Michele McAndrews: Orchestra

The first and probably the most prevalent thing I learned from entering the Katano city orchestra was that it was not all that different from any other orchestra. The overall idea of an “orchestra” was not changed in any way. The conductor, Kimura-san, stood on a podium and swung his baton just as any other conductor, and reiterated passages when he wanted something different. It was easy to follow along, especially with seven years experience of playing the viola. Orchestra practices let me relax and recover from culture shock, as if returning to this little bubble where I actually knew how things worked that trancended both Japanese and American culture. Even following along with the conductor didn’t require all that much mastery of the language, since Kimura-san sung passages and made it clear as to what he wanted to change.
There was only one really noticeable culture difference that stuck out to me. The orchestra would stand and bow together at the beginning and end of practice. It was quite a shock to me the first time it happened, as I had not been expecting such a formality. Another tricky thing about practice was getting the measure numbers right. I had to harness my Japanese counting skill and listen closely to know where the orchestra was starting from. And the last thing that kind of bothered me was that I didn’t have an assigned seat. Usually there is a certain placement of orchestra members, and for the sake of a good concert, one is suppose to sit in the same spot for every practice. I never really knew where I was supposed to sit, so that was a little odd to me.
Speaking of the concert, I think the orchestra played their very best. Beethoven’s 9th symphony is no easy feat, but we somehow managed to pull through really spectacularly. I am really happy that I was able to play Beethoven’s 9th.

2 thoughts on “Michele McAndrews: Orchestra

  1. Haha, I had the same experience with drawing! It was definitely something I looked forward to in the earlier weeks – a little respite where I could interact with native Japanese in a more comfortable situation, especially one that allows other forms of communication, such as art or music, rather than focusing specifically on language.

    And you guys were definitely fantastic! I’ve no ear for music, but it was a very powerful performance, I think.

    Also – what’s the difference with the musical measurements in Japan? I’d thought notation was pretty standard, so what kinds of deviations did you have trouble with?

    • there is no differentiation between the notation, that’s what was so awesome about it! it’s true that there is a different way to read certain types of music – like for the Noh chanters/shamisen players, or I looked at some Koto music my host sister had and you play by reading the lines like you would read a novel or whatever – but the classical music had the same notation pattern that I grew up with~ it was only that counting that threw me off because I had to listen to numbers in Japanese and had to quickly learn the counter for “musical measures” so that I could listen for the right thing. Or things like “this many measures before/after letter A” or whatever.