Thursday, May 10, 2012


Resonance [rez’on-ans] n resounding; sympathetic vibration; sonority; the sound heard in auscultation; (phys) (the state of a system in which) a large vibration (is) produced by a small stimulus of approx. the same frequency as that of the system. (Webster’s New Dictionary and Thesaurus)

When you play a fingered note on the violin that is the same as an open string—a “g,” for example—you can get the open string to vibrate without even touching it. The trick is that you have to be perfectly in tune with the open string. A little flat or a little sharp will dampen the sympathetic vibration or even make it nonexistent. Knowing this is extremely helpful because if you are in tune with your instrument the whole thing responds with a more ringing tone. Good intonation sounds different, and not just in a way that various pitches match each other. Your violin literally speaks back to you.

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When a book, a work of art, a piece of music touches you deeply—something happens. You respond. That book or image or melody resonates with you, sets something into motion deep inside:

“Sympathetic resonance is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.”  
(Wikipedia, "Sympathetic resonance")

You could think of it as the sympathetic vibrations between two souls.

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This, I suspect, has a lot to do with why we keep trying.

I stopped by a friend’s practice room once, in college, to wish her luck before her recital. She was sitting at the piano crying. Really crying. “It’s okay,” she told me. “I always do this before I play.” On stage she was calm, accomplished. She played beautifully.

Performing shakes me up, too. As far back as I can remember, I have looked toward my own performances with anticipation. Excitement about the music. Eagerness to share. But right before I go out to play, miserable with cold sweaty hands and a fluttery stomach, I wonder why in the world I do this to myself. Maybe some people are sharpened by adrenaline—I tend to feel stiff and withdrawn. And at the same time out of control. My vibrato is too fast and my bow shakes. People often comment on how calm and collected I appear on stage, but that is rarely how I feel.

When I write I can remove myself from the performance aspect—at least partly. There is still a certain amount of self-loathing connected to every blog post I publish, every story or poem I send out or show to somebody. Plus a certain amount of fear that I’ve said nothing of value, and a certainty that I’ve shown myself for the true idiot that I am.

And yet there is this drive to share. The trembling hands and desire to find a dark hole someplace where I can hide—they are nothing compared to the desire to reach out. To be heard.

To connect.

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When a painting haunts you for years and years—

When a five year-old listens to “Dido’s Lament” with tears streaming down her cheeks—

When a sentence strikes your soul and echoes for days afterwards—

Something has moved beyond the image or notes or words and come to life inside another person.

Knowing someone heard—isn’t that as cool and nourishing and good as water?

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  1. Yes! Couldn't have written it better myself.

  2. I'm ringing - your blog post must be in tune!

  3. Yes, they're right, you are so good at writing things I resonate with. IT's a beautiful gift you have and I'm so glad you share it with the rest of us. Sometimes it's exactly what my day needs, to resonate with something profound to retune my mind to what is important.

  4. "Plus a certain amount of fear that I’ve said nothing of value, and a certainty that I’ve shown myself for the true idiot that I am." This line has made me laugh several times since I read it - in a very sympathetic way since this is how I feel every time I write!

    Just figured when you write something that has come back to my mind more than once after I read it that you should know!

    1. Thank you, Janice! I won't say I'm glad you can relate, (I think your writing is funny and true and honest) but it's nice to know that I'm not completely alone in the feeling, that that struck a chord, and that it made you laugh. You are a fabulous encouragement.

  5. Gorgeous post.

    "Only connect. . ." (Middlemarch)

    - alison

    1. That must have been simmering below the surface the whole time I was writing.

      Thank you Alison.

  6. Karen, OOPS! I meant "Howard's End" (by E.M. Forster), not Middlemarch. Forgive me.

    1. Oh my goodness, no problem. My only experience with Howards End is that I saw the movie a long time ago and I think I was too young to fully appreciate it. Now I have to read the book!


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