Monday, April 8, 2013

Second Violin

This has been a weekend of music: Daniel Taylor, a world class tenor backed by his choir of 'students' from U of T singing the most stunning sacred music in a pro bono concert in the afternoon. Then the InnerChamber unleashing a Haydn and a Brahms string quartet in the evening. All this preceded by A Late Quartet, a compelling film exploring the dynamics and the dialogue that flows, often unheard, below the music itself.

Two comments: one from Andrew Chung, the leader of the InnerChamber group and a second from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the second violinist in the above film, form the backdrop of this weeks ramble. 'Among other things, what appeals about the Haydn is the equality of conversation amongst the four instruments. Sure, the first violin has some of the spicy bits, but. . . ', from Andrew, playing second in this quartet. From Hoffman: 'Without the second to add color, texture, linkage, transition, there's no quartet'.

I was reminded of a comment attributed to a colleague: 'I'd rather have impact than importance; effectiveness than fame'. At the risk of sounding maudlin, I have a strong affection for, identification with the 'second violin' -- or more properly, the second violinist. On my childhood street, my best friend, Larry, was the son of a doctor. He was thin, good looking, with a social ease and unselfconscious style that made him very popular with the girls; and a bit of a sought after 'buddy' to the guys who could count on benefiting from their social proximity to him. My first 'opportunity' to play second violin.  Absent any swagger or arrogance, Larry just moved through his world, largely unaware that he occupied the 'first chair'. It was the rest of us who were acutely conscious of playing 'second fiddle'. And we had a choice: we could resent it; or we could focus on the skill sets that shone a little less brightly in those heady high school days. For some of us it became academics -- accompanied by what came to be known as 'Larry's leavings'.

Fast forward three or so decades. My longtime business partner, Rick Graff, and I are starting our private practice. Not exactly a coin toss to decide the moniker that would define our partnership -- but in those days, the preferred protocol for naming a practice required a single practitioner's name be used. For various reasons, we decided to christen the new enterprise: Rick Graff & Associates. Just out of sight, in the Associates section, are a contingent of skilled and experienced practitioners, part of the 'orchestra', out of the spotlight. An excellent partnership over the intervening 20 years, once again I've had the opportunity to focus on the aspects of psychology that interest me in addition to clinical work -- that would be the building of a business, expanding the compliment of practitioners, seemingly providing the 'glue' that acts to keeps our 'herd of cats' more or less on the same path. Attending to the 'color, texture, linkages, and transitions'. Second violin.

My musical weekend has underscored two significant awarenesses for me -- both with implications for mindfulness practice. The first is one of ego and cultivating a clear consciousness and acceptance of the role which one plays -- not to belabor the metaphor. Neither Larry nor Rick are defined by their ego -- both, in my experience of them, have been modest, unassuming friends. Each in their own way wearing the mantle of 'the first chair' without pretension; neither grasping after nor clinging or aspiring to that 'part'. Equally, to maintain the 'chemistry' between us requires a certain 'ego-less' posture on the part of 'the second violin'.  A delicate balance to be sure -- and one that fosters the second awareness: community -- or, from the musician's perspective, the conversation and harmony of players playing their part.

A community, whether of practitioners or musicians -- an association or a quartet or a choir -- demands 'rehearsal', dialogue, and a variety of 'instruments'. Its strength derives from its diversity and role-awareness; its readiness to adopt shared goals. Daniel Taylor's choir finished their afternoon with a haunting piece of Tavener: perfectly balanced, split on either side of the church, each chorister singing in their assigned register. Taylor's pure tenor soloist voice is a compelling 'first'; the choir, a testament to the 'conversation' that adds the 'texture. . .'

No comments: