When I was at my parents’ house last, I rifled through their nothing-but-classical CD collection looking for Mahler’s 3rd or 5th, either one would do. Mahler’s not my cup of tea, but my dad’s, and we were looking for an impressive test CD to try on their new Bose system. I consider Mahler’s deafening, symphonic explosions straight out of Pianissimo whispers nerve-jangling, not impressive, but he and my mom consider them so. That’s one thing I like about ripping, shredding electric guitar and heavy metal—it’s generally all loud, all the time, nothing to jump out at you from silence and scare a month or more off your expected life term. And that’s a plug for my music vs. his music that I wished I’d been sharp enough to bring before his council as a teen.
But that was then, this is now, here, all of us adults, evolved and looking for Mahler. I walked my fingers through the CD cases like files, flipping them rapid-fire, and stopped short when I saw Vanessa-Mae’s “The Classical Album.” I’d given that CD to my parents not long after it came out in 1996. I remember I had just learned about this prodigy, this phenomenal electric violin virtuoso whom classical violinists, in the true sense, love to hate. Growing up in an all-classical household, I could enjoy the extreme prowess of the concert master’s solo, but not anything at all like the electrified extreme prowess of a then 17-year-old girl. So I bought Vanessa-Mae’s high-voltage pop fusion CD “The Violin Player” for me, and her undiluted classical CD “The Classical Album” for them.
Although guitar gods’ instrumentals and metal and hard rock had long ago pushed Vanessa-Mae’s CD out of my top-play CD case, I’ve thought about her off and on since then, mostly when I needed inspiration, and I’d pull “The Violin Player” from my archives and be re-amazed, re-blown away. Seeing my parents’ CD, holding it, studying it, I felt something other than wishing I had Vanessa-Mae’s more rocking CD with me and I could pop that into the new Bose system and be flattened to the wall with awe. I realized she’d been out of the limelight, at least in America, for quite some time, but that I couldn’t say exactly when somehow bothered me… 2005? 2006?
It was less a question of the condition of my brain cells, and more some psychological thing tied to a question of my substance, my trueness to something I’ve declared to have been so monumental yet I could just drop it for months, years at a time. And that in turn opened up a pathway to self-examination, made me run a check on my personal relationships and projects, compelled me to go back over how often I’ve done that and to see if I’m doing it now to things and people I say I care about but my actions don’t back it up. But that’s another story for another day. Just the opening of that pathway made it easier to get at the truth in this case. It put before me the question, “Am I just amazed by Vanessa-Mae’s talent or does her music really touch me, move me?” And it gave me a clear view to the answer.
The guitar gods—Satriani, Timmons, Petrucci, Vai, Johnson—have been with me constantly for many years with no sign of leaving, because not only do they amaze me, they do something to me, physically and mentally, that I not only want, but need. Their music is power, hits the center of me, shakes my core, shows me what otherworldly things the vitality in us all can do, and makes me want to tap into that vitality and do those things, too. Vanessa-Mae’s music and performances amaze me, but somehow don’t speak to the depth of me.
To me, Vanessa-mae is more along the lines of Cirque du Soleil, Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, extreme talent and finesse that pings off sensationalism. It’s truly amazing, spine-tingling, stomach-dropping, heart-leaping stuff that most of us wouldn’t want the intensity of every day. It’s goosebumps, it’s Indiana Jones. We like it once in awhile. We like to be on the edge of our seats biting our nails, totally blown away in amazement, titillated by extreme talent. And those are the things we make plans or appointments to go see, like I make an appointment with “The Violin Player” once in awhile.
And after the greatest show on earth we take home with us the inspiring, stirring things we’ve seen and heard, the truly awesome experience that fills our hearts with amazement, and yes, a sense of super-humanness and hope. And a couple of days afterward, back in our old routines, most of us forget our vows to do those amazing feats, to sign up for Cirque du Soleil, to live on the razor’s edge of at least sharpness, wit, and skill if not on a high-wire. But some of us don’t forget. Some take the amazing thing home and really do make something of it…
Whether it’s a circus act or a cool way someone you admire acts, and you know you, too, want to become that, makes no difference to the heart and soul yearning for something they both recognize as you, as the beginnings of you going forward from the instant you experienced the momentous interaction. So it’s the thing that affects you radically, that you see and take home, take to heart, with you. And once home, it’s the thing that stays with you, and it stays because it has meant something inestimably deep to you, has actually, truly changed you, and set you on a different course, although you may not be aware of it yet. And it’s now working on you, training you, molding you, readying you, and you are becoming, no matter how slowly, you are becoming that thing that engaged your senses to the point of movement ever onward toward it.
Turns out Vanessa-Mae’s been living her life like all of us, not quite so much in the limelight, with her mate of eight years, doing what she feels right to do. And her particular work entails playing the violin for the occasional concert or benefit in various European countries. And a byproduct of that is showing up at the occasional interview, party, event, or exhibition. No different than you or I as cream rising to the top of our own gigs, in our own time, in our own way.
What have you experienced that has moved you, inspired you the most?
Did the inspiration last? If so, what did it lead to?
More than you ever wanted to know about Vanessa-Mae: http://www.vanessa-mae.nu/
The Red Hot Tour, Toccata and Fugue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VexO1L0_d2U
The Red Hot Tour, Paganini’s Caprice #24: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cfucb5FGavo
Berlin Philharmonie version of Toccata and Fugue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg8Fa_EUQqY
Bach’s Partitia in E: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g5Q1p6C7ho
Rossini’s String Sonata No. 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo83JqTOwgE