Thursday, April 5, 2012

Choosing or Being Chosen

"Did you choose the cello, or did the cello choose you?"

Not the usual question you expect from your cable guy. I was on the phone with him trying to get some help for our poor television reception. It was the second time in a couple of weeks that we had had a problem, and the first time what seemed to help was unplugging the cable box from one wall outlet and plugging it into another.

This time, my husband noticed when he got home from work that the television was unplugged. When he plugged it back in, the picture was poor, very snowy.

Perhaps because I had had such a fine conversation with the first cable guy, I explained that whole experience to the second cable guy, adding, in an uncharacteristically chatty way, that the television may have gotten unplugged as I stumble out the door with the cello on my back to go to orchestra. "It's a big instrument," I said, and sometimes I bump into things."

And, when I had replugged the cable box and TV, I had left them a little more vulnerable to bumping into.

He could not figure out what was wrong, and finally asked about the cello. He is a pianist, or in his words, plays around on the piano a bit. I never did get his full story on whether he chose the piano or whether it chose him, but I did relate to him some of the results of my daughter's Science Fair project of a few years back.

She was trying to find out if people who chose their own instrument, rather than had one chosen for them, were likely to continue to play longer. The study design was flawed (it included all those people who had to take up the recorder in third grade and dropped it immediately afterward), so I am not sure whether she proved her thesis or not, but one result was very clear: Many people do not choose their instruments.

A very successful saxophonist told us he took it up because there was one in the closet. Sometimes a band director would ask a student to play a particular instrument because the band needed it. Sometimes a mother decides for her children, based on her musical preferences or the logistics of carrying an instrument on the school bus. Or a child gives only superficial consideration: picking the flute because it is shiny or the trumpet because his friend chose the trumpet.

My answer to the cable guy was long-winded. I don't really know if I chose the cello. I was playing flute at the time, but was increasingly annoyed by the high notes. My flute teacher invited her adult students to play with the adult students of a local cello teacher and a violin teacher. I thought the cello really made the flute sound good. Someone gave me the [erroneous] impression that it was easy to play. Soon, I came to love it, even without the flute.

So, I don't really know. Maybe we chose each other.

P.S. The TV issue was not resolved on the phone, so a cable technician was sent to our house. He fixed the problem within 10 seconds of walking in. The television had been manually set to a channel other than 3 (probably when one of us turned off the TV manually; I can't blame this on a careening cello). He switched it back and left--without disclosing his musical inclinations.


Mike Ng said...

Sometimes we choose an instrument because it comes close to our own vocal or musical register or tone in our head. I chose the cello because I watched a PBS special that started off with The Swan, in the background while the discussion was how a cello was made by hand. Being an artist I found both life changing. Today, I still struggle with the Prelude, but it is still my personal signature song for myself.--- not for the public!

Anonymous said...

Your post is very interesting, I never thought such as intensive at this topic. It reminds me at the day I chose my viola - or I was chosen by the viola. I can´t answer this question...