The nice thing about having a cornfield to walk in 20 minutes from my front door is that when I go out for an hour long walk, I feel like I’ve gone somewhere. The redwing blackbirds were out in force this morning, as were the frogs, croaking away in the rain-swollen pond that you can’t quite see for the trees at the bottom of the hollow.
I had a great lesson with my just-turned-eight-year-old student Superman. He’s really gotten into composition and he seems to have a talent and instinct for it, so our lessons are part violin, part compositions now. We’ve moved from writing single line melodies to writing violin duets. I assign him some of the parameters and let him choose the rest. His palette is limited by what he knows, but he has an interesting ear and definite ideas about what he likes and doesn’t like. Mostly he talks about some passages being more exciting than others. I’m trying to give him the vocabulary to explain what he hears. He’s learning more than he knows.
I love the bravado of 8. We were discussing what dynamics he wanted for his piece. At first he thought he might like it to fade out at the end, but then he changed his mind. “I think it should be loud because that way when I’m playing it in front of a lotta lot of people in a really big room, then they can hear the last note.” I could practically see the thought bubble over his head in which he is standing in the center of Soldier Field playing his violin.
I often introduce composition with my violin students at a point where they’re getting frustrated with the pressures of playing someone else’s notes and feeling like they’re not measuring up. Giving a kid the power to write her own notes is amazing. It’s a more effective and more fun way to teach music reading. But this kid seized on the activity from week one and won’t let go. And I’m happy to oblige. I’ve taken a lot of composition classes and private lessons, but I’ve never really tried teaching it before. Because it’s one on one, I’m letting him take the lead and I’m getting to try out some of my ideas. I’m picking assignments that relate to what we’re doing in our violin lessons in some way. It seems to be working. This kid is definitely hooked. “I just really would like my music to be in a book someday.” I suggested he could make his own. “That would be good,” he said, “but I’d really like it to be in a book like this,” here he picked up his book of violin music, “so everyone could play it.”
An now I’m dealing with my own wish, namely my wish to finish this chapter already. I’m cringing at the giant pile of books on the history of American feminism on my desk. This is not my favorite part of the dissertation. But it must be done.