While the journey continues and is still in progress, it is not really possible to measure exactly how far one has come.
The great man referred to above is someone who has previously made an appearance in this space and, it can be predicted with certainty, will return on future occasions: the one and only Charles Libove. His teaching was every bit as inspired as his incomparable violin-playing; the eloquent insights articulated by him on all manner of subjects reverberate in the memory of any who had the good fortune to spend time under his tutelage. One statement that has never stopped echoing is that “progress is uneven.” How brilliant, and how true, although of course I could not fully appreciate its far-reaching veracity the first time I heard it pronounced.
Making progress is a mysterious process.
Having somehow taken a few steps forward in wrestling with the devilish demands of the violin — even continuing to do so much later despite temporary setbacks — I have accepted that the teacher was not merely being kind to the student. This was borne home to me yet again when I started to develop what I can only call flamenco fever (first lit by
Carmen, no doubt). I had no peace from the moment of hearing that a flamenco movie of Carmen had been produced to its showing, for one feverish week, in a nearby theatre. Watching the dancers on screen the nine or ten times I was present (this was pre-YouTube, pre-rent-a-film, pre-buy-a-tape-or-disk), I wondered with the most urgent yearning how I could ever comprehend just one simple set of steps; if only I could slow things down for two seconds and really see what was going on. Miraculously, a class became available — in my city, on my one guaranteed night off from symphonic concerts and rehearsals — where for several years a gifted instructor shone her light on the intricacies of flamenco rhythm patterns and movements, and I made progress from complete ignorance to a superficial scratching of the surface, stamping and clapping to my heart’s delight.
Progress turns out not to be finite.
In that peculiar way that fate guides progress, a whole collection of flamenco films did, with the coming of these electronically rich times, eventually show up in the marketplace, for unlimited starting and stopping and going back and starting again by anyone who cares to — but only after this writer had gained some miniscule understanding of what was involved.