Monday, April 13, 2009


I don’t have a good sense of rhythm. That’s why I’m a poor musician, that and nerves. On the other hand, Jacob and Ariel have rhythm. Jake’s teachers usually assign him all kinds of fast syncopated music because he has nimble fingers and an “internal metronome.” (For the uninitiated, metronome is a device that makes “beeps” or “ticks” according to the rhythm of the music.)

This internal time keeper is not a gift they inherited from me—I run the treadmill and have for years because I don’t have the coordination and rhythm for aerobics. (I also do the treadmill because I can read my favorite detective novel/thrillers while I exercise—unless they fall into the washing machine. But that’s another story.) During Ariel’s violin lesson today, I discovered that this internal metronome is a scourge. Ariel and Jacob rely on their sense of music and don’t count. Both she and Jacob admit they rarely count, they just “feel” the music or hear it in their head and match it.

But, this doesn’t work for Ariel anymore—the third movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G won’t allow it. Her instructor told her, “Ariel, Mozart is among some of the most difficult violin music there is. You are not counting—you must be absolutely precise. You are just playing the long notes (a long note being an eighth or sixteenth note) and thinking that’s about right, and then moving to the next note.” Ariel smiles politely. Her instructor continues, “I know you are doing this; I used to do this too. You cannot respond to tempo—rhythm is a river.” This metaphor is lost on me, though I suppose there is some kind of organic theme.

Of course, after the first page, the tempo alters to something very fast, which causes her no problems at all—I think it’s all 32nd and 64th notes (also called hemidemisemiquavers, or in French quadruple-croche) or worse. As the lesson proceeds, he lectures Ariel on bowing, emphases, stylistics, ad nauseum. After the lesson, I said, “Are you okay?” Ariel answered, “Oh, yes, wasn’t it a wonderful lesson—he doesn’t let me get away with anything. He’s such a good teacher!”


  1. Mom, today, that was a good lesson. You should have been there two weeks ago when you were home on the phone with tech support; he was in a bad mood.

    I wasn't precisely trying to "get away with anything," and what I was trying to get away with I succeeded in: I got to play the music I wanted to!

    Actually, the second movement is worse than the third. Mostly just because the second movement is so boring!!! You know, I never even listened to the whole song on that CD he let me borrow...

    Hmm...his point with the river metaphor was that rythm is in constant motion. It's not like you're on a bus and need to get off at the right bus stop; you've actually got to walk yourself and pay attention to landmarks, etc. I'm mixing metaphors here, but you have to swim with the current--not just get swept away.

    Well, this has kind of turned into a tome of a comment--and on "boring stuff" about rythm too. Sorry. :)


  2. So a good teacher is classified by strictness? Are you "good teacher by being incredibly strict with your children's schoolwork?

  3. Rhythm is a river and your kids are drowning in it. :)