Friday, April 28, 2006

To hear language as music

It has been sometime since my last entry into this journal. Lazy boy!
(As a matter of fact, I am keeping my blog in Japanese with punctuality, having chunked out tons of texts. For those with a spirit for venturing into the unknown, here's the URL. . )
A few weeks ago I met with the famed free jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita. The conversation gave me several insights, the most significant of which being concerned with how you may go about in your life with foreign languages.
I am not a native in English, so I find myself sometimes clumsy and uncertain in the universe of the great Shakespearean language. However, affairs are much worse when it comes to Russian, Chinese, Swahili, and God knows what languages scattered all over the globe. I heard that according to some estimates several thousand languages are known on the earth. How can I ever hope to understand them all?
We are all surrounded by a rich forest of linguistic glories and intricacies we miss, or even don't imagine that they exist. As a native in the Japanese language I am very aware that some of the nuances that can be expressed in this speech is inaccessible for the English speaker. And vice versa. Imagine what subtle nuances all the different languages in the world nurture in their inner cosmos! I just have to sigh facing the infinite difficulties involved here, as a free and open-minded individual eager to make cross-cultural communication happen.
It is easy to say that all the languages on earth are created equal, but in practice it is an English monopoly game with speakers of other languages feeling dizzy and deprived of the basic right to express themselves and distribute ideas in the global village.
What can we do? Nothing in the practical sense. But at least Yosuke Yamashita gave me such a deep inspiration. He said that he sometimes listens to foreign languages as music. He doesn't understand Swahili, but he listens to it and enjoys the rich mannerisms of rhythm and intonation that are foreign to him, but yet so awe-inspiring and rewarding. Listen to an unknown speech as music--maybe we can all do that. We can enjoy the several thousands of various linguistic music rampant in the world, and even if the understanding of their literal meaning does not bless us, we may absorb an important take-home message instead. That we are such a musical species of great diversity, addicted to communication as well as the aesthetic enjoyment of listening into the vocal expressiveness of the human species.


Anonymous said...

I post my comment to your english blog for the 1st time.
I guess you had a great experience when you played bongo with Yamashita's piano.
Playing music together is joyful experience, which also help us to throw ourselves away.
As Arakawa said in the lecture at geidai, sometimes it's important to throw away what we have,
not only material things but even ourselves too.
Each of us is a white sparrow in Jakuchu's picture, having consciousness which rise from the function of the brain.
This thought makes me feel isolated, sometimes it's totally impossible to understand each other.
But consciousness bring us great pleasure when we share the same experience and create something together.
Arakawa's talk was great fun! It was great pleasure to be able to hear it at geidai's class, with the people who gathered there. Thank you for informing quickly, so I could join the class.

I hope you had a great holiday, relaxing time of your soul.
It's also good to grasp "hirameki", as you say in your recent writings. :)

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