Friday, November 7, 2014
Would You Rather: Lyssa at Playing the Music of Life
This is Lyssa. She questions everything, explores love, ponders life, and dreams big. She hopes to record an album, have more kids, write her novel, and tour the world...soon. She finds and shares interesting links on the Internet and she's rehearsing for a flash-mob this year! This is what we asked her:
Q: Would you rather be able to understand any language or be able to play any instrument?
A: First, you have to understand that I'm a little biased when it comes to answering this question. When I was four years old, I told my mother that I was going to be a classical guitarist for the rest of my life. At eight I started guitar lessons, and music has been my muse ever since then! So I'm already a huge fan of anything related to music.
However, I can't automatically choose what might appear to be an easy answer.
The possibility of being able to speak another language has a strong pull. My heritage is hispanic on my father's side, but since my family moved away from our relatives when I was fairly young, I did not grow up speaking or hearing Spanish. I don't really know the language well, which is a disappointment. I've always thought it would be wonderful to have that kind of language connection with my ancestors and extended family.
Other languages do not come quickly to me, despite the fact that I've always wished I could speak one! I tried studying Spanish in school, yet my comprehension never went beyond basics. In college I attempted a semester of French. By the end, I could grasp what was going on in a French movie without the help of subtitles, but barely passed my written exam, let alone the oral exam! I resigned myself to the label of "can't learn another language", much to my chagrin.
Fortunately, we don't have to be stuck with labels forever : )
Several years ago, I was privileged to go on a brief performance tour in Germany with a guitar ensemble. I was completely prepared with all the music I had to learn but I had not studied the German language AT ALL. For the first few days I was completely bewildered with culture shock, made even worse because I couldn't grasp what anyone was saying unless they switched to English! There were many, many moments when I desperately wished that I had the magical ability to learn a language instantly.
But as time went on I found that my ears began adjusting to what was being said. I couldn't reply back to anyone in German, but I began to understand bits and pieces of conversations. After a week I could almost muddle through the newspaper ads or a children's book. By the end of our tour, to my surprise, I was beginning to have dreams in German, where I actually understood most of it! It was very cool to realize that the human mind, even one like mine which had not picked up languages well in the past, could slowly acclimate to a new language with the help of total immersion.
One of the most interesting times during that trip was a rehearsal we had with several other German ensembles. There were dozens of German students and only a few of us Americans, and the conductor was German, so the entire rehearsal was in German. It was terrifying at first! The conductor would call out a place for us to start in the piece, or give directions about how he wanted a passage to be played, and my group would look around frantically for some clue as to what was happening. We felt stupid and confused. But we found relief, excitement, and happiness when the music finally began to mesh together among all the guitarists.
And that was when I realized that music truly is the universal language.
Despite our language barrier, German and American guitarists played a concert that night with stunning results. We gave each other high-fives and smiles as we walked off the stage. We didn't need to speak to know that we shared something beautiful. It was magical.
Lately I've been playing mandolin as well as guitar. Branching out into different genres of music has given me the opportunity to grow as a musician! Bluegrass, folk, blues, and Irish music are opening whole new realms of wonder for me. The best part is that I get to meet amazing musicians whom I would never get to see if I only stuck around in the world of classical music.
It truly thrills me to think of what it would be like to be able to play ANY instrument and go into ANY culture, anywhere on earth, with any age or any ethnicity, and speak to each other in the universal language of music. Music needs no translation. It can speak for us all.