Monday, December 5, 2016

Universal Language - Or Not

My family is fairly musical. I actually feel like the musically stunted one in the family because I only learned how to play the piano and sing. I have some sisters who play up to three or four instruments. All of them participated in bands and took AP Theory classes. I do, however, know music, and I was taught from a very young age.

When I moved to Spain, I had someone ask me if I would be willing to teach them piano. I'd never taught, and I didn't really speak the language, but I figured it wouldn't be that difficult. It's just using the same terms. Our first lesson, we sat down, and I asked her if she knew anything about music. She told me that she kind of knew the notes, but instead of calling them A, B, C, like we do in the United States, she called them Do, Re, Mi. It took me weeks before I could remember all of the notes and be able to help her without singing the Sound of Music in my head. If I wanted her to play an F, I would tell her Fa. If I wanted a B, I would say Ti. It was incredibly confusing, and I thought that maybe she'd been taught incorrectly.

Then I went to a choir practice for church. The director was apparently very musical and as we practiced, she used the same terms as the girl I'd been teaching piano. She would play a Do on the piano and we would learn how to read music by Do, Re, Mi. She told the class that this was the proper way to read music, and that it was the way that it was done in the United States, so it had to be right.

It's amazing how music, which seems like something that should be a common language for all, had different terms within different cultures. Music is still universal, and it doesn't matter if we're playing a C or a Do, as long as the music is there.