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The clock strikes, marking the passing of another hour. He speaks to me, a soul emerging from a simple shell, a shell of intricately carved, French wood. Kai finally comes alive with the downward glide of my arm. He cries in anguish, sings in pure ecstasy, eerily mirroring the whims and ambivalence of human emotion – my human emotion. He and I engage in an eloquent interaction in this blue-curtained practice room, seemingly intertwined, yet independent. The most frightening part: my presence dictates that sudden vitality; I have that absolute power. Nonetheless, I struggle to find that fine line where I end and he starts.
One summer ago with my violin, touring Europe with the New Jersey Youth Symphony was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The brick colored roofs seemed to me a defining factor in the streets of Prague, just as the constant appearance of “Mozart Balls” chocolate has been in Vienna. There, music thrives with vigor and verve. I recall sitting among my best friends in the Musikverein, pulling at the heartstrings of both audience and musician. The immense capability required to share this music left me in a state of warmth, as if I were crawling into soft, just-washed blankets after a tiring day in the city. At the climax of Tchaikovsky’s finale, a sudden, stark realization that seldom comes directly to one washed over me: I was purely and genuinely happy. I wanted to share this with the entire world, a piece that contains the power to transcend differences among people and bring them together in such ways that strangers begin to feel like closest friends, and audiences are held captivated by a single, unwavering note. At this moment, I knew I could do far more with music than merely play notes, matriculating outside the bounds of the intimacy of the practice room, into the real world. This ability to communicate in ways that were at one time unimaginable I knew would be the driving force that holds my violin to me as my lifelong companion.
Although the theory of music can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance – to humanist scholars who attempt to construct a structured theory, a “sufficient reason”, for music on a mathematical and scientific basis – how does the study of counterpoint and harmony explain the very spirit that a piece entails? Music is an inexplicable form of infinite expression that I am able to evoke. It is a free, airy, and warm sound that touches a soul with a passion that is intimately complex, when the mind transcends tangible thought and into a deeper realm of true music, converting the dynamic nuances into a living, breathing, being, and speaking the mind of the long-dead composer, bringing him back to life. Just as Gottfried Leibniz, who serves as my role model in stimulating my fascination with philosophy and science, ponders in his metaphysical meanderings the theory of existence, I ponder what it truly means to play music.
Without a musician, music ceases to exist. Back in the practice room, as I meticulously arrange my fingers on the fingerboard, I attempt to convey an expression I cannot otherwise do without Kai. Outside of his sleek, silver case, my violin seems fragile, seemingly incapable of such an expression. Music takes on a form of a fleeting living entity, melding into my everyday life, inseparable with myself and my character, dictating my everyday mindset. Asking why I like music may as well be asking why I like to breathe: it is at once a difficult question and a simple concept. Nevertheless, the practice room is the fountainhead of harnessing my musical ability and technique, and holds true for all aspects of art and knowledge. No matter where I end up, what newfound love I pursue, education is an inevitable pleasure.
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