Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt 11/15/10

November 15, 2010

I am reading a book “Violin Dreams” by Arnold Steinhardt. He writes about his parents as Jewish. It is very touching, and the music in their lives has been deeply attached to their long history. Mr. Steinhardt writes “Jews believed that only music could give these prayers wings strong enough to deliver them to God.” When he first played Ernest Bloch’s Nigun from Baal Shem Suite, his father told him “Two thousand years of Jewish suffering are in those notes. The Nigun is a cry to God himself.” And I started to think about my own heritage, Japanese. What do we believe? What have we been expressing through our emotions? During the WWII, when American troops invaded into Okinawa, located in the south part of Japan, fathers killed their own children and wives, then they killed themselves. What were they thinking? How about Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear bombs?

In the long history, Japanese have been admiring our beautiful four seasons. Haiku and Tanka (poems) have been our ways of expression, using Kigo(seasonal words). We don’t express emotions like Westerners, but we express ourselves through poems and often unspoken words. We don’t cry out and speak loud. We have a court music “Gagaku”, but it was not for civilians first. We don’t have music like Nigun. We have folk songs composed during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), and we sing those folk songs with melancholy and sentiment. “Unspoken” could be a key to understand Japanese culture.

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