Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Japanese String Quartet

It is deeply satisfying to find a sympathetic curiosity and desire in others.  A group of Japanese musicians at HPAC is playing in a string quartet for the sake of playing in a string quartet and I get to be their cellist.  I feel so lucky.  We can just barely speak to one another, but our violist lived in America for two years and is able to translate when needed.  They have a fair amount of English, I have some Japanese and we're all interested in learning one another's languages.

Today they learned the English words for "secondary theme," "development," and, "recapitulation," and I learned their equivalents in Japanese.  We say measure numbers in either language, hands to show crescendos and diminuendos, voices to sing a phrase idea.  If they explain an idea in Japanese, I listen and try to understand as much as possible.  If I don't get enough, I say, "Wakaranai, " (I don't understand) and they try to explain it in English or our violist explains it to me.  If I speak in English and they don't understand, our violist translates or I try to explain in another way or use gestures.  It's a really fortunate opportunity to be practicing a language in this way.

It is also rewarding to reclaim ourselves in the midst orchestral playing where our voices contribute a relatively small portion and a conductor controls what we say.  It is a reminder that we can practice our art on our own terms, discover the beauty of a Haydn quartet, enjoy a piece unfolding itself as we listen and play it together.  It's a wonderful thing.

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