Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Metronome

It's been almost two years since taking up the mandolin as my first instrument. From my Aikido and other experiences, I suspect I'm still one to three years out from "black belt" status--having the basics integrated and being prepared to really start learning. Like an Aikido mudansha, though, I'm competent enough to impress outsiders with by demonstrating a few favorited techniques--or, in this case, fiddle tunes.

... or is it that outsiders will sometimes be impressed when they stumble upon my practice?

In my case, it's admittedly both. Early on, a warm day, a portable instrument, and the natives growing weary of hearing scale exercises in any key were formula enough to take my practice to the patio and to the park. Eventually I took the few simple tunes I was studying with me and played them poorly--but I wasn't lynched, nor did I drive off any crowds, so I continued. Sometime later, I'd notice the occasional stranger tapping a hand or foot to the rhythm--and then cringe when I lost the beat or missed a note. Seeing their enjoyment encouraged appearing more often and studying more songs; seeing the effect of screw-ups spurred better practice; and, seeing that I could recover from those screw-ups and continue on may have sparked some improvisation.

The other night, I went to the local marketplace after work, had a meal, and started practicing my fiddle tunes just to pass the time. One time I looked up to see a pair of very young children dancing right in front of me. Later, some passing teens caught my attention with a "That's so cool!" their gaits set to the rhythm of the mandolin chop chords, Finally, a woman in her 80s or 90s, whom I noticed had been visibly taken by a run of a few Irish jigs, stopped by to thank me for the music.

Maybe I didn't notice the folks I drove off--who knows?

On different occasions I've gone out with the hope of finding connections and found none, or I've gone out with the intention to practice and been bothered by interruptions. Whatever the motivation and whatever the near-term result, the practice grows; or, maybe it's the practice that grows and takes me along for the ride--it's hard to say sometimes.

Regardless of whether I was practicing the mandolin or considering those questions, one thing is certain: I haven't been posting here. Truth be told, few if any seem to mind.

We'll see where it leads.