What sort of sound do I really want, anyway?

It’s just occurring to me to wonder about that. Do I even want a loud fiddle? I keep the mute on the thing all the time since I prefer the sound of it. It feels like I’m being deafened when I play without the mute. I mean, the thing is right under my damned ear. I liked the darkness in the old 16.5″ viola I had, but it also just was too freaking loud.

So I’ve just been wondering: do I even want a big viola? A small one would certainly be more comfortable to play, but do I just prefer the sound of a small one as well? That sort of intimate, semi-rustling-leaves sound. I love classical music and opera and plan to play it overwhelmingly and forever, with upwellings of the kind of arena rock that sounds classical to me. But Jesus, am I aiming stupidly for something that I don’t really want out of a lack of awareness that I’m doing so? I love classical music, but the classical world itself aims for “the bigger the better” in violas, on the assumption that everything sounds better when it’s as close to a violin as possible.

And yet I don’t even like the sound of most violins. The only one I’ve heard that I really like is Pine’s, which is a chianti-dark del Gesu that practically sounds like a viola anyway.

But I’m still thinking that I “should” play a 16″ viola, the biggest I can manage, because “bigger is better” automatically.

I think that if I do get the chance to do that NUVO Baroque viola, I should consider going down to 15″ and see what happens. A smaller, trimmer, pretty little thing might be just what I want, and have that bottled, woodsy, intimate quality that I love so much, like an octave violin. It won’t pass muster as a “good sounding viola” in the classical world, but as much as I love playing classical music, I just don’t want to sit in a crowd of people and play it with them. To me, a viola is at its best when it’s playing a vocal line with a piano behind it. That’s perfection, and what the thing was made for.

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