The Tavern Violin and Left-Handed Playing

Podcast 58 and podcast 60 make an interesting pair.

Renaissance violin bands are sounding to me a lot like rock bands. The violin wasn’t treated in most renaissance-era lists of instrument techniques because “everyone played it and it was everywhere,” it was more of a working-class tavern instrument than one associated with people of quality, most violinists played dance music and weren’t expected to read music but improvise, they stood while playing, they needed to make a bright sound with lots of overtones to be heard over party noises … Next to Bibbens’s statements about her experiences in rock bands (the relative unimportance of reading music versus improvving), it becomes obvious that the violin was the electric guitar of its time when it was first created. If you’ve ever been to a wedding reception where the band consisted of the typical drums-keyboards-bass guitar-lead guitar, you’ve heard the equivalent of a renaissance violin band.

Also, the stream of statements in podcast 60 about how the bow is the soul of expressiveness, the left hand is secondary, the music comes from the bow, etc. etc. etc. stood out to me instantly. The next time someone tries to sell me the BS bill of goods about how being left-handed and putting the bow in the off hand is an “advantage” because I get to waste my better hand on the less important side of the instrument, I’m going to have them listen to this podcast. Then, I’m just going to slap them.

Also interesting to think of the nonsense I’ve dealt with learning to play left-handed in light of the comments David Douglass made about playing a renaissance violin on the arm as opposed to the shoulder and having violinists come back stage and yell at him for it. Pine sounded incredulous, but any left-handed player can tell similar stories. (Right down to the similar tales of country fiddlers being tolerated for both playing left-handed and playing on the arm because they are assumed to be lesser players who don’t know any better.)

We may live in the 21st century, but some people are still in the 14th it seems.

In other news, I seem to have ditched the shoulder rest for the moment; we’ll see how long that lasts. The divot the viola is making in my extremely inadequately padded collarbone might demand either the return of the rest or a more padded cushion.