The Violin Spirit

January 3, 2008
By WeiJia Qin, Calgary, ZZ

The beautiful melody flowing from the violin calmed me. Phrases of high notes and running passages below…This sound is the only thing that can go on for eternity. I let that strange spirit within my body take control of my hands, weaving intricate patterns of sound into thin air. Here, in the practice hall with my violin, I was no longer me. I was God, creating an entire universe: stars as dainty staccatos, sun as those deep, long breaks, and moons as those sharp flowing passages. There is something more than a bow sliding through string here, more than everything in this world put together. It was an exotic, inexpressible, yet familiar sensation that could wash away even the flows of time.

Most of the time, I didn’t even understand why violin came so naturally to me. But that ‘something’, or rather ‘someone’ inside me… we’re separate. We’re two completely different beings. That was what my instincts told me.

“That…that was wonderful.” The girl practicing beside me whispered as I finished the song. I suddenly noticed that she’d been listening to me for a long time.

“Uh…yeah, thank you.” I scratched my head a little, “Your song was pretty good too.”

Bending over my stand to tidy up the thick of sheet music that had spilt out of my folder, I sighed. Violins screeched around me, discussions, scraping of piano benches, the tap tap tap of feet on wood. Ever since I’d started in this orchestra as a violinist, I’d improved so fast that the director even seemed surprised, “Wow, Wen, you’re technique this week is so perfect! Your talent is admirable. But, who is your teacher?”

Who is my teacher?

I didn’t know how to answer that question.

To tell the truth, I really didn’t have an official ‘teacher’. All the musicians here seemed to have professionals that came to play with them, or graduated from some sort of other music academy. But I didn’t go anywhere except this orchestra. All I did everyday, was, I don’t know, touch my violin and that something in me would click. You might call it stupid, but when I come in contact with any violin, some sort of unknown energy possesses me, and I let that flow guide my hands.

“All right, you may leave when you finish packing up.” The director finally announced, “But please remember, the first three violinists our bass cello (here, he nodded at Suoh) will be playing in our special performance next month. Oh, and Wen I would like you to try too, even though you are new here.” He nodded at me. My face burned as everyone looked my way. I could feel Suoh’s piercing gaze on the back of my neck. Of course, that didn’t help my burning face at all.

After the long, long practice session, Misha and I went to our favorite ramen booth to get ramen. “You’re so talented, Wen.” She said over her steaming bowl, “I wish I were like you. I’ve been learning violin for more than half my life, and yet…you already got chosen for a performance…”

I tried to smile encouragingly. But, really, what can I do? Maybe violin is just not her thing…

“You’ll get really good someday.” I said, quietly.

Someday. I thought I heard her grit her teeth.

I contemplated. Half of Misha’s life was half of my life…eight long years. I’d only first touched a violin not even a year ago. She has a reason to grit her teeth. I shrugged.

The next week, January’s positions were posted up at the front entrance of the XXX National Music Association. It was so conspicuous I could see everyone’s names from the back garden. Everyone was crowded around the bulletin by the time I got there. But I didn’t need to strain to see my name. No, not at all. There I was, positioned smack in the middle in front of all the violinist. First position…

As people around me recognized my presence, they started shouting things like, “Congrats, violin genius!”, and, “Wow, you’ve go some talent there, genius!” I smiled, nodded in acknowledgement of their compliments, and looked up at the huge WEN printed on the bulletin below the word soloist. It was right beside Suoh (yes!), our acclaimed international cellist! Maybe I really am one of those hard to come by music geniuses. After all, there was no such thing as painful practicing for me. Everything is flawless from the beginning. I smiled.

Suddenly, Misha came from behind me. She took the glance at the bulletin board. At first, I detected a slight contortion of her features. Then, she quickly flashed me a smile, said ‘congrats’, and walked away.

I stood there, frozen to the spot. Something in her eyes had frightened me. It was…a flash of hatred? Jealousy? I shook it off. Misha couldn’t be, she was my best buddy since kindergarten. Besides, it was she who brought me into the world of music. “You have such long fingers,” She’d said to me after she got into this orchestra a year ago, “Maybe you should try out violin too.” She’d handed me her violin, and that was it. The moment I touched the sweet, polished wood, something in me awakened.

To be more accurate, I auditioned for this national orchestra the next week, and got chosen out of, I don’t know, three thousand experienced violists? Pretty amazing, huh?

But…just now…did Misha walk away from me?

On the day of the special performance, Misha came to watch me play. We made our way to the Xx theatre slowly, partly because I was nervous, and partly because I couldn’t move very fast with all my formal attire. That ‘something’ inside me was fidgeting.

Misha wouldn’t say anything. I tried to ask her what was wrong, but she just kept on shaking her head, and muttering, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what to say to that, so I kept silent too. It was an awkward walk, and somehow my stomach started feeling uncomfortable.

We were passing over a bridge. It was one of those really common suspension bridges in this city that rose high over the railway in the valley beneath it. I was in a state of tense somberness when suddenly, I felt something that hindered my step. It was…hard, and warm. I lost balance. I watched as my violin case floated in midair for a nanosecond, then plummeted into the depth beneath. Trying to reach for it, I realized that I, too, was on the brink of falling into nothingness… By pure instinct, I grabbed the shiny, metal railing of the suspension bridge, icy cold in the bitter winter wind. My eyes flashed around in shocked panic. Misha’s right leg was stuck out from where I’d tripped.

Did Misha just…?

“Misha…uh…I’m kinda falling here, come on, give me a hand.” I said, trying hard to gain balance. Just as I was about to grasp both hands to dear life, Misha stepped in front of me.

“Wen. It’s not fair!” The wind blew her hair away from her eyes, and I saw that they were stained by rivulets of tears. “It’s not fair! You’d only learned violin for less than a year, how can you improve so fast…why?! Why isn’t it me with all the talent?! I worked hard, I tried my best, I put everything into it! You didn’t even do anything, you don’t even practice everyday... It’s NOT FAIR!!!”

No, I must have imagined it, Misha couldn’t have tripped me. Look at her poor, tear-stained face! Somewhere in my heart, I felt bad for her. But… “Misha, come on, this isn’t really the best time to be discussing this. I’m about to fall off here, you know, and… my violin just fell down there! I’ve got a performance in half an hour!!”

“I’m…I’m sorry Wen.” Beside my ear, I heard a whisper. Then, a maliciously gentle push on my arms, and I was over the railings and falling, falling, falling.

Above me, I caught sight of Misha. Her face contorted in agony, and something I perceived to me, joy. Joy. My best friend just…pushed me off a bridge into oblivion, and now she’s happy?

Why?! WHY?! I wanted to shout, but my throat was choked back by a large lump. The sense of losing gravity. It rendered me senseless.

Just as I was about to die, I felt my body torn apart by an immense pain, like being cut in half by a butcher knife. Except, the thing that poured out was not blood, but a spirit. The spirited that resided inside me, it was coming out. I felt it. Slowly, it bled out of my body into thin air, and I could see it glowing, glowing above my eyes. I could almost hear it smiling down at me. Was it a restless soul of an ancient violin master? Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt? I never found out, because the next moment, my head met the hard pavement beneath, and everything became dark.

I came to in the morning sunlight. The rays pierced through the windows of the hospital and my head threatened to come off at their intensity. I’m alive, I thought. Alive… Sure, there were some scratches on my body here and there, and my head was probably swollen with bruises...but at least my soul was still in one piece with my body. It was such a very good feeling.

“What happened with you…it was truly a miracle.” The doctors explained to me later, as I sat there on the hospital bed under the sunlight, “Your body fell, from sixty meters off the ground into the valley below, and yet, we could not detect any fatal wounds. In normal circumstances, you would have died during the fall. The fact that you’re still living right now… cannot be explained by our contemporary science and medical developments.”

Of course, I thought. The fact that I am alive right now can’t explained by science. That spirit who sacrificed itself for my life, it was the same spirit that sang when I touched a violin. That spirit was the one that had saved me. That’s what my instincts told me...

Needless to say, my flawless violin skills disappeared after that…as did my poor violin who fell over the suspension bridge. I would pick up my bow, and let it linger there for a long time, waiting for that spirit to possess me. But nothing would come, and often the director would get extremely annoyed because I would come in a couple of measures late. I still stayed with that elite orchestra, but got bumped back to third seat, then fifth, and finally last. Of course, I practiced my bum off everyday…but it just isn’t the same, with the spirit of that violin master gone. Occasionally, the director would look at me strangely, as if to ask, “What the heck happened to you, our star violin genius?!” But I would shrug and pretend I didn’t know anything at all…like I usually do. There was this once, as I was packing up my music after practice, Suoh came beside me and asked if I would like to practice a duet with him. When I asked him why (which I really didn’t mean to), he just scratched the back of his head and replied that he wanted to know what my playing really sounded like. I agreed, of course.

Months passed, and life kept on going. Sometimes, I would stare up at the sky and wonder where the spirit of Mr. Master Violinist was. Maybe among the stars in the night sky…watching me improve? Haha. I wish…I wish…

Most of the time though, I’d bury my head in my music and practice, practice, practice until my fingers burned with fiery agony. Finally, my ‘bottom violinist’ rank started to improve (with Suoh’s help), and I was slowly climbing back up…slowly. Oh, Misha and I have completely lost contact with each other. Several times, I catch her looking my way with an apologetic expression, but I pretend I don’t see it. After all, she’d tried to kill me, almost succeeded, and murdered my poor violin…

Hm…Still…now that I think about it, I guess it wasn’t so horrible that that spirit left me. After all, that amazing talent didn’t belong to me, and in the end, it just floated away…

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