a message from Aaron Garg

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a message from Aaron Garg

Post  Admin on Wed May 27, 2009 11:58 pm

People are always baffled by the fact that my dizi (Chinese flute) teacher doesn’t speak English and that I don’t speak Chinese. The question usually begs itself, “How do you two communicate if you can’t speak the same language?” I reply with a grin, “Simple. We communicate through music.” Though he cannot put his thoughts in words, he shows me through his playing; with a few grunts and gesticulations, I am able to grasp the feeling and the nuances. Some people have said math is the universal language, yet somehow it still remains utterly incomprehensible to most people. Inevitably, in math, someone has to explain what all the symbols mean. Music, however, requires no knowledge of random scribbles, no memorization of vocabulary, no explanation, no translation. It is the one true universal language, and it allowed me to overcome the barriers separating me from my culture.
In seventh grade, my mother decided to enroll me in a Chinese orchestra, and before the first rehearsal had even started, I already knew I hated it. I figured it would be just a huge waste of time like all those years I spent in Chinese school. Five years and I didn’t learn a thing. My mother would have to sit next to me and explain what the teacher was saying. As a half-Chinese half-Indian, I was different from the other kids, as I was kindly reminded by one of the parents. “This is Aaron. He’s Indian,” she said, as if my Indian genes had erased all traces of Chinese. My mixed blood had left me without a strong sense of belonging, and I, in turn, became distinctly American. Though born Chinese and Indian, I had become neither, and the thought of playing in a Chinese orchestra made me feel terribly out of place.
For my mother’s sake, I continued with the orchestra. Initially, my mom had to stay by my side to translate, as the conductor had assumed Chinese people could understand Chinese. However, as time went on, I found myself needing her less and less. Eventually, I told her that she no longer needed to stay during rehearsal, as I was perfectly fine by myself. There was something different about the orchestra from Chinese school; it was the music. With the orchestra, it didn’t matter that I was only half-Chinese or that I couldn’t understand what people were saying because the music was universal. I could understand the flowing movements mimicking the soft, simple melodies. I could feel what it was like to be in China, among the red azaleas blooming over the mountains on a spring morning. I could feel the beauty and the tenderness, and that’s all that mattered.
Now, music has become the one place where everything makes sense. When I am encumbered beneath the stress of homework and tests, when my parents are yelling at me for watching too much TV and everything is in chaos, I know that I can turn to music, and there I will find meaning amidst the jumbled pieces. With music, the meaning is not betrayed by words or symbols that dictate what it means or what it is supposed to mean. Instead, the music simply is, and the meaning comes in whatever way it speaks to me. I can make sense of it all, and I can be at peace. I hope to pass on this same sense of peace and security, and to bridge the language gaps that keep people apart – the same gaps that had kept me apart from my culture. Perhaps we can’t all speak the same tongue, but through music, we can all speak the same language.
In my own way I have begun to fulfill this hope. In September of 2008 I held a solo concert in which I performed on nine instruments, including seven different Chinese wind instruments, something which I had never seen done before and yet somehow was attempting. I was excited to share my music, but in the time leading up to the concert I was so worried that none of the audience would find the concert enjoyable or interesting. Out of the approximately 400 audience members, more than half were non-Chinese. My dad had invited many of his friends, and they were much more used to the upbeat dancing rhythms of Indian music. How would they be able to appreciate the melodies of Chinese songs? I was forgetting that music transcended racial boundaries.
After the concert ended, I feared mediocre responses but was overwhelmed when so many people from all different backgrounds came up to tell me how much they enjoyed it. They told me how each song had spoken to them personally and from it they had learned so much about Chinese music. They themselves now wanted to find out even more about Chinese culture. To be able to speak and connect to such a diverse set of listeners gave me a great sense of fulfillment.
Without a language to anchor me, I had floated away from my ethnic roots, but music brought me back to my heritage in a way no fluency with Chinese or any other language could have done. Now, I can even connect to people of all cultures in a language unconfined to words, a language without prescribed limitations and thus all the more powerful. Barriers removed and with a renewed sense of appreciation, I am eager to learn about my Chinese as well as Indian culture. Once neither, I now know that I am both.


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Re: a message from Aaron Garg

Post  ivy on Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:39 pm

You are a genius... This is the most genuine and wonderful essay I had ever seen... Congratulations to all your achievement!


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