He sits there thinking of all that has led to this moment. The long process of his personal development. His family history. Millennia of human history. Millions of years of human evolution. All the way back to amino acids growing self-conscious in boiling seas of ammonia. All the way back to stars forming, to the big bang. He washes his hands, sprays a little air-freshener around and
- Let’s try another opening paragraph.
You are here, right? All your life has led to this moment. And not just you; your parents, and their parents, all the way back to Elvis.
Kind of a downer, isn’t it? Evolution, schmevolution.
But there are things where you think, you think, wow.
I am referring, specifically but not exclusively, to solo cello music. Think of everything that has to come together for me to listen to Anner Bylsma playing Bach suites on a Stradivarius in my car on the way to work.
Anner Bylsma has to learn to play cello. Bach has to become a composer – someone has to teach him, and someone had to teach them, etc. Stradivari has to make a cello. It has to find its way to Bylsma. I have to somehow convince Bylsma to get into my car and play.
All these vectors converging at this point. All this human evolution leading to this sublime moment.
I hear Steven Isserlis is your man nowadays, for cello. My teacher neglected to let me know Isserlis was just in town recently, playing a couple concerts. He didn’t tell me when Jorane was here either. Jorane, no big deal, but Isserlis.
I’m thinking, what’s with the cellist names, anyway? Anner Bylsma, Steven Isserlis, Suren Bagratuni, Mily Balakirev, Pablo Casals, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky.
To name but a few.
Do you have to have a posh name to play the cello? Not that I aspire to be anything but a crappy amateur cello player, so it’s not like I’m crushed. Mig Living. Doesn’t have that cello sound. OTOH, would you buy a book by someone with that name? I would. If I went into a bookstore, and there’s a book by someone named Mig Living, I’d buy it. I’d be all, motherfucker, someone with my name published a book!
Actually, I’d probably leaf through it at the bookstore and think, dang, I could write better than that! I wouldn’t buy it because I’d be
Does that bug you, how often people mix up jealousy and envy? It does me, worse than people who use the word “irony” wrong, because I don’t always use it right either. You envy other people, you’re jealous of your own stuff, get that through your heads, people who use jealous and envious wrong.
Solo cello music is one experience that makes me think about all the lines of evolution and fate that led to the moment, a close second to that is watching Funniest Home Videos on TV. With the music, you have an artist mastering her instrument and the family and cultural history that led to that. You have the luthier angle. You have the composer angle. You have the cultural scene that enables them to play, and perhaps the technological angle if it’s a recording.
Here is this person playing, and no matter how great they are, they are standing on the shoulders of giants.
Usually, though, it’s more like the Funniest Home Video thing. Gamma and I were watching that on TV at her grandparents’ house recently. We were really howling. They used to show unexpurgated Tom and Jerry cartoons on TV when Beta was little, we used to howl like that. Gamma’s grandfather came downstairs to see who was howling, that’s how funny it was.
And I was thinking, this is another Anner Bylsma moment. Technology had to advance to the point that video/audio recording devices were easily portable. Economic development was necessary to reach the point that such devices became ubiquitous. Culturally, someone had to invent the birthday party, and the pi