Friday, June 20, 2008

Love is Blind

I am now the proud possessor of a viola d'amore, a gift from my father who spent many years trying to understand the instrument, before there was a good deal of scholarship about it, and many years playing its 18th-century solo and chamber repertoire. The head of my instrument has a blindfolded cupid that boldly declares that love is indeed blind. The instrument, however, is indeed beautiful.

The viola d'amore is tuned in the key of D major (or D minor if you lower the F# string to F natural), and has a set of sympathetic strings (I have successfully tuned four of them) that declare the power of tonal harmony. There also seems to be a natural modal tendency for the instrument, and the strings are so close together that it is pretty easy to play parallel intervals and big chords. I have yet to map out the fingerboard, and have every intention of writing for the instrument as soon as I figure out what my drone-filled harmonic improvisations yield, and how best to notate them.

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