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Domestic violins

Marketplace Staff Jan 22, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: No word from the recording industry on this one yet, but an Italian court has ruled it’s not a crime to download music and movies off the Web. As long as profit isn’t the motivation.

In today’s edition of the Loh Down, Sandra Tsing Loh reveals she’s not making music for the money, either.


SANDRA TSING LOH: Never mind all those pricey leisure electronics your families received over the holidays: the plasma TVs, the iPods, the X-Boxes, the Y-Z-boxes. These long winter nights to amuse myself? It’s just me and the fiddle.

Yes, I am a novice and I suck. But no matter. The violin costs practically nothing, thanks to all these mysterious new assembly-line factories dotting Asia. Where Chinese or Korean workers make beautiful instruments sold under names that sound German or French. It’s like the first time you pull out a wine cork and it’s plastic, and you’re horrified, but then you drink the wine and before you know it, you’re buying and drinking, again.

Because for my brand new violin, I paid at Target $79. And that’s high compared to my brother’s brand new mandolin. Price tag on that? Two-nine. That’s right, $29. Case included.

How they do it, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I guess I’ll have to wait for the shockumentary. And in the meantime, to assuage my guilt, I’m practicing away on my probably contraband instrument as hard as I can.

And it is hard work, the relentless sawing. On iTunes, a simple mouse click yields a whole concerto. On my Korean violin, even “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” . . . Well, what with my ever-heavier-seeming bow, it’s less like jaunty boat-rowing and more like women’s crew. Like a melodic slave galley.

But on the upside, why go to the gym? Just holding this violin up, my arms are burning.

Plus, I find as a mother that I’m enjoying such blessed new solitude. No costly trip to the day spa for me. Armed with a violin, my family flees! Every room in the house is mine.

And you never know, in a couple of months, soon you may find me on Craig’s List, an affordable alternative to hire for weddings, bar mitzvahs (can I play “Fiddler on the Roof?” Oy, yes!). Senior cruises — particularly where the seniors are deaf.

In short, my friends, these new Asian violins are so cheap I’m actually printing money! Unfortunately that currency is in yuan, but problem for another day.

RYSSDAL: Sandra Tsing Loh is working on a new book. It’s called “Mother on Fire.”

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