Why ‘Strange Violin Music’

Fremde Geige, gehst du mir nach?
In wieviel fernen Städten schon sprach
deine einsame Nacht zu meiner?

(Strange violin, are you following me?
In how many far cities has your solitary night
spoken already to mine?)
– “Der Nachbar”

Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied.

(Upon what instrument have we been strung?
And what violinist has us in his hand?
O sweet song.)
– “Liebeslied”

Nikita asked this question in the comments the other day. As you probably already guessed from the enigmatic quotes at the top, the title is inspired by two poems of Rilke’s that I like. (For biographical info on Rilke see here.)

The first poem, “The Neighbor,” is basically about a guy leaning out his window and hearing one of his neighbors playing the violin. He’s lived in other cities and had this same experience before of hearing the mysterious violin music drifting over the night sky, and it puts him in a mystical frame of mind. He wonders if it’s always the same violin, or if there are hundreds of violin players in hundred of cities, who always happen to become his neighbor. He thinks about what makes the violinists play their music at night – perhaps this music is the one thing they are still living for, the one thing that keeps them from throwing themselves into a river. The music is their way of getting out of their aloneness and isolation, of going beyond themselves and speaking to the world, and they play songs that express their aloneness and pain.

I think blogging and reading blogs is a little bit like this strange violin music coming in through the poet’s window. I know I started blogging in the beginning in part because I was depressed, and in part because on some level, although I had plenty of friends, maybe I still felt the need for a kind of interlocuter who was different from any of my friends. And even those who write funny blogs or impersonal blogs are trying to get outside of themselves in some way, trying to find interlocutors. And blogging keeps us connected and involved with one another, just as the speaker in the poem feels connected and involved with the mysterious violinist by overhearing him.

In the other poem, “Liebes-lied,” or “Love-song,” the poet writes about how everything that affects the person he loves affects him also, in spite of himself. It’s as though he and this other person are two strings on a violin, and each thing that happens is like a stroke of the bow that draws a single chord out of the two of them. For me, this is the positive complement to the more melancholy poem about the neighbor. In the neighbor poem, the violin is “fremd,” i.e. strange or foreign or unfamiliar. But in the second poem, the violin represents the opposite of this strangeness and unfamiliarity, as it symbolizes a relationship between two people.

Blogging also has a dual aspect, like the dual aspect of the violin in the two poems. On the one hand it’s a way for complete strangers to connect and feel they’re not alone. But on the other hand, it’s also a stage on which relationships play out. Of course, people who know each other in real life read each others’ blogs, too, and the things that happen to one blogger reverberate through other people’s blogs and lives.

I don’t know if I’ve explained very well, but that’s the thinking behind the new blog title. I know it’s all very serious-sounding, but don’t worry, I doubt I’m going to start writing all kinds of serious deep things just because I have a serious deep title.


After I got home from vacation, with my seven new pairs of shoes, I was curious to see how many shoes I had amassed in net total over my lifetime. So I got all my shoes out of my closet and laid them in pairs on the floor. They took up about a quarter of the floor space in my apartment. Ballet shoes, jazz shoes, snow boots, slippers, tennis shoes, high-heeled shoes, sandals, shoes I had never worn, shoes that were falling apart. I counted 49 pairs in all.


Then I picked out twelve of the ugliest and most worn out and least comfortable of the shoes and put them in a bag to donate to Goodwill. After all, who really needs more than 37 pairs of shoes, anyway? I mean seriously, people.