Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Language learning

I wasn't sure what music to put for this blog, since half of it is taken up with my classical music suggestion. So instead of linking something here, just have a listen to some of my suggestions.

I've been thinking a little about language learning lately. I've been slowing trying to translate a children's book from Korean into English, but it's kind of difficult, and I often feel like the meaning I am understanding is missing the mark. Even more so, when I try to speak Korean it's like I'm creating almost a caricature of what I want to say. Like someone making a cartoon version of a live action film. I wish I could make Korean "live" for me the way English is.

I wish also that I could somehow get a big picture of Korean as a whole--what kind of communication is favored? what are all the parts of speech and what goes in each category? Some of the trouble I think I have is expecting an equivalent Korean word in meaning to and English word to also have the same usage and part of speech category. For instance -에서 can mean "from," but it doesn't by any means ONLY mean that, and I'm not even sure it's in the same speech category as 'from.' Also, I don't even know if Korean even has the same categories or tenses or what-have-yous that English has; doe sit have more? less? different ones?

I also thirst for the between-the-lines meaning that only intimate knowledge of culture can give one. I think that's one of the saddest parts for me--not being able (at least not for some while yet) to read and understand and use figurative Korean language. I'm shut out from poetry and picture-painting prose for years at least, and perhaps for always, who knows.

I suppose it's all fairness though. If we can't completely enjoy each other's languages and literatures there is at least the consolation that I can enjoy quite fully own. I can revel over T.S. Eliot's poems without a dictionary. I can watch a Wilde play without watching my other audience members to know when to laugh. English language and literature is by no means the pinnacle of Humanities in the world, but it's still good stuff, and I like it a lot. So I'm glad I don't have to miss out on it...even if it makes me realize how much I must be missing in other languages and literatures.

Oh to be bilingual from birth! That is one of the best gifts parents could give a child, I think--the ability to move between worlds.

* * *
Changing gears a bit, I recently finished Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music and throughout my reading of it and after I have been listening to tons of pieces. Here are some of my favorites:

My current favorite classical-ish pieces (in no particular order):

1. Erik Whitaker, October

So I guess this is pretty contemporary, but I just needed to include it. This is one of my all time favorite pieces, combined with Whitaker's Alleluia, which is a choral piece set to the music of October. I like October because it's well, so 'autumn-y.' It sounds like a goodbye and a hello, but in the kind of wrenchiest and joyful way I've ever heard. I listen to it and want to cry almost every time, but it's hard to tell whether it's because I feel so melancholy thinking of the past adventures I've left, or so hopeful for what is to come. Play it loud and let your emotions kind of swim in it.

2. Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, 2nd half, Allegro moderato-Presto-Maestoso-Allegro 

Josiah told me about this one a while ago and then it came up in the book. Remember the song the Mice sing at the end of the Babe movie? That pop song borrowed its tune from the main theme in the Maestoso. Love it!

3. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake - Ballet Suite

I thought I had heard this before when I started listening to it, because parts of it sounded familiar. Apparently, it is suspected that a composer borrowed from this when composing the music for a certain film. Have a listen and see if you can figure out which one :-)

4. Erik Satie, Trois Gymnopédies

These three piano pieces have such a delightful quiet angst-y feel to them. It makes me feel a sort of wistful melancholy, like after you look at too many pictures from a delightful trip and realize you can't go back to's passed and gone. 

5. Frederic Chopin, Complete Nocturnes

You can listen to all of Chopin's Nocturnes in about an hour and a half. It is my opinion that these are some of the loveliest btis of piano music out there. I also am wowed every time I hear one, since once upon a time I learned to play *simple* one, it took me about half a year and the counting you have to do is wiggedy wack. 

6. Delius, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Short little piece that is the perfect thing to play in the early morning, when the light is kind of pale still. Other times as well, but it just sort of sounds like pale, clear, light to me.

7. Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet

You can really hear the story in this, and it is just lovely, but really I am recommending this because I want to recommend a certain version of it, and that for the Maestro.

Please watch this video of the London Symphony Orchestra performing this piece under the conducting of Maestro Valery Gergiev. The whole thing is great, but from 11 mins on, you can enjoy both his fluttering bat-like hands and his mesmerizingly awful, sweating and stringy Franciscan monk 'do. You just can't look away!

I listened to/watched many pieces conducted by Gergiev, and he was so fascinating that I decided to read up on him on Wikipedia. There I found this tidbit: "He often conducts with a toothpick." You better believe I went immediately to youtube and watched that. Hilarious!

Well, I suppose that's the end. Get listening!

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