daily kaddish: in which the musician responds to all this brilliance with a straightforward attempt to play the damned notes

I was all set to play a nice, meditative Kaddish this afternoon when technology decided to mess with me. It took me an hour of fiddling just to get the program to launch so I could record my dulcet tones for you. After all that, I was in no mood to be prayerful. But here it is, an obligation. The promise of daily, already vexing me. As it’s supposed to.

Damn ritual.

Whose idea was this, anyway?

But here it is, your fourth kaddish. I made no attempt to respond to Caprica and the Tzaddik.

(Someday perhaps you’ll enlighten me on this aleph-bet coding scheme, where Bobo is a tzaddik and you appear to be some kind of vav or lamed or mutant vav, and I’ve lost track of which letter Mrs Tzaddik gets to be, so I’m just going to nominate gimel).

Nope, I’m returning to my own snail-like musical agenda, and today’s goal is getting the notes to be well-behaved.

I’m still working on my plumbing problem: when do I dump the moisture that condenses in the pipes of my not-warm-enough horn? It’s a fall-winter challenge for brass players; when the room I’m playing in is so much cooler than body temperature, the temperature of my air and its moisture, the moisture condenses inside the walls of the horn. It gathers in puddles where the pipes make their U-turns, and I have to move those puddles to the nearest exits and hasten them out the door. If I don’t, my air agitates them, and the water droplets leap about, dancing in my sound column and making obnoxious, arhythmic popping sounds.

When it’s warmer, the temperature difference is smaller, the moisture condenses more slowly, the puddles stay put, and I can finish the page before I need to deal with them. Even the little things have their seasons.

But I think I’ve found the right place to do my plumbing—right before the short stopped horn passage. The pinched, brassy sound is enough of a distraction from the longer pause needed for water management, and getting things taken care of beforehand means I can slip seamlessly back into the open horn and the subsequent phrase echoing the theme’s first statement. Then I wind up for the big crescendo to the end—and, voilá, no popping this time on the high note!

Just some lingering clams. That’s what we call them, we hornists. “Clams.” The notes we miss, the notes we chip, the notes we land on sideways, the notes we hit but then fall back off, the notes we squeeze out with our teeth and then frack, the notes we frack, the spliades, the clinkers, the splats. It’s important to our egos that you recognize these are not wrong notes. They are notes that we reached for with clarity of intention and purity of spirit, but they didn’t respond in kind. They vex us, these clams. Treif beasts. Unfit.

About erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…
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2 Responses to daily kaddish: in which the musician responds to all this brilliance with a straightforward attempt to play the damned notes

  1. mira.amiras@me.com says:

    okay — this happened three times while reading about your plumbing problems above. I got bounced to another browser site advertising something called deepthroatlove. so now you’re going to tell me that has nothing to do with your playing, right? I mean, three times!

    this time, in hearing your kaddish, I longed for the recitation to ground me. I am so far away from music these days (from my years of self-imposed abstinence) that I found myself catching my breath at your breath — feeling that at any moment I might hear you speak to me with other than the horn.

    the horn itself is low enough, and deep enough to put chills down my spine — beautiful and haunting… until I fall off the path.

    the road is still unclear. I wander through the notes lost, with no idea (even after my daily listenings) of where you’re going next. I’m in a forest lost. It’s a beautiful forest, sure, but I get distracted by the tangle of the woods. I can’t find markers I recognize. I wander, likely passing the same trees again and again.

    Visions. I’m a vision whore, a vision junkie. This is twice now you’ve given me visions.

    And this is me asking you for words to ground me — not yours, not your voice. We have a deal on this. But perhaps, as you said, Reb Deb’s incantation… yitgadal ve-yitkadash… the hypnotic chanting — does it go with this music? or is the music a meditation on the feeling of kaddish, and not the intonement?

    and if I hear her kaddish in the mix, will it ground me so thoroughly in the familiar that the visions disappear? that I no longer hear the horn, hear your breath, the dog, the cat, the plumbing, the wind… the imprinting turns the corner back to the familiar. oh, this kaddish, this one I know.

    or, instead, shall I wander through the forest forty days, a hundred forty days, two hundred, three — and learn the forest in its own language — a warbling of breath and wind?

  2. Pingback: on ritual's tyrannies and blessings

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