A month or so ago, while I was staying at Stephen and Shondra's, I broke out my cello. Tuned it up, surprised myself by still being able to do that much. Played a few songs. Determined that I'm at about a second- or third-year level. My fingers still know where first position is, and with only a little time they find second through fourth alright. I can't shift nearly fast enough to play anything for real, though.
I was never a very good cellist. I practiced (not nearly enough), I took lessons for many years, I played in orchestras and quartets, but I was missing something. Partly it was the practice. More of it was a lack of any kind of soul to my playing. I always secretly suspected that you could program a robot to play the cello as "musically" as my teachers were telling me to play it. Notes, dynamics, tempo, it's all reducable to digital eventually.
Point of the story: that night, in the middle of a Gavotte from Suzuki book 2 or 3, I shocked myself by actually playing the dynamics (volume changes) as written. Not because they were
written, but because I could tell, for the first time in my life, that that was how the piece was meant to sound. I'm no longer remotely in practice, and who knows if I'll have the time or inclination to play once I'm moved in, but I seem to have some sort of intuitive grasp on the nebulosities of music
now. I'm honestly not sure what to make of that.
I took a semester-long photography class in high school. It was easily the single coolest class I had. Playing around in the darkroom is its own reward. More than that, though, there was the sensation that I could draw a box around a scene and have it be Art, have it evoke an emotional response. I even shot a couple of pictures that succeeded in that goal.
But it's not something I've ever understood. I look at pictures other people have taken, and I catch my breath. They're just that damn good
. I know it's all in angle, and lighting, and subject matter, and focus, and frame, and I still have no comprehension of how they work.
Case in point: this photograph
. The post is worth reading, too, but the photo caught me for unrelated reasons. It's beautiful. The light, the positioning. I could take a thousand pictures and get that lucky once-- and maybe, maybe, recognise it and not throw the picture away with the other nine hundred ninety-nine. Technique, yes, but more importantly knowing how to apply it. Seeing the photograph that will be, and saying "This is good."
Words are easy. I know how to make them do what I want. I should; I've been busily surrounding myself with them from the time I was five.
Yet I can't explain it. I can't tell other people, "This is how to write." Words about words fail me, as do words about music, or photography.
Ultimately the world is analog, after all.