With strings attached
They say that magic doesn’t exist. It only means that ‘they’ have not heard truly great music, for who could argue that magic is not real, after listening to the lilting tunes of the violin? As Dumbledore rightly said, “Music! A magic beyond all that we do here!”
There are instruments, which when played, make us want to dance like no one’s watching; there are instruments which make us want to sway along with the tune; then there are instruments which make us want to drop all that we do and just stand there, savouring the magic of the rhythm. The violin is one such instrument.
The violin, also known as a fiddle, is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola, the cello and the double bass. The violinist produces sound by drawing a bow across one or more strings (which may be stopped by the fingers of the other hand to produce a full range of pitches), by plucking the strings (with either hand), or by a variety of other techniques. The violin, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th-century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The true greatness of this tiny stringed instrument is how it has been adapted in various countries, and has been infused into so many, many different genres of music. Be it any of Beethoven’s sonatas being played in a flash mob in Italy, or be it one of Sudha Raghunathan’s concerts being performed in Chennai, the violin speaks where words fail. As the simple human mortal draws his bow over the strings and the whole world reverberates with the sound, suddenly he doesn’t seem so simple anymore and you wonder how someone who could create such beauty could even be a ‘mortal human being’. When I listen to the violin being played, it makes me wish I could play the violin too. Of course, I get that feeling when I hear the piano, the guitar, the veena, the mridangam, the flute, etc.
I had been to a concert in Chennai recently, that of Abhishek Raghuram’s. Now, I don’t normally go to kutcheris; I prefer to chill out at home listening to Imagine Dragons on my phone. But I’m definitely glad that I went, because it inspired me to write this article after listening to Mr. M.A. Sundaresan playing the violin like I’ve never heard it being played. The crowd was utterly transfixed at the sound emanating from the mere piece of wood attached with strings, and it was not uncommon to see tears welling up in the eyes of many, due to the sheer brilliance of the music. (Not to mention, I saw this through a curtain of tears blinding my eyes too). As the music ended, there was a complete hush over the crowd. I’ve never heard silence quite that loud.