Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Rave Review (More Sox and Violins)

Greg and I made the long trek to Boston on Tuesday to hear Hardanger performed. I'm not even faintly biased, of course, but it really was the best piece on the program. Maia Travers, the violinist, obviously enjoyed the piece and gave a marvelous performance. Greg had encouraged her to add dramatic Paganini gestures where she felt like adding them, and to have fun playing the piece. It was evident that she'd taken his advice and was having a blast up there. She was enthused enough to want to play more of Greg's violin works in the future, so he told her about Clayton Runaround, his other solo violin work.

Every time I hear a piece of Greg's music performed live it amazes me. By the time a piece hits the stage, I've heard every note, chord, modulation, and phrase over and over again until I practically have them memorized myself. I'm always listening to MIDI realizations of the instruments, though, unless the composition in question is a piano piece (in which case Greg can play it himself). When the piece finally lands in the hands of a competent instrumentalist with a real, acoustic, honest-to-goodness instrument, the music is transformed. As nifty as MIDI is, at best it only presents a rough sketch of what's truly there -- but the same piece performed on an actual instrument suddenly displays instrumental colors, overtones, and the player's interpretations that the computer can't even approach. No matter how many times I hear a piece, that final translation to "real performance" never fails to make me gasp.

I Can't Think of Anything But Sox

We almost didn't have a sock-knitting class last Sunday. Just as I set foot in the house after the morning rally-o class, my instructor called to let me know that the road between here and the shop had been closed due to a car crash, so class would be postponed for an indefinite period of time that afternoon. Since the shop is a few miles from here, I decided to set out anyway, in the hopes that the road might be open again by the time I made it to that point.

When I arrived there, I saw that the road was indeed still closed, and that firemen were turning traffic back from their roadblock. I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, picked up a few things, and then decided to try my luck.

The fireman came to my window to tell me to turn around, and I asked him for alternate routes to the shop. He said that all the roads had been blocked off, and then hesitated.

"Are you going to the quilt shop?"

I nodded.

"Well, why didn't you say so? We've had a whole bunch of women coming through here saying they had to get to the quilt shop." He gestured to a space between two cones. "Drive through there and tell the guy on the other end that you're going to the quilt shop. He'll let you through."

The firemen probably thought we were all insane, but something very important was happening in class: We were all about to turn the heels on our class socks! There's no way we would have missed that for anything -- we would have parked our cars and walked, if need be.

Once we were all gathered inside, we set about the business of transferring from circulars to dpns, knitting the heel flaps, and doing the turns. I had to redo mine after a little confusion with the instructions, but eventually (with Jeannie's patient help) I made a rather creditable-looking heel. I transferred back to the circular and am now trying to get the foot knitted before our next (and final) class. At that point, we'll be able to execute our first toes, and then we'll have graduated to Full-Fledged Sock Knitter status.

I'm gratified to see that I'm not the only person in the class who has already become addicted to knitting socks before actually having completed one. My fellow students all took breaks from turning their heels and knitting their feet to browse the new arrivals in the sock-yarn bins. Almost all of us fell in love with the green Trekking yarn with the red and yellow plies. I have a feeling there will be a lot of green Trekking socks taking shape after these first pairs have been completed.

One benefit of knitting's recent popularity is that I'm not always the only person playing with needles in public places. Although I've only been knitting for a couple of years, I've done some form of needlework from the time I was in grammar school (first needlepoint, then crewel, then counted cross stitch, then more advanced embroidery techniques). Now that knitting has become so popular, though, I can often spot a fellow yarn addict in just about any gathering of people.

Since I am unable to be parted from my class sock for very long, I brought mine with me to Boston on Tuesday for Greg's concert. We drove to Newburyport and boarded the commuter train. As soon as we were settled and the train started moving, I pulled out my sock and started working on the foot. (Geez, it takes a lot of tube knitting to make 6 1/2 inches when you're working with fingering yarn!)

As I worked, I noticed that a woman sitting kitty-corner across the aisle had taken out a project in a luscious shade of purple and was knitting away. She happened to glance up in my direction, smiled, and held up her work. "Poncho for my niece." I held up my sock. At that moment, we knew we were paisanos.

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