Anime and Classical Music Revival

Having studied music through both college and graduate school, I encountered many different types of people.  In my day-to-day rehearsals and gigs, I continue to encounter many different types of people.  We are all individuals, just with one common thread – our countless hours of practicing classical music.  When you’re a classical musician, “outside” people think you are odd, or that you see yourself as above the rest of the world.  Within the orchestra, there are the competitive ones who feel they have to validate their existence by being the best.  There are others who seem to joke around and not take things seriously, and there are those with little confidence in their abilities, even if they are really good musicians.  An orchestra is its own slice of society, but from the outside it looks weird.

Because of cuts to the arts, it’s difficult for younger students today to access the classical music world and learn to appreciate something different.  Even if they don’t DO anything with it, countless studies show how beneficial music education is to students’ brains.  I’m currently reading a book about how music affects the mind (which I intend to blog about once I finish, but we shall see if it actually gets done) and what it comes down to is that it really doesn’t matter how much you know about music, but how well you feel the music.  But nothing seems to bridge that gap between the classical world and the regular world.

At least, not in America.

There are two Japanese anime series (that I known of) which take place in music school.  One is Nodame Cantabile, about students studying music in college and how their aspirations fuel their friendships.  They all learn from each other.  There is always some competition, either between the students themselves or the students and the real world – the timpanist’s goal is to be timpanist in a major orchestra, for example – but the students all learn from each other.  It shows that musicians / music students are people, too, and not completely in their own little world all the time.  Nodame Cantabile used a lot of classical music for its soundtrack and within the series itself, with the characters performing different works for their exams and performances.  The series, aimed primarily at teenage girls, consequently created a revival of interest in classical music among the youth of Japan.

But what about during high school, when one has to balance music with all the other academic subjects and extra-curricular activities?  Enter La Corda D’oro.  While the plot is less realistic than Nodame, the focus of La Corda D’oro is on music’s effect on people.  The main character is Kahoko, a girl who has never played a musical instrument, but she encounters a musical fairy that watches over her high school, which has a prestigious, separate music school attached to it.  The fairy, named Lili, gives Kahoko a magical violin that anyone can play and enters her in the school’s annual music competition.  This, of course, brings Kahoko a new array of things to think about and do.  She has to learn music, to practice, to face fears.  She also has to deal with music students jealous that they were not selected for the competition.  And yet, the other competitors (minus the violinist, surprise surprise) are intrigued by Kahoko and her simple love of music.  She strives for the sound, for the overall beauty, and does not focus on every single note and perfecting every moment, as so often a musician can end up doing without even realizing.  Kahoko hasn’t been taught that every note must be executed perfectly; she just wants the music to sound good.  The other competitors help her, each in their own way, and even though they’re all looking to win the competition, they support each other.  There’s also the high school “drama” that comes up, as many of the male competitors seem to have feelings for Kahoko (but it’s an anime aimed at teenage girls, so it’s easy to overlook that part for the deeper meaning) and many of the girls are jealous Kahoko gets to spend so much time with the desirable guys.  I’ve only seen the first group of episodes, but the purity of the meaning of music is contagious even this early on in the series.  As Lili’s words so often echo in Kahoko’s mind, “Music [in Japanese] comes from ‘fun’ and ‘sound’!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if, in America, we could have some television programs that showed musicians like this, without the backstabbing, without the silly drama, and highlight what makes music MUSIC?  Shows that enlighten others to the beauty of orchestral works instead of showcasing the orchestra as another collection of geeks?  Ah, to dream.

~ by violarockstar on September 8, 2011.

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