Friday, December 19

my flute, the closet, and i

lyshaeskro:  Appreciating the gift that I have. Love being able to express myself this way.

I’ve been spending time in the walk-in-robe this week.

When I was a young musician, I selected the room with the most echoes and delighted in the sound of my playing which filled every nook and cranny. The reverberance of our wooden floored home covered my flaws, and even a cracked note sung out with beautiful deception.

My first flute lesson at the VCA was conducted in my teacher’s brick office. Not only was it carpeted, but he had added panels of foam and carpet to the walls to dull the sound. There was nowhere for the sound to bounce and rebound. When I played a note, it stopped dead at the end of my lip plate – even my best notes sounded woeful, brittle, and a far cry from the sonority I enjoyed at home. It was all cardboard and no angels, and that was a shock. I was and am terrified of flute lessons, and the combination of nerves and a damp room made for humbling times. Humbling and sometimes tearful times.

I began to realise that I would best improve my sound by playing in the rooms which showed every crack, waver, and weakness. I learnt that to sound beautiful in a concert space, there must be many ugly hours in a damp room smoothing out every angle of the note.

This is why I have selected the closet for my practice space. I have a tall stool in my cubby, and lean my back against the shelves of clothes with despicable flute posture. Technically there is no reason for me not to play in my wet lounge room, to indulge in the sound now that I am no longer playing seriously. But I am a creature of habit and conviction, and I don’t want the lies of my lounge.

Our dog Wolfgang is extraordinarily musical in the howling way, and perhaps we shouldn’t have named him after such a prolific composer. His over powering accompaniment to even my tone exercises is another motivation to hide amongst my clothes in the dingy wardrobe.

This week I pulled my pure silver flute from its case, and in my dead nook, played some cardboard notes. I’d been asked to play Christmas Carols in Sunday’s service, and this required my lip muscles to remember. I invariably choose Paganini’s 24 Caprices for practice, and long notes. On Thursday night I headed for the two hour rehearsal and blew out some Silent Night.

The muscles in my shoulders and neck began to ache early in the rehearsal. They only ever began to kick up a fuss when I got chronic fatigue syndrome. They ache right up into my head, and produce this dull endless headache on the right side. When I came home, I got my heat pack, and Ben gave me a tough massage, and applied Chinese Medicine heat patches. The next day, the pain is established and unrelenting. There will be more massages, and more heat patches, and then there will be the actual service which will flare up the discomfort even more. And all the while there is a never ending headache.

I look at my flute, and I hear my Paganini, and I want to play for hours. My love has not faded, it cannot fade.

Ten minutes is enough to set my muscles into pain. My love hasn’t faded, but my body has rejected this occupation. I feel deep emotions in my practice room, whenever I pick up my instrument, as I try to find the peace in my skills slipping away from me. As I try to understand the purpose that those years of practice played in my life.

I think about the idea that it isn’t so much a flute, but a life tool which taught me and developed me. It cannot be lost to me, when it shaped me. Perhaps it was the thing that taught me that slow, often depressing plodding is the only and best way forward. From dull repetition and dry days can come the most beautiful things.  

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