Convention has conditioned us to expect certain objects not to be blue; the delight caused by the exceptions is all the greater.
For a long time I would have been horrified at the thought of a violin’s being finished off with a blue paint job, like the latest model sedan automobile. I had been through enough “crossover” performances in my symphony orchestra life, though, to have become completely open to the idea before I even knew it existed.
Thus when a close friend who was also a viola-playing colleague told me, “They have blue, green, yellow, and red; you have to see this”, I was more than ready to pay a visit to the music shop downtown. In fact, although I had passed the place regularly, I realized it had been edited out of my line of vision because it seemed to contain only drums, gaudy sound installations, and rock guitars. These were violins he was talking about, in unheard-of hues.
Blue on sale; limited time only; certain conditions apply
The scene was even more delectable than my imagination could have envisioned. Just as described but impossible to have pictured in all their metallic glory were four dazzling instruments of a very familiar shape, perched in the store window in a jaunty line-up, with a large sign proclaiming, “Looks Good!” In we went, to be welcomed by a young salesman who seemed quite as surprised to see us as we were ourselves to be there. “We’d like to try the green and blue violins,” my friend said, as if we were in the atelier of a fine violinmaker. We glanced at each other for a tempo and an upbeat and launched into the opening bars of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, to the open-mouthed astonishment of the storekeeper. “You must be professionals,” he surmised, when we had stopped playing (our worst fears about the quality of the instruments’ sound confirmed). Well, yes, as a matter of fact we were.
“That entitles you to a ten-percent discount,” we were informed. The prices were already comically low, to our minds, and we were ready to pay a small fortune for the privilege of owning such priceless objects. This adventure was getting better every minute (I haven’t mentioned the sparkling, matching bows that were part of the potential deal). We could not resist, if only for the sake of a wonderful story. “I’ll have the green one, and she’s taking the blue”, my friend said. Paid, purchased, packed up, and back home, we discovered that each violin had a small tag hanging from one of the pegs: one-year warranty.
We never quite figured out what that warranty applied to — the amazing coat of paint, perhaps? A scratch would entail a trip to an auto dealer! — but we surely have gotten years and years of mileage, in performance and tale-telling, from our colorful purchases so rare and hard-to-find decades ago. Nowadays all one need do is visit Amazon.com for a breathtaking array of violins blue, green, and every other hue, effect guaranteed, no try-out required.