Sunday, April 17, 2016


Sunday Reflection: The Third Cellist

Earlier this week, I went to hear a trio of string quartets  perform at Carnegie Hall. They had spent the week being mentored by the Kronos Quartet, and were thrilled to have the chance to perform what they had learned.

The cello is a remarkable instrument, capable of many voices. It does not seem easy to play; it is an ungainly size and shape, so no one looks particularly elegant holding it. That is, at least until they start to play. Then it goes (in the right hands) from awkward to mesmerizing, in an instant.

The last group, the Friction Quartet from San Francisco, was fronted by two violinists who switched off playing first violin-- they literally switched seats periodically. Both are emotional, talented players. Meanwhile, the cellist seemed impassive, like the John Entwhistle of the group. But not for long. There was a passage that spoke to him, and in a spare silence you could hear him catch his breath before launching in. 

In a way, it was that negative space-- that silence before the passion-- that made it powerful. Good music, like good painting, is conscious of that negative space, the blank spot.  

It is something I wish that preachers used more often. They (we?) seem generally afraid of silence, at least when they are in the pulpit with everyone looking up.  It seems like a perfect space, though, to bring in that moment of art. Jesus did that, after all.  He will ponder a situation, then write in the dirt. We don't find out what he writes, though, and maybe that is as it should be. It is that negative space, the breath of cellist.

Gorgeous writing,Professor. Amen.
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