Sunday, September 30, 2007

Greenery and Music

While New Jersey doesn’t have the major parks, trails, hiking and camping opportunities that many Western states have, the foliage that grows throughout the state is really quite impressive. Garden State seems like a misnomer for a small, industrial area known for elevated rates of cancer. But as I walk through town, and along the canal pathways, I note the rich variety of trees, plants and flowers. Unfortunately, I barely know the names of any of these growths, but I enjoy watching them change with the seasons.

Amidst the greenery, the local canoe and kayak rental place was doing a brisk business yesterday, with many families out enjoying the warm fall weather. A small collection of dry yellow leaves is collecting on our porch and occasionally, I’ll even see a little burst of red. However, it’s still warm enough to wear a tank-top during the day.

Mark’s been working a lot this week, and I’ve been spending a lot of time within the walls of home. One month into it, I’m already starting to tire of the routine. So yesterday I looked for something new to do. I reluctantly settled upon going to a symphony orchestra concert. Not the ideal thing to do alone, but I didn’t see any better options nearby.

I ended up being very glad I went. The orchestra was conducted by Shi-Yeon Sung, a 32-year-old Korean woman. Though she dressed in a long tuxedo with a ruffled white blouse, she wore her hair in a ponytail and was full of movement and expression. She moved like a marionette, as though her body was driven by the music.

It was refreshing to see youth and femininity in a conductor, when one so frequently sees age and masculinity. One book I read recently, I believe by Malcolm Gladwell, wrote about the gender discrimination so frequent in top-level orchestras. Only when women audition behind screens, so that they are not seen, are they chosen by talent alone. This orchestra had a majority of females among the strings, males among the brass.

The audience was largely Caucasian and mostly over 60, especially those who sat in the most expensive orchestra seats.

I enjoyed the beautiful colors of the instruments – the mahogany bassoon, black oboes, golden trombones, silver trumpets and flutes, honey violas and reddish violins. And of course, the music was top quality.

The second part of the concert, Brahm’s Violin Concerto, Op. 77 In D Major, featured Dan Zhu, a guest violinist. From China,he debuted at Carnegie Hall at age 18. He played the entire 45 minute piece from memory and put in so much effort that he broke strings on his bow. He moved powerfully, together with the instrument, as though he was attached to it. At the end, the conductor hugged him and both received enthusiastic applause from the audience. They both looked like they were having fun, an attitude that they transmitted to the audience, who couldn’t help but enjoy themselves either.

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