May 25, 2019

Musing about Museums

Museums serve as a way to collect and preserve cultural artifacts with the intent of connecting the past with the present.  Tomoko has a great deal of respect for history and for museums.

Even as a young student, Tomoko knew about the history of music, and its impact on culture. She sang songs about Japan, which were built on European music. Many European musicians came to Japan in the early 20th century, and settled there.  Tomoko loved to go to concerts in colleges where European musicians performed, saving her money, and sit in the high concert hall tiers.

In particular, the reputation of classical European music impressed Tomoko, and she was eager to visit that continent to experience that tradition first hand. Her first time was in 1967 when she performed at the Long-Thibaud piano competition. She spent the next two months touring Europe on her Eurail Press. When she visited Bruges in Belgium, Tomoko she saw Flemish painting in their museum, and was impressed with their detail and line quality. She remarks, “Every artist is saying something.” She continues: “Music can be like an art project; composers combine instruments to create a unique sound.”

The next year Tomoko met a friend in Florence, where she visited a museum housed in a Medici residence. Tomoko asked, “May I use your harpsichord? ” She wanted to know how it sounded, and the museum staff answered, “You have to try it.” Tomoko played Bach’s Prelude in C sharp major BWV 848 on this antique, and recalls, “The instrument needed to be tuned.”

Later, in the Chopin Museum, she played his raindrop prelude on their piano.  Tomoko remembers how the place was positioned on the land; when she saw a movie about Chopin, it included an ocean in the background; “That wasn’t real,” she asserts. Next door to his place was a monastery, instead, because of his asthma, which was not mentioned in the film. But you can still enjoy the music.”

Tomoko strongly encourages her students to travel, and to explore museums and other historical landmarks. “History is connected with music and people and politics.” And composers’ museums are particularly ingsightful. “When you get familiar with a composer’s life, you can examine his rhythm more fully because you know its context.” On a final note, Tomoko advises, “Be curious and courageous when it comes to the arts.”

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