In the first fews pages of The Ensemble, Aja Gabel introduces her characters swiftly, deftly. A meaty paragraph about each of her four main characters defines their motivations, their role in the quartet, and their worldview. This introduction sets the stage for the stories that follow.
“They’d chosen each other for the reason most people chose each other: to get closer to some quality they didn’t naturally possess.” (14)
Though The Ensemble follows the trajectory of this quartet, at its core it is a love story – being in love, showing up, growing with one another, knowing someone better than you know yourself, maybe not even consciously but intuitively. The intimacy of music, of artist with their instrument, and of playing a piece of music with fellow artists comes through.
As with any good book, even if the setting is unfamiliar, the characters’ triumphs and struggles seem familiar. I’m no musician but as the book’s characters experienced their individual and communal challenges, I identified with their stories. Gabel paints a vivid picture of growth, evolution, and forgiveness.
Throughout The Ensemble, we see each of the quartet members go through different phases of life. Illustrated within their evolution is the individual journey we go on to self discovery, and how we run away from something only to end up back there but differently, as different people.
While I know very little about playing music, I felt as if Gabel gave me such a beautiful insight into chamber music and the dynamics of a quartet.
PAIR IT WITH Spoken Barrels’ Meritage Red Blend. Super specific suggestion, I know, but this wine is the perfect balance of richness yet lightness, mirroring the flow and feel Gabel’s The Ensemble.