The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 9, 2010

cobza, solo cobza

because it's difficult to keep in tune
because the pegs keep slipping
because the slightest slippage throws everything off
because there's construction going on across the street
because jack-hammering a stadium into place is unnerving
because there are sirens going off constantly
because there's a constant roar of traffic
because the air-conditioning is out of control
because it's over 81 fahrenheit in the room
because the neighbor will complain about the noise
because i'm worn out and exhausted
because i'm on a caffeine and sugar jag
because i've been translating viola technique
because i've broken my index-finger nail
because i've cut my nails too sharply
because my nails need growth
because my nails need filing
because my sight is poor at this distance
because i'm feeling sick
because it's the middle of the night
because the cobza is difficult to hold
because i'm finger-picking the cobza
because it's a delicate instrument
because i wanted to finish these pieces
because i played one after another
because i'm using complicated finger positions
because i'm playing higher up the neck
because my index-finger is seizing
because my fingertips are calloused
because i don't know how many pieces
because i don't pace myself
because i'm not thinking clearly
because my right thumb keeps slipping
because my sense of intervals is off
because some of the positions are impossible
because i'm having serious allergic reactions
because i've been bitten by spiders and flies
because i'm sweating like crazy
because i'm recording with others in the room


[ ...and then just last night, reading Ovid's Tristia, and his exile near
Tomis also spelled Tomi, somewhere in Romania, the following begins to
unravel further, uncannily adding another layer to the message/massage.
"Tomis! Outlandish name! With what bitterness the storm-tossed poet speaks
of 'The Tomitans, situated in some corner of the world'! [...] Tomis(1)
((1) - Tomis, not Tomi, is indicated by the manuscripts and is the
older form of the name.) (the modern Constantza) lay on an elevated and
rocky part of the coast, about sixty-five miles south-west of the nearest
mouth of the Danube, in that part of Roumania now called the Dobrudja."
(From the introduction by A.L. Wheeler, Loeb.)

"In AD 8, the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17) was banished here by Augustus and
died there eight years later. He laments his exile in Tomis in his poems
the Tristia and Epistulae Ex Ponto. Tomis was "by his account a town
located in a war-stricken cultural wasteland on the remotest margins of
the empire". A statue of Ovid stands in the Ovid Square (Piata Ovidiu) of
Constanta, in front of the History Museum (the former City Hall)."

So Tomei is surely Tomi, an outland Italy; of course my mother had been to
Romania, bringing me back two gifts, a photographic book of Bran's castle,
and an hourglass... The original dream/text follows. ]

sometimes a dream heralds, not the debris of the day, but the residue of
the future. this afternoon i had such, discordant with my life in the
narrowed interval of hours, weeks, months. my mother was in the back, by
the dresser in the bedroom; she said she's 84 or 85; dressed in a maroon
1940's outfit, sleek, she seemed about 40. before this my father, in his
brown bathrobe, was walking slowly through the kitchen, near the cabinets
on the left - he's 96 (my mother died at 80), there were french legion-
naires, in parade dress, surrounding him, emptying the cabinets, or
perhaps looking into the cabinets 'already swept clean.' and i had walked
down the hall to my mother, who said he was quite old, and near Tomei, or
the cliffs of Tomei (pronounced toe-my), and he might have been lear, or
shakespeare, and as for me, i was to flee the cliffs, the nubbed edge of
the harsh sea, for that were death. and i woke, because my greatest fear
is death, the thought of death terrifies and immobilizes me, i weep, out
of control, i cry out, i turn to panic. and when i woke, i looked up Tomei
on the net, and there were Tomeis in italy, seemingly without relevance,
and less for those in madagascar. but there was a Tomei tollroad running
near the sea in japan, and near tokyo and nagoya, and i followed it on the
maps as it entered and left a mountain tunnel which seemed quite long. and
i knew that something occurred in that tunnel, or would occur, or would
have occurred, had i not already witnessed the name, that would have
relevance for me. and now i am left with that, the name Tomei with no
relation to the actress who was in a play by shakespeare to be sure, the
name which so asserted itself as geographical, that i can only connect it
to the nerve of the tollroad, and the unsupported, presupposed, event,
already never happening, already lost, to me, already unaccountable.

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