The Ensemble | Goop
It’s a love story, the famous violinist had said, and even though Jana knew she wasn’t, those were the words that hit her head when she started performing on stage. The famous violinist, Fodorio, had coached the quartet earlier in the week, and that was what he said after they had completed a preview of the “American” Dvoák, which Jana said was definitely not a love story. . But here they are, the Van Ness String Quartet, performing in their last conservatory graduation recital, starting the shimmering notes of the first movement, and whatever she could think of, as far as it was concerned. to think, it was: maybe it was a love story.
It was a love letter to the country, as she understood it in her lessons. Dvořák’s European peasant interpretation of American folk songs. But how could anyone think it was a romantic love story? It seemed to Jana more classic than that: a person falls in love with the dream of a place, with a life that could be lived there, with something that they were not but could be. It was the shimmer itself, that almost visible substance that hovered just above the scorching sidewalk of your life. Potential, aspiration, achievement. The famous violinist who trained them – Fodorio, she couldn’t bring himself to pronounce his name – was kind of a handyman, anyway, at least when it came to teaching. Jana would never tell him to his face, but she enjoyed the solemn inner pleasure of his disdain. What did he know? Here’s what she knew: that Dvořák’s “American” was about America’s simple opportunity, and that no one was more familiar than her with identifying and consuming opportunity. When Henry’s viola solo entered three bars later, she had decided again: no, it wasn’t a love affair.
It’s a love story it wasn’t something Henry remembered from the workout, and certainly not what was on his mind when he brought in the playful melody of Americana in the third bar. Instead, what had crept inside Henry was what Fodorio had said when he passed his card to Henry as he was packing his viola. Call me if you decide this quartet business isn’t for you, he had said. I can do a few recitals in front of the right people in New York. You could have a great solo career. Henry had taken the card without a word, slipped it into the velvet pocket inside his case, and hadn’t moved it since. But the card was beating there anyway. If you decide this foursome business is not for you– as if Fodorio had already decided it wasn’t for Henry, and was just waiting for Henry to come to the same conclusion. But Henry hadn’t decided anything at all. He never did, young as he was and blessed with the kind of talent that guided the decisions of his life for him.
Whether or not it was a love affair wasn’t about Daniel, as these days there was no room in his life for romance or lasting love, or any symptoms or side effects of both. Not when he had to train twice as hard to keep up with the rest of the quartet and their infuriating natural abilities, and especially Henry, whose obscene talent teetered on the verge of prodigy, who could play drunk, blind, in love or out of it. There was no place for love in Daniel’s life when he had to work real jobs besides their schooling, moonlighting in a bar in the Castro, taking wedding concerts when he could and giving cello lessons to wealthy children in Pacific Heights. It’s a love story: of course, okay, but what else?
Of course it’s a love story, Brit thought, even though she thought everything was. This note, and this one, this joyful counter-melody, his second violin harmony, the collective intangible, the audible chord. His relationship with Daniel, which he had rather coldly cut off a few days ago. Even the absence of love was a love affair for her. Even this pain, this suffering. It was helpful. Although she once imagined not needing to know it anymore, or dreamed of rewinding her life and starting over from scratch, so she was a person who didn’t have to know it, or that she had the idea of a parallel Briton, living in a world in which there was no need to make sense of a man going up and going on the verge of love, people going up and going, d ‘a life chained with all these little departures, but she felt sad for this parallel Briton, a more empty sadness than she felt for herself now. They were all love stories.
And while no one would have explicitly admitted it, what it was all about – love or whatever – was entirely up to Jana: it depended on how she took a calm, crisp, and precisely timed breath in an optimistic time. before the first note, on the pressure of its attack on this first note, on the space it left between the first and the second note, on the degree and the length and the resonance of the vibrato that it applied to the violin neck. It was his small movements, certainly at the beginning of the play, if not after. Even the way she closed her eyes, whether she closed them at all, whether there was a flutter of her eyelashes or a stern forehead, it all determined what was to follow. Jana’s job as a first violinist was to conduct, but these days her leadership had extended beyond the physical. His bodily and tonal decisions, one after the other across an entire forty-minute program, now served as emotional leadership.
The power in it was both benevolent and wicked, and, to Jana, seemed perfectly natural. She had always wanted to truly lead a group – and better yet, lead a group to greatness. It had to happen, it would happen, her future becoming defined her. And where, in this tale of grandeur, was there room for a love story? It was not a story that had never been told to him.
Of All by Aja Gabel, published by Riverhead Books, a brand of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Aja Gabel.
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