Hope Strings Eternal

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the violin

There’s a new old instrument back on the scene in our post-pandemic world that’s giving hope to the masses.

We’re not talking about thermometer readings registering low temperatures. We’re talking about the fever pitch sounds of a musical instrument: the violin.

Or more specifically, the electric violin. Asher Laub is an electric violinist NYC who is one of a handful of musicians and artists who’ve recognized the healing power of the violin and the role it can play in striking the right chord in community as an electric violinist wedding and function band performer, as well as releasing Sea of Strings, an hour-long personal meditation journey to the soothing sound of the electric violin.

In September of 2021, “Noah’s Violin” floated down Venice’s Grand Canal. This wasn’t just jetsam from a Venetian gondolier named Noah who had his hands full paddling and serenading at the same time. Rather, it was a purpose-built, 39-foot floating violin – carrying a string quartet playing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. Its purpose? To deliver a message of hope.

Built by Venetian artist Livio De Marchi, De Marchi said that he wanted to promote “art, culture, and music” and that “the violin is a sign of Venice restarting.” The boat was made using over a dozen different types of wood and is propelled by a small internal motorboat engine.

In the same way, as it’s hard to look at the gigantic violin and fully appreciate what’s going on inside to keep it all afloat, it’s been hard for musical aficionados to fully appreciate what’s been ‘going on inside’ for artists and musicians who have had their live music shows curtailed since the onset of COVID.

Careers have ended, cultural economies of the exchange of music, laughter, and entertainment have shut down, and society is arguably poorer since the pandemic wreaked havoc with our lives.

Cultural appreciation has been reduced to binge-watching series TV in isolation. It takes the surreal scene of a violin floating in the sea to remind us that art will help us to overcome. Humanity usually finds a way to remember how to share our collective cultural consciousness.

Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was an appropriate choice for the string quartet to play that day, intended as it was by Vivaldi when it was written to prove that the musical sophistication of the string instruments needs to be taken seriously. We’ve covered the value of the violin before, and its important role in improving memory, attention span, mental health, and function – as well as sensory cognitive development for those children who learned to play the violin from a young age.

Asher Laub is one such child prodigy, learning to play the violin from age 2 when he was learning to walk. His first musical instrument was a margarine tub with rubber bands as makeshift strings! He learned to play by ear (the Suzuki method), which allows him to remix popular tunes with his classical training.

He’s performed in concert halls as a teenager and now finds himself carving out a niche as an electric violinist – bridging the gap between those who appreciate classical and electronic music. The lyrics of James Blake’s current hit single ‘Say What You Will’ come to mind when thinking of Asher’s approach to spreading the gospel that is electric violin music that you want to dance to:

I can find my way
With no superpowers
I can take my place
Without becoming sour
I might not make
All those psychopaths proud
‘Least I can see the faces
Of the smaller crowds

The smaller crowds are all the electric violinist weddings he performs at, the way he’ll wow an intimate venue with Hasidic music played over an EDM beat. Innovative ways are used to express the art of his craft. Watch as he breakdances while cradling his electric violin that is lit up with LED lights.

Marvel as DJ Asher then samples his own string sound, beatmatching it to a popular dance hit that gets the party going in a post-pandemic landscape where we are still re-learning appropriate ways in which to let our hair down and “shake it out” – as Florence and the Machines would say.

This is a superpower in its own way: artists such as De Marchi and musicians such as Asher Laub, encouraging us to ogle the violin and get lost in its mesmerizing dynamism. And if you don’t find yourself at a live venue with a violinist from NYC to do the job for you, then there are the musical online offerings from Asher such as the recently released Sea of Strings, where you can meditate your way into the new year with over an hour of calming violin music to focus your attention on the breath and mind.

Hope strings eternal. For the violin has been part of our culture for so long, it must find new ways to give us hope and healing as we navigate our way in 2022. Who can forget perhaps the most iconic demonstration of the violin’s endearing message of hope of them all? Okay, none of us were there for the sinking of the Titanic, but we’ve all seen the movie.

The ship’s onboard musicians will go down in history for bravely playing ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee’ on that fateful day in 1912. As frightened passengers were jumping ship into the icy waters, it was the stoic string section who attempted to instill calm, accepting their collective fate and signing off with a sense of panache and purpose.

It is this calm that we turn to as we enjoy artists and musicians expressing themselves joyfully, breaking through the fog of our collective depression with the sound of strings that sing of hope for better days ahead. We can be thankful for the likes of Laub and De Marchi, titanic artists in their own right, reminding us that we needn’t be Nero and fiddle while Rome is burning. Rather, we can take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

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