Classical music concerts are one of my favorite places to think. It sounds weird, but classical music provides just enough stimulation to keep me from becoming distracted, but not enough stimulation to impact my thinking processes. I love being able to drift from absorbing and enjoying the music to going deep in thought without really even noticing.
My violin teacher (who's great, by the way, in case you're in SF and want to learn Violin) brought me to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music last week and told me that they had free concerts by the students all the time. Perfect. Despite really enjoying the music, I'm way too ignorant to be able to tell the difference between a good student and a professional symphony player, so these shows are really a great opportunity.
On Monday I went to Matthew Linaman's (http://www.youtube.com/user/cellolinaman) cello recital at the conservatory. Have you ever noticed that people often won't take front row seats if they haven't paid for a ticket? I've noticed this at a lot of talks and smaller concerts like this. Anyway, the point is that I got to sit in the very middle of the front, and this was a small enough hall that this seat was the best seat. Most of the front row seats remained empty.
Beyond his playing (which was fantastic, by the way), I kept thinking about his Cello, Cellos in general, and stringed instruments in general. Cellos last. They get better. The craftsmanship on a good Cello, probably even an okay cello, is remarkable. I have a violin that my sister gave me, and I find myself marveling at the curves of the wood, the perfect symmetry, and the invisible joints holding it all together. It's amazing, really.
I also thought about the music. Bach wrote the Cello Suite that Matthew played almost three hundred years ago. He could never imagine that some blogger in a motorcycle jacket would be listening to someone play his music on a beautiful stage in downtown San Francisco. If he could see this scene, how proud would he be?
The longevity that both the instrument and the music composed for it have is interesting. It made me think about what we produce today, and whether or not any of it has that sort of longevity. It seems like most things we create now are ephemeral. My laptop is an amazing achievement of technology and design, but it will be useless in a few years. My motorcycle is beautiful and fast, but in a few hundred years it will probably be slow and ugly. Even the most amazing things I have today have an expiration date.
I thought about my books. My pickup book won't be relevant in a hundred years. Customs change. My traveling book will be obsolete. Living in an RV will probably be a thing of the past, too.
Most of the music that we create now will be dated, I think. It might be listened to for novelty, but I don't think it will have the sticking power that classical music has. Maybe I'm wrong, but as much as I love Rick Ross, I doubt anyone will listen to him in a hundred years.
What then, I wondered, would actually survive a few hundred years? Is there anything?
I followed various lines of thought, every time coming to the conclusion that, no, whatever I was thinking about would probably have disappeared within a few hundred years. Almost ready to concede that we were creating disposable culture, I finally came up with something that we create now that will remain hundreds of years in the future.
We're now a society of ideas. Ideas that we create now will spread through future generations and make it to the generations of our great great great great great grandchildren. They won't be exactly the same as they are now, of course, but neither is music or the instruments it's played on. A Stradivarius violin gets better in time (because of the varnish used, some scientists think), but it might also get knicked and scratched, too. So it's better and it's worse. Mostly better. I think ideas will transfer in that same way, as they play a game of telephone through the generations.
Ideas have alway transferred through time, of course, but things are different now. The internet has created a way to spread ideas virally, which is pretty much unprecedented. Anyone, not just someone with distribution, can be a thinker. We have permanent storage now with perfect fidelity, ensuring that any idea worth remembering will be remembered.
What does this all mean in practical terms? I think that it means that if you want to contribute to society in a permanent way, to leave your mark, even if no one actually knows your're the one who left it, you have to think and share your thoughts. Blogs are a pretty good way to do that.
Photo is some friends on an awesome van roofdeck.
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I'm not enough of a productivity champion that I can work for 14 hours straight with no breaks at all. Sometimes I"ll find myself pressed up against some extra tricky problem, and even after taking shots at it from various angles, I can't quite push through. In times like those, it helps to take a break for a few minutes, and then try again.
Old habits die hard. I used to be obsessed with getting deals on stuff. I still am a little bit. One of the best resources for deals is Fatwallet.com, which I still check once every three or four months, down from several times a day. The last time I checked, four months ago or so, I saw a violin for $50. Shipped. Including a bow, extra strings, rosin, and a case.
I bought it, thinking that if I loved playing the violin, I could give that one away and buy a good one, and if not, I could give it away and not buy a good one. Either way, fifty bucks to see if I was interested in playing the violin seemed like a good idea. I should also add that I had been reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes, and Sherlock plays the violin when he's thinking. I was probably influenced by that.
It turned out that I loved playing the violin. Not loved as in drop-everything-and-train-for-the-symphony, but taking a few minutes to bang out twinkle twinkle little star was a good way to relax my mind for a minute before getting back to the task at hand. As I worked, I would leave the violin sitting on my bed. Whenever I needed a break, I'd get up and play for a couple minutes.
(Photos by Lullette M.)
As many of you know, I am , in my heart and soul, a piano player. It's been as natural to me as breathing, eating bacon, flexing my calf muscles, and being hopelessly left-handed. I feel most at home when I sit at a piano. As Tom Cruise might say, it completes me.
One thing about myself that I've come to understand is that I am often not content with the status quo. I've always been one to learn something new and take on different challenges. Maybe it's just my nature or perhaps I am a glutton for punishment. Either way, this is who I am, and thus, so be it.
For several years now, I've been thinking a lot about cellos. I love the rich tones and textures they create. It is an instrument capable of creating such amazing beauty. Last October, I took on a very exciting and new challenge. I rented a cello and started taking weekly lessons.