Play It Full

Nice piece by David Dobbs in Wired. Inspired by Steve Silberman’s homage to good teachers on his blog NeuroTribes.

Dobbs’ offering is “What Malone Said.” It recounts what happened when, after studying the violin for some five years, Dobbs had placed before him, by Malone, Bach’s D minor partita. Dobbs practiced the piece at home for a week, then returned to Malone, to play for him about half the first page.

Malone stopped Dobbs on the second note.

“Please put down the violin,” he said. I did.

“You’re skipping through that first D. I know it’s just a fucking little sixteenth note, but you have to play the whole thing. I don’t even mean the time. You’re actually giving it enough time. But you’re playing over it instead of through it. You have to play right through the center of it. It’s a leading note, but it’s not just a step into the room. It is the room, and you have to put us there. Play it. Play through every single note in the piece.”

More from Malone:

“This is Bach. And Bach, more than any other music, and these pieces, more than any other Bach, is music complete. This doesn’t just mean it’s beautiful. This means you can play this music all your life, even just this Allemande, and no matter what you do, it will expose you. It will expose everything you are and everything you’re not. It will expose everything you can do and everything you can’t. It will expose everything you’ve mastered and everything you’re scared of. And I don’t mean just about the violin. I mean about everything. It’ll show all that today and it’ll show all that when you play it again in ten years. And people who know music, who’ve seen you play it both times, they will see you play it and know who you were and who you’ve become.

“There is nothing you can do about this. Or actually there is only one thing you can do about it. And that’s to play the fucking music. To not play scared, even if you’re terrified. To not rush. To not short anything. Inhabit this thing. Play it full.”

A different Bach partita below. Played in full.

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2 Responses to “Play It Full”


  1. 1 possum November 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

    “Play it full.” Some of the best advice for life in three words that ever came to Possum Valley. Thanks for sharing.


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