Editor's Note: The following blog post originally appeared on Arnold Steinhardt's blog In the Key of Strawberry and is republished with permission. Steinhardt is the founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet and the author of two books: Violin Dreams and Indivisible by Four. For more stories visit here or follow on Twitter.
The Guarneri String Quartet (photo by Erwin Fischer)
Originally Posted October 31st, 2017
Hello People. Dr. Arnie here, once again.
Today is Halloween, and a perfect time for me to spread the word about my latest, favorite subject—Cryogenics. You all know what I’m talking about: the study of things at very low temperatures.
Actually, it’s not exactly things that I had in mind.
Recently, I read about the baseball star Ted Williams, whose body has been frozen with the idea of thawing it and bringing him back to life sometime in the future. Amazing idea, don’t you think? And I’m just wondering, if you could do it with baseball players, then why not do it with musicians? And if you could do it with musicians, why not with a string quartet?
My little heart beats faster just thinking about it.
Imagine. You’re sitting at home, and suddenly you have this wish, this absolutely lovely urge to hear a string quartet concert. Now I ask you, why buy or download a recorded performance, or go to the trouble of traveling God knows how far to a concert hall? All you need to do is to order on line a cryogenic string quartet, and two frozen violinists, one frozen violist, and one frozen cellist will be delivered (already seated in their chairs and with instruments in playing position) to your doorstep, along with music stands and music. And if not for you, imagine what a wonderful gift a boxed set of literally very cool musicians would make for any of your loved ones at holiday time. You might even include a cheerful note along with the thawing instructions.
And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Think of all the highly gifted young musicians out there who are in between gigs, or auditions, or competitions, who would love to earn a little extra money playing string quartets in a very intimate home setting. Of course, no one should be frozen without extensive prior chamber music experience and a personal audition. We’ll test them on everything from Beethoven to Bartok to Borodin, and the most advanced music festivals such as Marlboro, Aspen, and Tanglewood will be our go-to sources for FRAWPL (freeze, thaw, and play)
Although FRAWPL is a truly revolutionary idea that may very well change the concept of performance as we now know it, I can hear the critics scoffing. Has cryogenics advanced to the point where FRAWPL is actually possible, they will ask. Rest assured, the problem is on the verge of a solution. A great deal of time has elapsed since Ted Williams’ body went into the deep freeze, and I can assure you that technology has made some spectacular leaps since then—Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream comes to mind.
But what about the dangers in the thawing process itself those naysayers will surely want to know about? Admittedly, there may be some problems if instructions are not followed to the letter. Thawing too fast may cause uncontrollably fast tempos, thawing too slowly result in intonation and rhythm problems.
There are, of course, many other things to consider in these uncharted waters (or, better said, ice). For example, should you feed the musicians when they un-thaw and come back to life? Perhaps nothing too heavy would be best: tofu, chicken soup, or chamomile tea, say, rather than a bacon cheeseburger or linguini with pesto sauce, or an ice cream sundae topped with whipped cream, nuts, and a maraschino cherry—at least for the first few days.
And then, after the concert has taken place, do the musicians simply walk out the front door or are they frozen once again? I understand that refreezing food is not a good idea. Could refreezing musicians cause—I hate to even think this—mental problems?
These questions, however, are mere trifles to be contended with as FRAWPL will undoubtedly spread around the world sooner or later. But is FRAWPL, which doesn’t exactly role off the tongue, an ideal name for such a new and visionary concept? How about 4Freeze4U, or Frozen Foursome, or maybe Freeze Puhleeze (my personal favorite).
But enough of tedious details! Just close your eyes and imagine the FedEx truck pulling up with four sealed packages that you set down gingerly and unpack in your living room. You arrange the musicians, already on their chairs and holding their instruments, in quartet formation and set the room thermostat to, say, 70 degrees, not too hot, not too cold. You might want to put on some music, but definitely not string quartets. No telling what a thawing musician’s reaction to another performance will be. If it must be a quartet, how about the Beatles. Pour yourself a glass of chardonnay as the musicians come to life, and then, let the concert begin.
So there you have it, people. First came frozen peas and carrots, and now frozen musicians. A brand new world awaits us.
Music lovers? String quartet players? Venture capitalists? I wait to hear from you.
In the meantime, Happy Halloween.