The violoncellist, by Ivan Meštrović
Many years ago, I worked as an intern in a radio station making interviews and reporting about culture. I had to fill a space of three minutes with news about the music events in the city. One day I had prepared an interview with the conductor of an orchestra who was going to perform that evening the Brahms Symphony Number 3. But he failed me at the last moment. I was in a pickle! I had three minutes empty to fill with whatever.
I decided to search in the archive of the radio station the record of the Symphony and talk a little about it and about the orchestra, but the archive was very messy. Plus I have a kind of dyslexia, so instead of looking for the box with the label Brahms Symphony number 3, I was looking desperately for the label Symphony number 1.
The clock was ticking And I heard from the archive my boss on air saying: “…and in a few seconds our contributor Olga will tell us the lasts news about culture in our city”.
So I prayed with all my strength: dear God let me find the record! …And suddenly I saw it! The box with the label I was looking for: the Symphony Number 1.
I took it and went running to the studio, gave it to the technician and sit down next to my boss, ready to talk at the microphone. When I checked to my notes, I realized in dismay my mistake. But just then, the technician put on the record and the music that sounded was the Symphony number 3 . The one I needed. The record was inside the wrong box! . I had would never found it if I hadn’t made that mistake with the numbers.
I really think my prayers were heard that day.
I used to follow the concerts backstage, because I had to work: report about the event and interview the artists. Once there was a concert by a duo of Cello and Contrabass.
The virtuosi musicians were Italians. The cello player was a short and vivacious man, with long curly grey hair and the Contrabass player was a silent tall and thin guy, with short black hair and somehow disturbing yellow eyes as I’ve never seen in my life.
The cello player was trying to give me an insight on how hard was the life of the artists: Many hours of practice, constant travels, no time for the family… Untill he made a dramatic move and took the left hand of his companion and extended also his own hands to show me the cracks and calluses in their fingers caused by the strings of their instruments. Impressive. I hadn’t doubt he was telling the truth, but his last gesture convinced me.
Since we don’t have the daily prompt I have turned back for inspiration in the Jennifer Nichole Wells’ Topic Generator at http://topicgenerator.wordpress.com It provides you a random noun combined with a random adjective as a headline for your blog post.
Today it gave me the combination “Homely Tradition”
The first thing it came to my mind was music.
When we were kids my dad used to wake us up in feast days and special occasions with music. He would turned on the record player and surprised us with some joyful classic.
We would jumped up from bed and would run to the living room knowing that something special was waiting for us. A little gift, a funny poem, and that was only the beginning of a wonderful day in wich wouldn’t fail a delicious cake baked by mom.
So, from our childhood we have the music associated to joy and nice family life, because we also sang together a lot. Nowadays in the era of the headphones the music experience has become more individualistic (apart from the concerts and the street musicians). I
miss the times when we listened to the music together. With the social networks one can easily establish relationships with distant and unknown people and have problems to interact with real people in the neighbourhood. That happens to me above all with youngsters. I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old.
My father loved music and every time we were all together, he encouraged us to sing. My sister Elica used to play the piano or the guitar and we could spend hours after dinner merrily singing all kind of songs.
Dad had a nice tenor voice and a some repertoire of love songs he always sang to my mom. And she used to smile and blush. They had been married for decades, but they seemed like a boyfriend and his girlfriend. Some were ancient Croatian songs, Other were Italian songs he learned when he spent some years exiled in Italy after the war, when he was alone estranged from his family.
I have a particular memory of one of these Italian songs: “Non ti Scordar di me” (Don’t you forget about me).
When Dad was were sick in the hospital, one morning they were broadcasting on the tv one of the concerts of the three tenors, and Pavarotti began to sing that song. My dad almost couldn’t move and speak at the time, but when he heard the melody he said: I know this song. And began to sing with his cracked voice to me, “Don’t you forget about me, My life is united to you, …
It was the las song he sang. and almost the last words he said to me. He passed away only a few days after that.
Back to our early years, when we were all young and happy, we’ve enjoyed a lot singing polyphonic songs. Our familiar choir grown when Elica got married and Jim with his beautiful baritone voice joined us with his new repertoire of American songs. There was a Spanish folk song, a simple melody with a silly lyrics but very suitable to sing with multiple voices we enjoyed a lot. “My grandma’s pot” was usually the end of those wonderful Family get together, plenty of music an laughters.
Once upon a time, long ago, a great Eastern Berlin Orchestra came to town. I was a young reporter and my boss sent me to interview the conductor who was a Yugoslavian. It was at the beginning of the eighties. Then, Eastern Germany endured one of the harshest dictatorial communist regimes in Europe.
When I arrived to the theatre for the interview I found the back door locked, against the basic rules of safety. Some of the members of the Philharmonic Association who had organised the event were there puzzled and furious, trying to get in to greet the artists. There was no way. We knocked at the door and heard voices at the other side, but there was no answer to our calls. We had to go to the main door where de concert goers were entering the building, and made our way to the backstage area to see what was happening.
Four Party commissaries were in control of everything and they had given the order to lock all the doors. The orchestra conductor, who only a few minutes before had been all smiles for me and had told me to come to have our interview in his dressing room before the concert, suddenly turned sullen and uncooperative. All around us was silent. The musicians were not talking between them as is usual before going out to the stage. You could only hear some hurried whisper now and then.
Finally, they took their places on the stage, the audience clapped,and the concert began. In a moment, all those mysterious men and women get transformed by the music. Their faces relaxed, reflecting the emotions of the beautiful melodies and powerful rhythms emerging from the instruments they were playing. Tchaikovsky.
But when the magic of the music finished, and I came back to the backstage area their expressions had changed. The sight was pretty sad. The musicians, with their elegant, black suits covered by old ,grey raincoats, were waiting in line in front of the back door where the commissaries were waiting with a list. No one spoke. Everyone looked down. One commissary opened the door and made them pass one by one while other checked the list and a third one controlled how they were boarding an old bus.
We only discovered the secret of all that tension when they all were gone: That night three musicians had deserted. They took advantage of the tour to flee from their country and ask for asylum. The commissaries locked the theatre to avoid more desertions and control better the rest of the musicians.
Tich used to go out of his nest every day to explore the world and get some food for hungry family. He worked hard to find worms here and there and fly back home on the lush tree next to the river. Three chicks with their peaks open were waiting for him. Always asking for more. Always the same routine. Go out, hunt, find worms and come back as soon as possible. And he was always dreaming on flying far away and sing like a canary. But he was a common wild bird, with a lot of responsibilities. A wife and three chicks! He couldn’t wait for the moment the chicks would learn how to fly.
Meanwhile, Tich was leaving the nest every day to do his duties, not after performing stunts for the delight of his children while singing, with his cracked voice, wonderful melodies he had learnt when he had approached the city, where the canaries lived. The chicks chirped amazed. Daddy, Daddy, do it again! And then, Tich would make for them an elegant loop or a frightening free drop. The kids were proud of their father. His wife was a little ashamed because there was a lot of buzz around about him and begged him to stop being so strange and behave like an average bird.
All the other birds of the tree thought Tich was mad. All that strange singing, his dangerous flights… They thought he was making a fool of himself and that he was setting a bad example for the youngsters.
But Tich enjoyed his way of life, and he began to go farther and farther looking for food. One day he arrived to the big park in the city. There were a lot of worms because the gardeners had changed all the flower beds for the summer and the soil was fresh and moist. There was an open space with a big statue in the middle. An ideal place to practice his flight stunts.
That day he found a lot of humans seated around the monument. Some of them had strange wooden and metal objects in their hands. And then he heard it. Symphonic music. He didn’t know, but the monument represented a famous tenor from the XIX century. It was his anniversary and his fans celebrated it with a little open air concert. Some musicians and singers were performing fragments of the opera “The Pearl Fishers” by Georges Bizet. Tich flew to the top of the statue and listened mesmerised by the new sounds, eager to learn the new melodies. A man was singing in french:
I think I still hear,
hidden under palm trees,
her voice soft and sound
like a song of wood pigeons…
Tich couldn’t understand the words, but he felt beauty and love. He didn’t know the humans envied the bird’s voices. He certainly liked that human music. And began to sing out of happiness. He tried the new melody and oh wonder! His voice was not cracked any more. His trill flowed clear, musical and full of wonderful harmonies.
Since then, Tich, the crazy, wild bird from the tree by the river, flew every day to the park, and sang the romantic song he learned on that very spot. Humans taking a walk used to stop to listen to him.
This is not a common bird, they thought, and tried to spot him. They were looking for some rare creature and didn’t pay attention on him, perched in a branch nearby.
He looked very common. But he wasn’t. He had become a great singer. Like the man in the statue.
Describe your personal style, however you’d like to interpret that — your clothing style, your communication style, your hair style, your eating style, anything.
Blue. The color of my dad’s eyes. So bright and clear, like a reflect of the Adriatic sea which had seen him born. I love the color of the sky and the Mediterranean sea when its sunny. Being surrounded in blue makes me feel good. I love to wear blue clothes. they don’t match with my brown eyes, but doesn’t matter. I love listen blues when I’m not in a mood for rock or classic music. I often feel blue. So I guess My style is blue.
You have been named supreme ruler of the universe. Your first order of business is creating and instituting a holiday or festival in your honor. What day of the year is your holiday? What special events will take place? Describe YOU DAY in as great a detail as you can muster: the special foods we’ll consume, the decorations we’ll use…everything.
I don’t want to be the ruler of the universe, nor create a holiday in my honour. I have enough with my home and my birthday. Now I’m hearing bells from the gothic churches chiming because is Saturday and they are calling for the vespers, a folk marching band, and rock electric guitars. What a mix!. All is going on in the streets around my house situated in the heart of the old city of Pamplona. A big group of friends are having fun in my street with folk music, eating and drinking. Street musicians are doing noisy sound checks with their electric guitars in the square. So we have noise guaranteed for all the evening. There are street performers all around. In two weeks we will be immersed in our big annual festival with thousands of visitors from all around the world. What more can I ask? Maybe some peace?
If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?
A year ago I answered to this prompt. I would like to be fluent in the languages I already can speak. I prefer to wake up tomorrow and find out that I have again the possibility to travel and practice my language skills. I’d go to Croatia and began to talk Croatian with my extended family. It have been so long since I’ve seen them!. I would like to stay with them for a while, to catch up with all what have happened since I stopped travelling. After that, maybe I would take a plane and cross the Ocean to meet again my friends in the States and practice my English. I’m longing to see once more New York, San Francisco, Boston, St. Louis and Maine among other places. Back in Europe I could make short trips to France and Italy to practice my French and Italian. I have no friends over there but I can find new ones. So maybe my new language would be German to make some trips to Germany, Switzerland and Austria . In my earlier post I also concluded choosing German as my new language to understand the vocal music of Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, without translation. This time I was looking for something different to write but the conclusion was the same. Same prompt. Same answer.
If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?
The sound effect of a circus. With a happy and confident music of a marching band for the opening. Then, silence. A drum roll, warning that something dangerous is going to happen… and the cymbal crash. Success. An ovation. The band plays music again. Silence. Drum roll. Cymbal crash. Ovation, and so on.
Silence. The sound of the drums fills everything… But there is not Ciymbal crash, but a sound effect of a fall and a violent collision with the floor. A final dreadful silence.
I was going to write “The end”, but I’m alive, and I guess I can get up and continue the soundtrack with a quiet, brief, instrumental music, expressing hope.
From your musical tastes to your political views, were you ever way ahead of the rest of us, adopting the new and the emerging before everyone else?
If I had money and the will to spend it, I would buy the newest in digital technology. I love playing with a brand new computer, smart phone, tablet, camera, or any other gadget. Above all the more useful ones. I enjoy discovering its possibilities, new features and the latest programs. But, because that’s not possible, by now, I’m content with reading tech news and updating my relatively “old” gadgets.
I’ve never pretended to live ahead of everyone. I just try to do the things I like. I have my own ideas that don’t coincide with any particular political party.
I have my particular preferences in fashion, not necessarily coincident with what the industry launch each season. I’m not a fashion slave. I don’t need to renew my closet so often. I have to save money and I have found long ago my style, which is nothing complicated and fairly comfortable.
I like classic music, including the authors of the early XX Century. I’m open to newest tendencies. In modern music I’m afraid I get stuck in the eighties, but I like to listen to the new hits providing they are not too noisy or in bad taste.
If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met, what would it be? What would the right answer be?
“Have you ever been in Croatia? If the answer is “yes and I liked it very much”, I don’t know if we would become friends but I know we would have something to talk about for a while.
The same would happen with other questions to find out if the other person coincides with some of my interests: Animals, Music, the Sea, the Nature… It would be a good way to establish a conversation.
“I’m bankrupted. Would you like to have some coffee and talk with me?” If the answer is yes and the person is sober it would be a good sign. But I don’t know what would happen. Probably would end badly. The premise is a lie and I should explain that I lied because all was a kind of litmus test. Not the best way to start a friendship.
I don’t believe in friendship with a total stranger on a one question basis. I prefer the traditional way to make friends.
Do movies, songs, or other forms of artistic expression easily make you cry? Tell us about a recent tear-jerking experience!
Music moves me to tears. I can’t listen to the Mozart’s Requiem above all its “Lacrimosa”, without crying. Maybe because it’s a prayer for the dead and reminds me to all my departed loved ones with a sense of hope and sweetness, far from any bitterness.
Other masterpieces have had the same effect on me. Above all vocal music. Great singers made moved me to tears more than once.
Ugly, strident, noisy “music” makes me cry, but out of desperation.
I’m suffering from a depression, so I can cry easily. But I remember a film I had to stop watching because I was crying so much it was impossible to go further: Marvin’s Room. Is the story of a woman who is taking care of his father, incapacitated and bed-ridden because of a stroke. After years of caring for him she discovers she’s got leukemia and she has to convince her uncooperative sister to help. I was then taking care of my father and the situations depicted in the movie so vividly were too close to home, except that I was not sick as the main character and my sisters are very close and helpful.
Anyway. I was depressed, the story took me by surprise and I couldn’t stand it.
After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?
When I’m exhausted I can’t even think on what to do. I’d rather do nothing. The “dolce far niente” of the italians is the best way to rest. Behold the wonders of the delicious idleness!. If only one could lazily let pass the time occupied in contemplate the landscape, feel the breeze, take a nap…
Anyway, the “dolce far niente” (sweet doing nothing) is regrettable not always possible.
When I lived close to the Ocean the answer was easy: go to take a walk to the beach. I used to return home refreshed. Now I can’t do it. So I have to find other ways to rest.
If I’m stressed I like to go swimming. The exercise helps me to unwind.
If I’m just tired, I like listening to good music while I’m practicing some of my hobbies like painting or embroidery.
If I’m too tired, the “dolce far niente” would do it.
Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen yet, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen.
I guess I was a fairly pretty girl, excited because I just had started Journalism at the University. I was making new friends, learning new things. I was crazy about music, sports and writing poetry. I wasn’t too popular because I was shy, but I was full of energy and optimism. Life was wonderful.
In order to pay my tuition I had found a job as a music teacher for some little kids and as a telephonist in a residence. I did what I could. The kids drove me crazy and with the phones I sometimes made embarrassing mistakes. But I survived and I kept the jobs and earned the money I needed.
Somehow I found free time to rehearse and sing in a chamber choir specialised in renaissance music, and even to practice and play basketball. Our team ended second in the University championship.
I’ve read now the list of things I did that year and I can’t believe it, but it’s absolutely true. I guess when you’re young and healthy, time is so elastic as your body and when you grow older, time becomes more rigid as your arms and legs do.
I’m sure I did a lot of stupid things but after so many years I only remember all the fun.
Do you love to dance, sing, write, sculpt, paint, or debate? What’s your favorite way to express yourself, creatively?
I Like painting miniatures using watercolours, but My results are pretty bad, as you can see by the shameless magnified picture shown above. I like to play with vivid colours but I don’t think I’m too creative in my painting. It’s just a pastime that helps me forget my problems while I’m busy with my brushes. I usually use my masterpieces as postcards or as greeting cards so I don’t keep them. My friends are very good and polite. All said they liked my cards. Maybe they didn’t know they were encouraging me to keep painting.
Music helps me express myself. I sang in a chamber choir for a while. It was a wonderful experience. I also played the piano.
My creativity flows mostly through writing. Maybe my readers will be surprised by this statement. Because my posts are so short and simple. It wouldn’t a surprise for them to know that English is not my first Language. Actually is my fourth. My creative writing has been made mostly in Spanish except for a single poem in Croatian. And that’s all.
Daily Prompt: Express Yourself!.
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It makes me crazy when people wear their shoes in my house. What habit/act drives you crazy? How do you prevent it from happening?
I hate the habit of some Spanish TV anchors who while commenting on a live transmission of a solemn ceremony of any sort, begin to talk about obvious things just when the music starts, so you cannot enjoy the music part of the ceremony which is usually like a real concert, beautifully performed live. There is no respect for the music. You can see the images of the orchestra and choir and the soloists performing and hear something in the background, but you are forced to listen at the loud uninteresting comments, made only to fill with empty words the time devoted to the music. Annoying. And then, when the music finish they usually stop talking. There is no way to fix this problem. It’s a habit too established. They consider the music part of a ceremony as a parenthesis available to talk because there is no “action”, not as a constitutive part of the event.
I hate also when people do the same and start talking or making noises during a concert or a solemn ceremony You are trying to follow. I hate when in a concert hall somebody tries to unwrap a candy very slowly, supposedly to stop an access of cough, and annoys you both with the cough and with the never ending noise of the plastic wrap. Oh my!. What a desperation! You can stare in disapproval at the perpetrator, but there is on use. He or she would dissimulate, maybe stop the noise for a moment, only to restart the slow motion noisy unwrapping of the candy when you’re not watching.
There are other habits that drives me crazy but I was in a music state of mind today.
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Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends. If you’ve never been in a band, imagine you’re forming a band with some good friends. What instrument do you play in the band and why? What sort of music will you play?
One: When I was studying at the University I played the drums in a band with my friends. I guess I ended playing the drums because I had a good sense of rhythm, although I preferred to sing. We had a lot of fun rehearsing and performing. Of course we had problems with our neighbours precisely because of my drums. People complained because of the noise. They didn’t appreciate our art skills. For a while we rehearsed in a local situated in a student’s dorm, but some students complained too. They said they couldn’t study with all that noise. But when there was a party they called us to play for free. We played pop, some rock and folk music, whatever our public would ask for. Nothing too complicated. We didn’t compose original songs. We were just a bunch of friends having fun entertaining other friends in their parties.
I didn’t like so much playing the drums, because I had to be so focused on the rhythm I never learned properly the lyrics. So I never fulfilled my dream to sing that funny songs we rehearsed.
Two: Well, I sang in a choir but very different kind of music. Renaissance. It was a small chamber choir of 16 voices. Our conductor was a baritone named Jose Luis Ochoa de Olza. He had a vast repertoire of Italian English and Spanish composers. He also had a wonderful collection of antique musical instruments. We enjoyed making music together and learning from his vast knowledge. We performed in dozens of concerts and in liturgical ceremonies, and we traveled. It was really great.
I left the choir when I began to work as a full time reporter. There were no schedules in my new job. No way to predict if I would be available for a rehearsal or for a concert. So my days as a singer finished soon.
Three: Later on I had again the opportunity to make music with my friends. I went to the US to work for two years. I made some friends in San Francisco who were crazy for musicals and knew how to sing them beautifully. I played the piano for them and they sang and danced. We had a wonderful time.
Daily Prompt: We Got the Beat.
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Describe what it feels like to hear a beautiful piece of music or see a stunning piece of art.
Nesun dorma! Nesun dorma!
No-one sleeps!, but not because of the stars trembling with love, but because of the beauty of the Sounds of Music flowing like an Ol’ Man River depicting that feeling and thousands more in a magic string you’ll hope never ends and then finishes so soon.
No-one sleeps….no-one sleeps,
Even you, O Princess,
in your cold room,
Watch the stars
which tremble with love
But my secret is locked within me,
no-one shall know my name!
No, no, I shall say it on your mouth
when the light breaks!
And my kiss will break the silence
that makes you mine!
(No-one shall know his name,
and we, alas, shall die!)
Vanish, o night!
Set, ye stars!
At dawn I shall win!
Daily Prompt: Eye of the Beholder.
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Tell us about a talent you’d love to have… but don’t.
I would like to have a good voice to sing opera and musicals and spend my life performing the great music I adore. Be Cenerentola, Carmen, Rossina, Marguerite, Mignon or the great musical female characters on stage… But I have a little weak voice and I have never been selected to sing a solo in my life. Better that way because I also have stage panic. So, a complete disaster.
I have a friend who is now an opera singer, a baritone. We were together in the University choir. We had the same opportunities but he had the voice and the talent and I didn’t. And now his whole life is devoted to his music. That would be my impossible dream.
In real life, with my weak voice I can always
Sing a song.
Sing out loud, sing out strong.
Sing of good things, not bad.
Sing of happy, not sad.
Sing a song.
Make it simple to last your whole life long.
Don´t worry that it´s not good enough for anyone else to hear.
Sing a song.
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