Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why build violins (IV)

I’ll start with this. It’s timely, as the obit for the woman in the photo was published today, and there is a connection with building violins.

I don’t know Doc well enough to give you the whole story, but he seems like a guy who has put in some effort and had some luck. Life has rewarded him with enough happiness that he can share it with others. Doc’s a pretty good amateur violinist, and grew up around violins and violin makers. At a point in their careers where they could make such investments, Doc and his friend David Fulton purchased some fine violins. Doc ended up with a very good Stradivarius (the Leonore Jackson) and a Guraneri Del Gesu and a case full of great bows.

If you had a garage with a Rolls Royce and a Lamborghini in it, what would compel you to try to make your own car from scratch? There is no good reason. So, you’d have to have a bad reason. From eating fifty hard-boiled eggs to riding down a steep hill in a shopping cart, there is no worse reason to do anything than a dare (well, there’s one worse reason, but we’ll get to that). What I gather is that, basically, Doc’s violin-building friends challenged him to build a fiddle. So he did. It’s really good and he’s justifiably proud of it. He’s honest about how it was made: “Come to this workshop, do exactly every single thing that Michael Darnton tells you to do, and you will end up with this.” Now Doc is working on his second violin. He’s still learning how to do it, functioning somewhat more on his own and less as a strictly controlled automaton, and enjoying the heck out of it.

I mentioned that there is a worse reason than a dare to do something foolish, and that’s the reason P.T. is building a violin. P.T. is a slightly older friend of Doc’s. They live near each other, go on hikes together and such. Before he retired he worked as a teacher of visual arts in many media—wood, animation, you name it. He’s good with his hands. His buddy, Doc, was building a violin, so for the worst of reasons, peer pressure, P.T. began building a violin. Mind you, P.T. had never played violin and didn’t know much about violins, and it’s crazily difficult to build anything if you don’t have clear picture of what you’re aiming for. So, it has come along slowly with a few goofs along the way, but it’s very nearly done. Of course, P.T. is already thinking about the next one. (Come to think of it, between a peer pressure and a dare there’s not much difference—it’s really only whether or not you have company as you go jumping off the bridge.)

Why the epic Times Square VJ-Day smooch? P.T. was there, on leave from his hospital ship which was berthed in New York getting fitted to go out to the Pacific Theater and the invasion of Japan. As he told me (his voice reminds me of a slightly less exuberant Joe Carcione), “Dat coulda been me in that picture. It was crazy. So happy”

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