I’ve been inspired by a new client. He’s a man in his 30s who is a classically trained musician and instrument repairman.
I’ve always loved music of all kinds – especially reggae, hilariously – but for my client, music is more than his job, even more than his passion – music is his identity. It’s who he is, and it comes out in everything he does, even in the pacing of our sessions themselves.
He starts our conversations slowly, adagio. At the midpoint of our time together, his tempo is allegretto vivace, or moderately quick. By the end, he ramps up, opening up with incredible vulnerability, speaking with power and deliberation in his coup de grace, his insistendo.
By the time our session is over, it’s like I haven’t just been listening, talking and sharing. I’ve been treated to an entire symphony of emotions.
The way he works with instruments has, in particular, taught me a lot, not just about his work, but also about life. Some instruments he repairs, and some he replaces, but only after thorough evaluation, and always with extreme care. Each instrument, each case, completely unique.
It strikes me that we should treat our relationships in much the same way.
My client repairs large, complicated musical instruments with a host of sounds.
It takes up to four months to make them as good as new. Really it’s more rebuilding than repairing. He creates new parts, entirely custom, out of new pieces of wood, whittling it down to replace pieces that have become weathered and warped over time. Using small tools to reach nooks and crannies within the instruments, he tests as he goes. He feels the instrument move fluidly with his body, listening for timbre and pitch and range. As he plays, it gives him sound.
He tells me that each instrument is a living body that gives him music as he gives his best effort. It’s almost symbiotic.
Does it take time and effort? Of course. But even if an instrument is badly damaged, he knows that the damage is the result of history, of age, of experience. Of years of playing incredibly beautiful music. And he knows that saving the instrument is more than worth it.
But of course there are other times when, no matter how much history an instrument has experienced, it’s beyond repair. Sometimes, the damage is so extensive, it needs to be replaced.
In those cases, my client accompanies his customers to speciality stores and estate sales to find the right instrument for them. It’s not just about finding the right sound and price, it’s about finding the right fit for the person. This process can be time-consuming and quite expensive, and it can mean going without any instrument at all for months or even years until finding the perfect match. The wait can feel hopeless and very quiet. Ultimately, it’s always worth it. The “right one” is that sigh of relief, the feeling when you’ve heard your favorite song at the perfect moment.
If you’re having issues with your relationship, what kind of “instrument situation” do you think you’re dealing with – repair or replace?
What kind of history do you have together? Is it years of making beautiful music that only recently have been interrupted by a few off-key performances? In that case, maybe it’s worth it to try a repair, even though, just like my client, you may need to rebuild some pieces from scratch, honing, whittling and crafting to make sure your relationship is perfectly tuned.
But perhaps you’ve already tried to repair, and no matter what you do, it just keeps breaking, you’re scordatura, or out of tune with each other. In that case, maybe it’s time to replace. But just like my client, it could be a long search to find the right fit. It may not be easy, and it could involve some loneliness, even despair. But then, after you replace, you’re ready for something else, something better for you both. When you find that perfect instrument – that person who brings out the most beautiful music in you – you’ll know it was worth the wait.
Since working with this serious, interesting client, my own appreciation of music has also changed — or rather, evolved. Remember how I loved reggae? Yeah, well, that’ll never change.
But now when I’m driving and I accidentally switch to classical music, I don’t turn the station – I pump up the volume and soak up the love.