I've got a new hobby.
I fiddle with Kirsty.
No really, I do. We get out our instruments and...
Ok, I'll stop being smutty, especially given you knew it was nothing that interesting anyway.
It is interesting though, for me anyway, because I've done something I never thought I'd do. I've dusted off my violin, and every couple of weeks I go out and I play folk music.
And it's both utterly bizarre and utterly brilliant.
It's also both much, much easier than much of the music I've played before, and impossibly much harder.
There's no written music. They don't even call it music. Instead, very scathingly, they call it dots. We sit there, in someone's front room, or upstairs in a pub, and someone plays a tune, and then everyone else picks up their violins (which I am having to learn to call a fiddle, but it is, as I had to explain to a friend the other day, exactly the same instrument) and plays the same tune, while I struggle to work out what note they started on and maybe work it out by the time they've finished.
Eventually, someone says Who wants the dots? and I, sheepishly, stick up my hand and say Me!
I just wasn't taught that way. If you learnt music in school, or with a teacher at home, or whatever, you'll almost certainly have learned as I did. I was taught to read
music, and the music, like the text in literature, is the thing from which all else flows. A friend was recently telling me that she asked her daughter's piano teacher to teach her (the daughter) to play some tunes she already knew because she thought she'd enjoy it. He explained that he doesn't give his pupils pieces they know because then they play by ear, and don't learn to read the music.
This is the absolute opposite of how, I am discovering, folk music works. In classical, you play what you see; in folk, what you hear. So I find myself trying to
unlearn my years of training, and re-educate my ears so that I can reproduce what I hear
with my fingers.
But while sometimes that feels virtually impossible, parts of the folk are easier too. If the truth be told, I wasn't much of a classical violinist (and anyway I actually abandoned it and played viola from aged 15 to 24) but even allowing for that, and in my rusty state, the folk music (when I do get to see it) is technically easily playable, at least at the level I am at (there is some fiendishly difficult folk music out there, don't get me wrong - check out this from Fiddlers Bid at the Cambridge Folk Festival). That, though, isn't what makes it feel easy. That's the non-judgmentalism of it. Classical musicians are very snooty about folk, probably because the notes are, mostly, less technical, but for the rusty fiddler, the fact that if I get it right or I get it wrong no-one cares because we're all having too much fun just making the music is refreshing and welcoming and inspiring.
I loved playing classical music. I loved singing classical music (it's how I met B), and I'd love to do either or both again, but it's the folk that's getting my toes tapping on a Monday night.
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