By Rena Gao (UWCAC ’16-’18)
Like any parent eager to develop a musical appreciation in their young child, my mother decided to introduce Butterfly Lovers (a well-known Chinese violin concerto based on an ancient story of star-crossed lovers) to her 4-year-old daughter who was on a mission of building herself the biggest Lego castle in existence. According to mother’s account, this child raised her head from her architectural pursuit during the second half of the song and slowly remarked, “I feel so sad.” This anecdote is not meant to illustrate my early-discovered musical talent, but rather, to demonstrate the universal reach of music across the wide age range. The melody portraying the despairing forced separation between two lovers had clearly reached the heart of the 4-year-old. Sadness pervades. Music inspires.
One’s sentiments towards music transform over time. This is true in at least my case.
About 10 years have passed since that philosophical moment. I had my rebellious phase, evident in my music taste. I remember rolling my eyes whenever mom attempted to influence my teenage brain by waking me up with classical music playing in the living room, or whenever she and her friends relished in the tea ceremony accompanied by traditional Chinese folk music. These were always too dull and orthodox for my taste. I did not make time for classical music and listened to them with a prejudiced ear assuming only lame, old people would like them.
Therefore, I had not revisited the Butterfly Lovers in more than a decade except for the accidental and occasional encounters from street shops in China. That is, until on a cold, morning in rainy Wales, my music teacher played this Chinese classic for musical analysis and my eyes became wet with tears.
Something has changed. Perhaps it’s the melancholic Welsh weather’s influence, but I often find myself longing for some Vivaldi now and then when I wake up in the morning. This could very well be because I reminisce about the old times in China, but the better reason would be that being away from home and immersing in new cultures have filled me with sentiments that I could also feel from this “lame old people’s” music. They are full of emotions that I was in too much of a hurry to resonate with. When I am too old to dance, I could still find sanctuary playing the Morning Mood by Grieg on the flute.