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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fear of flying by John von Daler

      A flock of migrating birds has landed in a field to eat, to rest, to mingle.

    Now it is about time to be on the way again. One of them gets impatient and flies a few feet into the air. No other bird follows. The first bird lands again. Moments later two or three others hover, but without more support they too alight.
    Suddenly a massive surge of birds takes to the air all at once. Of these, the first to take wing becomes the leader and guides them all to their next destination.
    A depressing picture if you are looking for metaphors for the human condition: initiative goes unrewarded, while the most common
denominator wins the day.
    There are human variations on this theme:
    The orchestra has been tuned, the houselights have dimmed, the coughing has subsided, an expectant silence fills the hall. From a door behind the first violins, the harp and the celeste the conductor enters and strides to the middle of the stage, his baton clutched like a dagger in his left hand. He grabs the railing of the podium with
his right hand, steps up onto it and wheels around clockwise. He faces the audience and bows humbly to their vigorous applause. Lifting his head again, he now pivots away from all those expectant faces bravely, determinedly, like a matador turning his back on a bull. He moves the baton to his right hand, hesitates just a moment and then wallops the baton towards the floor the way Jove might hurl a lightning bolt.
    And nothing happens.
    For a few split seconds no music resounds, no musicians move, nothing.
    Finally, agonizingly, the orchestra lurches into the music and we are off.
    I am told that the mark of a truly great orchestra can be found in the length of the pause between the conductor's first baton movement and the first sound from the orchestra.
    In this life I have never been a bird, but I have played the violin at concerts of jazz, rock 'n roll, pop, folk and classical music in front of thousands of people.
    Nothing has ever frightened me more than sitting in the back of a classical orchestra during the split second between the conductor's beat and the tell-tale tone to follow. Never have I felt more in doubt as to what it is that connects us humans to each other.
    How do they know when to play?
    I guess some of us just fly more easily alone.

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!


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