I know I look fetching with perspiration dripping down my face, eyeglasses sliding down my nose, abdomen puffing in and out like the bellows it is, and a four-foot wooden tube stuck in my mouth, which I lick with abandon to get the proper saliva quotient on a finicky piece of cane held in place by two miniature metal screws.
But as dashing as my fluid fingerwork looks in 1080p HD, the sound is kind of important too. Between the amplification, the reflective acoustic, the talkative crowd, and the recording quality of your phone . . . well, you get the picture.
Then there’s me. At 80ºF plus humidity, the lower register of my flute refuses to speak—that is, when it’s not sliding off my chin. Tuning is a pipe dream (no pun intended).
Have you tried focusing on the feet? They’re the most musical part of the body, anyway. Though they might distort your audio quality.
I am alternating between four different instruments, and thus can’t fully warm up any of them; I mean, they’re overly warm, but not warmed up. My licorice stick is thirty-two years old. That’s 150 in people years. This species of wood is depleted, so I try my best to keep her going with hospice care as long as I can. Even so, at any moment she could explode in a spasm of uncontrollable asyntactic modernist squeaks. Fasten your seat belts . . . and there she goes! I hope that did not make your ears bleed. Or break your iMicrophone.
Is there a clarinet doctor in the house? No? But there’s an expert leatherworker? Hmm, an interesting possibility, but I think I’ll wait.
Sinuses. Arthritis. Insomnia. Not enough coffee. Too much coffee. PMS. Plus a run-of-the-mill cluster of neuroses. And I left the beta blockers in my other case. Actually, I think they’re in your case. Are they good? Should I get some? I’ve always been afraid to try them.
I’m furious at my duo partner and am glaring at him. We had a fight on the way to the gig. Not true, but it could be. For some other person, that is. Not me. Meantime, I do not want to miss when he winks at me between jigs, or when his eyes widen in surprise at my choice to play Mixolydian when he expects Ionian. He needs to be undistracted, so he’ll notice when I bounce in my chair to urge him to go twice as fast, or twice as slow, to accommodate the state of my lungs. (See above about sinuses, coffee, neuroses, etc.)
It’s a gymnasium, festive. Free-range kids running around screaming with glee. Throngs line up and jostle one another to thrust their tips in our expectant guitar case. Was that you who left the jalapeño croissant? (I am not making this up.)
As you see, it takes devotion and complete concentration to deliver the level of performance that passersby will want to keep as a souvenir. When you aim your phone at me, my performance ceases to be worthy of capture. Even Benedict Cumberbatch agrees.
Take away my comfort in knowing that these moments are ephemeral, and I fly without a net.
So, while I am honored that you want to carry me off in your pocket,—very honored, believe me—I am not ready yet. I want to look and sound my best before we take that step.
See that stack of business cards over there? Take one, and come see me next time. I’d love that! How my haircut will hold up until then I can’t predict, but I’ll sound much better than I do in that .m4v, I promise. And maybe a little later, when I’m ready, you can take me home with you.