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  • Martele. A hammered bow stroke. Sautille. Rapid bowing producing a ricochet effect between violin and bow. Spiccato. A detached bouncing sound produced with the correct placement of the bow's frog.

    My father was a violinist. Aged 18 he won the Edinburgh Violin Concerto Competition. In his 20's he was offered an orchestral position with a european concert orchestra overseas. Aged 30 he played in an itinerant quartet hired for gigs - along with a barrister who managed to set fire to his sleeve during one particularly enthusiastic candlelit number. He played to the end.

    For most of this I either didn't exist or was too young to care. All I knew was that my dad played the violin. Harrying my mother cooking in the kitchen with frantic scherzo's or bouncing claustrophobic Paganini Caprices against the walls of our tiny flat as I drew pictures on the floor.

    He was used to large concert halls and it showed. He played with attack and vigour - biting the string close to the nut, digging into the note like it was a newly minted furrow. The smell of rosin would rise up with each beat - blackly resinous. The pitch of greek pine trees cast into the tiny circle with which he prepared his bow each day.

    Rosin is what gave him bite. It is also the smell that brings back my keenest memories. As bow hair binds to string and as fingers bind to note.
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