My new cello teacher is a piano player, but I don’t care because I believe that, on some level, he can unlock the cello’s secrets anyway. I have taken lessons from cello players, but I find that I don’t speak their language — like trying to learn Spanish from someone who doesn’t speak any English. That takes a focused immersion that I frankly don’t have time for. He agrees to take me on as a student, but seems skeptical. He listens to me play “Southwind,” and notes that, in some measures, my rhythm is off. He tells me to play it the way I think it’s supposed to really sound, and I don’t know what he means. He uses a sharp pencil to point to the notes he’s talking about, and counts, “One, two and three and four.” I sigh. “I don’t understand that whole and thing.” He stops the lesson to explain. The and is the space between the beats. The and holds time and rhythm and music in its three letters. The and is everything. The and is the lifespan of sound. And he spends an hour teaching me how to count to four.
This piece is from Penny’s wonderful book Postcards from Here and is used with permission. I encourage you to explore this beautiful and moving collection of vignettes about life in down east Maine. For more information or to purchase it follow this link: