Friday, 19 November 2010
Last night I saw the most amazing documentary about the classically trained violinist, Ruth Palmer, and her search for a violin. I was so shocked to learn that many professional musicians don't even own their own instruments because they have become too expensive. This is particularly true of the violin, which has become a prized possession for rich collectors, leaving musicians dependent upon the kindness of people willing to lend their instruments for a certain period of time.
One of the most absurd things for me was watching how so many beautiful violins that make some of the best sound, are under lock and key in museums and collectors' homes, separated from their primary function of creating music. The narrator of the documentary compared it to keeping the Mona Lisa behind a curtain. It seems a bit pointless. After all, a violin is a musical instrument, it is meant to be played, not looked at behind glass in a museum. It's incredibly sad, and probably very frustrating for many musicians.
The second thing that really bugged me was how the value of these violins was constantly measured in terms of ridiculously large sums of money (we're talking millions here). I'm not generally pessimistic about the state of the arts these days because being an artist has always been a bit difficult and it's silly to romanticise the past. But I do find it worrying that just about everything in the arts these days is becoming increasingly commodified and overtaken by people who wish to invest in money, rather than in creative output.
If you'd like to read a better review of this documentary click here. You can also visit Ruth Palmer's official website here. She's an amazing violinist and every time she played in the documentary you could feel how intrinsically connected she was to the instrument in her hands.
Photography by Tim Meara.