Violinist Natalie Hodges writes about her devotion to music

Even with less difficult work, Hodges would be unwittingly self-sabotaging, she suggests, always picking out on rehearsal a disturbing pa...

Even with less difficult work, Hodges would be unwittingly self-sabotaging, she suggests, always picking out on rehearsal a disturbing passage “where I was going to get my big silly thing.” In a process familiar to newspaper writers obsessed with the beginning of a story, she “obsessively chiseled” openings while learning a story, to the detriment of middles and endings. A parade of teachers hovered: nudging her, comparing her spine to “a string of strung pearls”, dismissing her professional prospects.

Credit…Krista Mercer Buchenau

Hodges was naturally gifted, experiencing the world with her three siblings (a fourth died in infancy) as a synesthetic whirlwind – imagine hearing an airplane engine as a “blackish-purple E-flat”. The children followed the Suzuki method, assigned a string quartet of instruments by their mother, who had immigrated to a Denver suburb of Seoul and played the violin in her own youth before leaving to focus on entering Harvard and the menial jobs that would help pay his way there. She then became a lawyer.

Uhmma, as Hodges refers to her mother, using the Korean term, introduced herself as a “rocket booster”: there to help her sons and daughters get going. But she comes across as an absolute rock, battered by prejudice and stereotypes, like the Tiger Mother parenting style promulgated by the writer and law professor. Amy Chua, who is Chinese American. Uhmma suffered at the hands of Hodges’ abusive father, who once beat her so badly that the stitches from a C-section burst. Hodges’ father, a former WASP from the North East who left the family in 2016, was fine with church hymns but appears to have viewed the stubborn pursuit of music as an unacceptable and unnecessary form of effort. class, even forbidding whistling in the house, like Captain Von. Trapp before Maria arrives with a guitar. The few times Hodges’ father attended one of her recitals, she writes, “I looked at the audience and could tell exactly where he was sitting because of the blue light emanating from his phone.”

This personal story reflects the sad and often lilting melody of “Uncommon Measure”, which is written in a predominantly minor key. But as a good orchestrator, Hodges deepens it by supplementing it with other elements. Thanks to her nervous sweating, she attends a tango lesson, learning to follow the “GPS” of a partner’s upper chest rather than an orchestra conductor’s baton. She quotes Saint Augustine and Stephen Hawking, marveling at the magical behavior of quantum particles that seem to be almost romantically “entangled,” lovers leaping. She writes with admiration of Gabriela Montero, the Venezuelan artist and activist whose classically-style piano improvisations on popular themes suggested by audience members — making the The “Star Wars” theme sounds like Mozartfor example – are abnormal, even suspect in a world where memorizing and mastering complicated scores is the gold standard.

Hodges regretfully acknowledges that classical music is “at the dusty pinnacle of great Western art, one in which contemporary American culture is less and less interested”. We will see if the literature offers greater compensations. But certainly in the prose of Hodges, one senses a great freedom, what in his original discipline is called rubato, a rare ease. In words, as she could not in notes, she seems capable of fruitfully dealing with a difficult past and envisioning a better future.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Violinist Natalie Hodges writes about her devotion to music
Violinist Natalie Hodges writes about her devotion to music
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