May 28, 2012

War and Music

War has impacted music throughout the ages. Troops and homelands have been rallied by music. Wartime can stifle some music and musicians. Wartime budgets can lead to less support for the free arts. Tomoko reflects on war’s relationship with music and her own private life.

“I remember growing up in Japan after World War II,” Tomoko starts. “The U.S. occupied Japan for five or six years afterwards; I remember going to so on the train, and seeing the front of the train being reserved for the Americans.” Tomoko considers, “Japan realized that they didn’t have to go to war anymore. They could once more appreciate the importance of the arts, and they realized that art remains.”

Tomoko continues, “The arts are international languages, and can bring people together, unlike war, which divides people.” Tomoko remembers some of the musicians that Japan brought to their country over the past. “They brought Russian pianists, Pablo Casals, Menuhin. Their music could cause listeners to tear with emotion. Some musicians camt o teach as well.” Tomoko points to specific influences. “Prokofiev came in 1927, and played his own compositions. He opened the window to Western music. After that, Japanese musicians were eager to go to Europe.”

Tomoko links war to music. “Lizst and Rampini translated violence into the music.” She comments on nationalism. “Folk music is nationalistic, which Chopin and dvorak used to great advantage. The music can be hundreds of years old, forming a historical theme of heritage that never goes away. Think of the Star Spangled Banner, for instance.”

On a private note, Tomoko recalls how her husband was influenced by war. “He was a media student in his first year of teaching. He escaped Hungary during the 1956 revolution, carry a single suitcase. He had a choice of emigrating to Canada or the United States.” Tomoko met him in Europe at a Hungarian dance party. “He was nostalgic for Hungary, and would dress up for the festivals. He was a good dancer, and later came to my recital.” They married in 1970 in Salzberg.

You can hear some of that patriotic music on Tomoko Hagiwara’s album Touria at