Those who, like I, go to a more than a few different festivals during the summer (there is a more indelicate term for this) know the phenomenon of a "host family." Like viruses, we musicians invade the homes of our hosts (ostensibly for the purpose of "playing concerts"), raid their provisions, make use of their facilities, and then flee for the next fully-stocked home. I imagine like viruses we occasionally leave our hosts feeling a bit dazed, not exactly tip-top, and it may take 7-10 days for them to recover from our "visits." Advice for these hosts: no need for the doctor; simply bed rest and lots of fluids, and try to stay away from musicians for the time being.
Sometimes, like in certain species of tree frog (I am entirely making this up), the host and hosted develop a symbiotic relationship in which the virus appears to be viewed benignly by the host. I am not kidding. Thus the other day I was practicing Bach partitas in one of the most beautiful, vast, serene rooms imaginable... wood everywhere, curving, graceful staircases, enormous, magisterial fireplace, subtly Asian furnishings, windows looking out over hills to distant water... and, as I say, I was invading this space with Bach. On his way to the shower, my host apparently paused. I noticed him, then, wandering around (extremely aimlessly) in a towel, with a camera, up and down the central staircase of the main hall, then off into the distance, then up close--so close that he was soon filming me from behind, right behind my left shoulder, at which point I became vaguely self-conscious, and began missing quite a few notes in the gigue of the 5th Partita. Then came the magnificent moment, the perfect response to my blooper: in a saucy voice, still filming, he said: "close."
"... but no cigar" would have been superfluous. A host who knows when you are missing notes in a complex work of Bach is rare, and a host who is willing to say so, point-blank, in a towel: rarer still. Then, he began bearing gifts: at some point he came in with an espresso; would I prefer a cappuccino?; an impromptu extraordinary lesson in foaming milk ensued (which began "when I was trying to stop using coke back in the 70s..."); at a later point he asked me if I wanted some pasta (his wife, in another room, separating herself gracefully from this delightful folly); I declined; minutes passed; he then emerged, grinning, with a beautiful steaming bowl of noodles emanating the summery scent of fresh pesto; I did not decline but eagerly dined. I expected him at some point to bring out frankincense and myrrh. I was a pampered practicer, and, somehow, I managed to play through all the Partitas, and the diversions served merely to focus my inner lens. Each new movement seemed a miracle, even the ones I knew to tedium, and his delight in the "mathematics of the staircase, and the house, and the music, like playing out the house" was contagious. Like a virus, contagious delight: lubricant of the universe.
They are gone now, leaving us the house to ourselves--often the privacy can feel like a blessing, but in this case (?) a loss. I sit here, foaming milk in that special newly-learned way, and ponder symbiosis, and the sad fact that I must get off my butt and do some serious practicing.